The dinner party: It’s a right of passage for every homemaker and apartment-dweller, often inducing great fear and anxiety in its hosts. But you don’t have to work yourself into a tizzy over appetizers, entrees, desserts and drinks, say authors Jill Donenfeld and Josetth Gordon. Their new cookbook, “Party Like a Culinista,” is split into carefully crafted menus, party tips and shortcuts and even instructions for when to change outfits mid-prep. Here, they offer tips and tricks for throwing the ultimate supper soiree — no stress necessary:
Rule number one: forgo expectations
“Get rid of the pretense of having a dinner party,” says Gordon. “It will take a ton off of your shoulders, because you’ll feel more in control.” Adds Donenfeld: “This about bringing people together through food. This is not about presenting people with the most perfectly plated quarter-inch-cut cube. People are there to have fun, to come together with their food, to eat something delicious and eat something that is a little bit healthier. We never want our guests to leave our dinner parties feeling wrecked. We want them to leave feeling right and inspired and ready to go dancing.”
Choose the right ingredients
“Always to be mindful of where you get and source your ingredients [so you can be] proud of what you prepared and happy that your guests are eating foods that are helpful to them and the environment,” Gordon advises. Adds Donenfeld: “The better your ingredients are, the less effort you have to make them taste delicious.”
Concoct the perfect playlist
“I always ask a friend to make a playlist, one of the guests who I think has really great taste in music,” Donenfeld offers. “I think that it is something that can fade into the background a little bit but is tapered with songs that are favorites of everybody, so if you tune in you can get into the grove a bit.”
Flowers up the ante
“I always think that flowers are the cure all to everything,” Donenfeld says. “It doesn’t matter if they are deli flowers — flowers make your apartment look beautiful, they make everything smell beautiful and they make it look festive. When people walk into your party, if there are flowers around, something living, something bright, something vibrant, that is always going to set your mood in a positive way. If you forget the flowers, throw all of those extra herbs that you’re not using in a vase or mason jar and make a bouquet of herbs. It smells beautiful and it looks great. Tie a ribbon around the mason jar if you are feeling very Martha.”
Don’t forget the basics
“Have plenty of refreshments,” Gordon advises. For drinks: “you always want to make sure you have good bottled water. I know it is a simple tip but it gets overlooked.” Adds Donenfeld: “It is something that when people are saying ‘what can I bring,’ just bring some seltzer water if you don’t really need them to bring anything. That always jazzes things up.”
Set up snacks
“You know that you always have that one friend who is the early bird. Have something ready like popcorn, a cheese platter, guacamole — something to keep them seated and at bay,” advises Donenfeld.
Let everyone get involved
“What you should do is invite people over and everyone can make something,” Gordon says. “That’s how you have an enjoyable party, because everyone feels they had a part in creating this thing, and even better if all of your friends are beginners.”
Don’t overwhelm yourself
“We are not suggesting that you make seven items for a dinner party,” says Donenfeld. “We are suggesting that you make three to five. It’s definitely a more do-able roster of recipes. We also divide the recipes into things that can be made ahead of time and things that should be made at the moment. There’s always a make-ahead element and we specify that very clearly so you are never frazzled trying to do everything at the last moment.”
If worse comes to worse, you can whip up a party in hours
“We have a chapter where it is a last minute party, [using] common items in your cupboard,” says Gordon. “Those are really for if you are short on time and you have like literally two or three hours to throw a party where it is do or die.”
Smile and enjoy it
“The number one ingredient of a good party is a good attitude,” Gordon says.
Miso Caper Glazed Salmon
Total time: 1 hour, 30 minutes including marinating
1/4 cup capers packed in brine
1/4 cup white miso
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons agave syrup
1/2 cup mirin
2 lbs salmon filet
Crush the capers with a fork. Whisk together the capers, miso, olive oil, agave, and mirin.
Slice the salmon filet into 8 pieces and marinate the salmon with the miso-caper mixture in a covered dish or resealable bag for 1 hour in the refrigerator.
Preheat oven to 425F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the salmon on the baking sheet and bake until salmon is opaque and flakes easily, about 20 minutes.
•For a vegan dish: substitute tempeh or portabello mushrooms for the fish.