Cue the Barry White.
Men, this post's not for you. Carry on.
What is your perfect night in? For some, it's mint chocolate chip ice cream and When Harry Met Sally on Starz. For others, it's a six pack of Coors and World of Warcraft.
Pour Moi, it includes, (but not limited to) settin' my curls, settin' the table and settin' the mooooood.
Now, this could be a night in with girlfriends, family, a significant other or a solo affair. The nights I look forward to most are the nights where some form of entertaining ensues. Sure, entertaining seems like a lot of work, wether it be a group of 6, or entertaining yourself- but there is something so magnifique about putting the puzzle pieces of food, spirits, and ambiance together.
Here is the first hurdle- how do we get you motivated for your fabulous fete?
1.) Plan something. Whether it be a dinner party for close couple friends, or a ladies only jewelry party. (I know a great Stella and Dot stylist...)
2.) Shower. No one likes a greasy dinner host.
3.) Pick out something fancy. Nothing makes me feel like entertaining more than a swingy wrap dress. (Go buy yourself a cute apron too, June Cleaver's making a comeback!)
4.) Have your menu pre-planned and all of the necessities stocked.
Now that you're motivated, let's get to the set up.
Have you ever been to a great dinner party without good music? If you answered yes, then you probably had lots and lots of Merlot.
The answer is NO. Music is the ultimate mood setter. If you don't have any sultry sounds, I highly reccomend turning to the television. I don't know about you, but I have some great music channels on mine. Adult Alternative might sound cheesy, but I promise, you will ooh and ahh when you get to hear all of your favorite catchy tunes from random commercials. (The travelers insurance dog commercial, anyone?) Ray Lamontagne...check.
My personal favorite is the Pottery Barn "Supper Club" selection. Granted, they might be from '96 but they never get old. I'm sure they have since released some wonderful choices. If you're an iTunes kind of gal, here are some perfect dinner party tunes to download:
-Bebel Gilberto - Samba da Bencao - this is a MUST.
-Rosemary Clooney - Come On-a My House
-Louis Armstrong - Mack the Knife
-Eliane Elias - The Girl From Ipanema
-Norah Jones - Turn Me On
-John Hiatt - Feels Like Rain
-Miles Davis - So What
-Corinne Bailey Rae - Choux Pastry Heart
-Thelonious Monk - Straight No Chaser
Now that we've got the music covered, It's time to cook. But please, first- pour a healthy glass of wine. Get sassy with me.
What appetizer are you making?
Cheese platters are as wonderful and easy as they can be artistic. Get creative, these parties only happen so often. A great addition to your cheese platter are Carr's Table Water Crackers in Cracked Pepper. Pair one of these bad boys with a pepperoncini and a scoop of fresh goat cheese, and you won't know what hit you. I know a woman who makes her own goat cheese, one bite - and you've gone to heaven.
Add some fruit and nuts to the platter. Sliced pears, apples and grapes are a perfect compliment to the fromage. Don't forget the Sopressata! A little meat never hurt the cheese.
My sister, who is a spectacular hostess makes a delicious Baked Brie and apricot wrapped in phyllo dough. To die for. Give it a whirl, you won't be disappointed.
Perhaps you'd like to do a smoked salmon and caper crostini? Great idea! it's as easy as 1-2-3.
Now, for the libations. Are your guests drinking wine? Have you planned a special cocktail to serve? If I may, I suggest making a Grapefruit cosmo. Easy, light and will warm you up on these cold winter nights. All it takes is Vodka, a splask of Triple Sec, Grapefuit juice, and to quote my wonderful aunt, "a big fat lime."
Chill, and serve, dahhhlings.
Onto the main course. K.I.S. Keep it simple. No one wants an absent hostess. Prepare the meal around 3pm the day of your event so all you have to do is throw it in the oven or grill. Consider Chicken Paillard. This dish is exceptional for hosting. Who doesn't like salad, and who doesn't like chicken? We are killing two birds with one stone! See recipe below.
Now, for the table. Our altar for the regalement. The canvas for our masterpiece. Make it pretty! I suggest using things lying around the house to create a perfectly shabby chic centerpiece. Have a large vase? Throw some citrus in there! Have mismatched candlesticks? Set them up in no particular order in the center of the table. Light those candles.
Some of the best centerpieces are seasonal. If it's spring, perhaps a beautiful bunch of Hydrangeas will be the perfect accent. If it's summer, try the citrus, or other bright colors. If it's fall, buy a medium sized pumpkin and spray paint it gold. Tie a festive ribbon around the stem, and you have an instant award winning centerpiece. If it's winter, bowls filled with ornaments and greens are a lovely touch.
Now you are ready for your guests. Fluff that hair, put on that lipstick, and SMILE. Friends, food and family are what it's all about.
Chicken Paillard with a Creamy Parmesan Salad
Ingredients for Chicken:
-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
-1 cup all purpose flour
-4 eggs, whipped slightly with a splash of milk
-2 cups panko bread crumbs
-Seasoned salt and ground pepper
-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Ingredients for the Dressing:
-2 anchovy fillets (optional, but go for it!)
-2 egg yolks
-4 gloves of smashed garlic
-2 lemons, juiced
-1/2 cup of the extra virgin olive oil
-1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
-salt and pepper
Ingredients for Salad:
-1 cup of grape tomatoes, halved
-1 bag fresh baby arugala (baby spinach works well also)
-1/2 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, boccancini, halved
-Shaved parmesan for garnish
-Lemon wedges, for garnish
-Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
-Pound the chicken so it is very thin.
-Prepare your breading station, with flour, whisked eggs, milk and panko crumbs. Season all of these with salt and pepper.
-Coat the breasts in flour, egg then panko.
-Lay the coated breasts out on a flat tray and refrigerate to let the crust dry for about 10 minutes.
-Shallow fry the chicken in hot oil for approx. 2-3 minutes per side.
-Next, the dressing. Put the anchovies, egg yolks, garlic, and lemon juice into a blender for 30 seconds.
-With the blender running, pour in the olive oil.
-Then stir in the parmesan.
-Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.
-Prepare your salad by splitting the grape tomatoes in half, lengthwise.
-Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.
-Add the dressing, and toss thoroughly.
To serve, lay the warm chicken on the plate, and top generously with the salad. Garnish with shaved parmesan, a lemon wedge and a drizze of olive oil. Courtesy of Tyler Florence.