Friday, January 2, 2009

Top 11 Essentials for an Impromptu Dinner Party

More often than not we have unexpected (but always welcomed) guests who come through our doors in search of a good meal and great company.  It seems that because of our well stocked refrigerator and pantry, we are always able to step out of the kitchen with steaming plates and effortless smiles.  How do we do it?  Read on to find out our top 11 essential ingredients/items to pull of an Impromptu Dinner Soirée! 

Top 11 Essentials for an Impromptu Dinner Party

1.  Salt, Pepper, Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a Head of Garlic- We call this the "holy quad" of the kitchen.  You will use at least 1 (if not all 4) of these ingredients in most of your kitchen pursuits. 

2. Rosemary- Our favorite herb that can be used on your protein as well as vegetables and starches.  Store in a tightly sealed zip lock bag for up to 7 days.

2.  Chicken (breasts, cutlets, or whole)- Chicken is a great thing to have because it is white meat, and it is likely that your guests will eat it. 

Coat with olive oil and rub with salt, pepper and finely chopped rosemary.  Sear in an olive oil coated skillet on all sides until you have color on the meat.  Transfer to oven at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until your meat thermometer reads 140 degrees.  Allow to rest at least 5 minutes before serving. 

4. Baby Red Potatoes- These keep in the refrigerator for at least 10 days. 

You can boil these and serve with olive oil, salt, pepper, but we like to cut the baby spuds into fourths, coat with olive oil, salt, pepper, and finely chopped rosemary and bake in the oven at 400 degrees for about 20-30 minutes.

5. Green Beans or Spinach-  It is important to have something green on the table.  These ingredients are simple, but delicious, and enjoyed by most.

Sauté with olive oil, salt, and pepper until tender or wilted (respectively). 

6.  A Box of Pasta- Nothing will save you faster than a box of pasta.  If your guest count goes from 4 to 10 before you can open your door- breathe.  Just boil some water, cook until al dente, add olive oil, sautéed garlic, salt, and pepper (and some parmesean, if you have it.)  Consider yourself saved by the pasta! 

7.  Baguette-  Unfortunately, you can only keep a baguette for 2 days before it is harder than the bobble on your cocktail ring, but there is no substitute and it really is important to have.  We use half the baguette thinly sliced (if you have the time, toasted with olive oil) for hors d'oeurves, and the other half cut up for the table during dinner.  Any leftover can be eaten with eggs for breakfast. 

8.  Cheese- We normally have a wheel of brie on hand because it is a mild, soft cheese that is easily spreadable and eaten.  However, anything will do.  You want to have something to serve with your thinly sliced baguette, so use your culinary instincts and explore the world of cheese.

9.  Dessert- Everyone has a little sweet tooth and your guests are no exception!  We love to bake simple cookies and cakes before bed, however, there is NO SHAME in buying desserts from your local bakery.  A simple fruit tarte, delicious cupcakes or cookies are a perfectly appropriate finish to a wonderful home made meal.

One of our idols, Ina Garten, once said, "Just because I spent all day hand making pastries, doesn't mean that my guests will have any more fun eating them.  Go to the bakery!"

Wise words, sister!

10.  Wine-  While your guests should bring wine, always have at least 1 bottle of red and 1 bottle of prosecco or white wine on hand, just in case. 

Guests:  If there are under 3 guests, one bottle is great.  If there are 3 or more, bring two bottles.

11.  A Table Cloth- This may seem silly, but a table cloth is a quick and easy way to transition from day to night, from life to entertaining.  It will make your guests feel special and appreciated and will save you from messy cleanup at the end of the evening. 

We hope that these 11 essentials will become staples in your home.  Remember, you can alter this list and make it your own.  If you don't eat meat, cut the chicken and add mushrooms.  If you hate green beans and spinach, add brussel sprouts or broccoli.  If we have learned anything over the years it is this:  




Thanks to our friends in Missouri for suggesting this excellent topic!  

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