So you’ve just skidded into town, you won’t be there long, and you want to see your friends, but you don’t have time to “entertain.”
Yes you do. At least that’s what I told myself as I boarded the red-eye in LAX headed back to New York, landing on Election Day. “Come on over and we’ll watch the returns,” I said. And they said, “Can I bring anything?” And I said “Dinner.”
By the way, did you vote? Good for you. If you didn’t, you’ve no right to complain, and that’s all I’m going to say on the subject. Whoever said we get the government we deserve was right. Think what could happen if we don’t take responsibility. (See photo above)
The good news, I heard Jimmy Kimmel say, is that Snooki is not tall enough to vote.
Back to the party. I didn’t really ask my guests to bring dinner, but I did ask Bella Blu, the Italian place around the corner. For me, the ease makes up for the inelegance. I’m not trying to impress. The party’s for my peeps.
Here’s how it worked, and it can work for you, too. Substitute my dishes with your own. You get the gist. If you want more suggestions, give me a holler in the Comments. I read every single word you write.
1. Decide on a simple menu that can be seved at room temperature, that you can mostly assemble rather than cook, and spruce it up a bit. For eg., buy prepared broccoi and garlic, a common item. Trim the broccoli to the florets-only, sprinkle with lemon juice and olive oil, salt and pepper, toss, and warm in the oven. Get pre-washed salad greens, and make your own dressing – a Caesar or mustard vinaigrette. Takes 5 minutes and makes a big difference. Bite-size pieces and finger food is buffet-friendly and easily eaten with just a fork.
2. Quick and dirty decorate. Order a bunch of balloons and cluster them in one or two spots. By the entrance is good. Big effect, low-budget, and you don’t have to “arrange” them. Would also work with big bunches of one kind of flower, or branches, or leaves.
3. Do your shopping. Scramble around to buy inexpensive pizza pans or improvise with cookie sheets. You’ll use these to re-warm the pizzas. Buy pizza cutter if you don’t have one.
3a. Waste $40 on a pizza-cooking stone that you end up not using. (This step optional.)
4. Order pizzas two hours in advance and arrange for delivery time about 20 minutes before guests arrive.
5. Set up. Chill wine and beer, and set up bar. My basics are beer, white and red wines, vodka, tequila, soda, tonic, Pelligrino, Diet Coke, lemons and limes. Set out plates, forks, napkins; and serving bowls for salad and vegetables. Make salad dressing.
6. Organize dessert. Put chocolate pecans and toffee almonds in candy dishes and set aside. That can be it, or… set out a tray on which to put pints of ice cream (in their containers – get over it), cups or bowls, spoons, napkins, and ice cream scoop in cup of water. Remember to take ice cream out of freezer as people are finishing dinner, so it has time to soften. Put something under the tray to protect table surface from condensation. This can be set up away from the kitchen and entirely self-serve.
7. Change clothes if you’re going to, and put on your lipstick. (Lipstick optional for men)
8. When pizzas arrive, while still in the boxes, cut them into squares rather than wedges. These smaller pieces are easier to manage as finger food or with a fork. It doesn’t matter if they’re already sliced, just slice them again. 10. Slide pies on pizza pans or cookie sheets to heat on low oven (250), and store the rest in the dishwasher to get them out of the way until you need them. Toss boxes can so they don’t clutter.
9. When guests arrive, answer the door and act like you do this every day. Make it about your friends and everything’s fine. Get them a drink first thing, or point them to the bar.
10. Serve dinner. Put out broccoli. Toss the salad. Set the warmed pizzas on top of the stove, which will be handily warm from the oven’s heat. Consolidate the pizzas as they are consumed, so you free up a pan to warm the next pizza.