Entries Tagged as 'Entertaining'
I live in the suburbs — land of the two-car garage, of strip malls, and of people walking around saying things like “Here take this bushel of cucumbers! They are overtaking my backyard and I don’t know what to do with them!” (This kind of complaint, of course, is filed right alongside the one about that Spicy Shrimp dish that comes together so fast that I don’t have time to enjoy a glass of wine while I make it, i.e. a very nice problem.) Well, here’s what I say to that. You could peel and slice up those cucumbers real thin, mix them with seasoned rice wine vinegar, a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and tons of dill, which we’ve been doing a lot of lately. Or you could puree those suckers in a blender, strain the pulp and drink up the bounty. Cucumber juice is August-y and crazy refreshing on its own, but this cocktail, created for DALS by the Blue Hill Stone Barns Beverage Team (I’m so glad they don’t call themselves “mixologists”) is currently my favorite solution to the cucumber overload issue. It’s light, summery, easy going down (uh, maybe a little too easy)…and would you look at that beautiful color? That in itself is worth the price of admission. Problem solved.
Makes one drink.
2 ounces dry gin (we use Greylock)
2 ounces cucumber juice (made my blending peeled, seeded cucumbers with a little water, then strained; it works out to about 1 medium size cucumber per cocktail)
1/2 ounces eucalyptus ginger syrup (I just made plain ginger syrup which they said was fine)
1/2 0unces lime juice
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Shake, and serve over ice with a thin slice of cucumber as a garnish.
Thanks BHSB Beverage Team!
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Tags:cocktails·cucumber cocktail·summer cocktails
You could get him a robe. Or another something-or-other that could be categorized as a “gadget.” Or a bottle of gin for his gin & tonics. You could get him a charcoal chimney or grilling tongs monogrammed with his nickname. You could get him any number of things that would make him happy…OR…you could give him something that will directly, immediately, deliciously benefit you and the kids all summer long and for many summers to come. You could give him The Grilling Book, edited by Adam Rapoport, editor in chief of Bon Appetit and longtime Friend of DALS. I dare you — and I dare you to dare him — to look at these photos and not want to fire up the grill immediately. The book will be your family’s summer bible — and for anyone who can’t seem to break through the hot-dog-and-burger firewall, you’ll find over 400 pages of gorgeously-photographed inspiration; primers for every stage of the grilling process; salads, slaws, cocktails and sauces that pull it all together; and recipes from all over the world, for all kinds of family dinners. Not convinced? How about a little teaser…to start wouldja look at that Cedar Plank Salmon above?
Skirt Steak with “ridiculously addictive” bright green Chimichurri Sauce.
Lamb Burgers with Moroccan Spices and Orange Salsa made from beets, cumin, jalapeno, and cilantro.
Chicken Yakatori, made with ground chicken, scallions, miso, and soy basting sauce. I am so tracking down all the ingredients for it as soon as this post goes live.
Grilled Haloumi with Watermelon, Tomatoes Basil & Mint. We’ve discussed Grilled Haloumi before, but I don’t know if it’s ever looked this good. It’s a sheep-goat milk blend, that’s firm enough to retain its shape over hot coals, but soft enough to ooze a little inside.
Check it out. Or check out Adam grill four fish recipes from the book on the Today Show. Happy Father’s Day!
All food photographs above by Peden + Munk.
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Tags:bon appetit grilling book·chicken yakatori
One of the more fun parts of my “job” is that I have an excuse to reach out to people I’ve been secretly stalking for decades. Take last month, for instance, when I met Susan Spungen for breakfast at a Union Square coffee shop. Spungen spearheaded the food section at Martha Stewart Living twenty years ago. We have her to thank for leading the team that put together the Hors D’oeuvres Handbook, which is not only my finger food bible, but the bible of caterers across America. When I heard she was coming out with a book on Entertaining – What’s a Hostess to Do? – I set up a date, and over poached eggs and shaved asparagus, downloaded her hard-won wisdom.
21 Rules for Entertaining
Culled from What’s a Hostess to Do, by Susan Spungen (and so many thousands more where these came from)
1. Less can be more. Focus on a few beautiful well-conceived, well-prepared dishes.
2. Unless it’s the holiday, in which case the key word is “bounty.” (See above.)
3. The language you use for your invitation should focus on who you do want at the party (“Join us for a grown-up dinner”) not who you don’t want (“No kids please.”)
4. For the kids — When in doubt: “Bambini Pasta,” i.e. noodles, spaghetti, penne, whatever you got — with butter and Parm.
5. Some handy math: On average, assume your guests will have 2 drinks per hour (10 guests x 2 drinks x 2 hours = 40 drinks). There are approximately 5 wine glasses per bottle. A 1-liter bottle of liquor contains enough for 32 mixed drinks. One liter of mixer will make 8 drinks.
6. The Paloma is The New Margarita.
7. [OK, disclaimer: Susan didn't exactly say that, but I did, and will continue to all summer. To make: 1/2 cup grapefruit soda (such as Mexican Jarritos or Jamaican Ting), the juice of half a lime, and 2 ounces tequila. Serve over ice with lime wedge.]
8. Centerpieces: DO use short candles, DON’T use tall or overly fragrant flowers or plants; DO decorate with short flowers or potted plants, DON’T crowd the table.
9. Scented candles? Yes, for sure, in the bathroom. On the table? Never.
10. All will be fine if Nutella is on the menu. Nutella Dessert Sandwiches: Toast thinly sliced brioche bread, spread with Nutella and dust with powdered sugar. Serve warm.
11. Three Four-Syllable Laws of Sanity Preservation when entertaining: Make it Ahead, Cook What You Know, Think Mise en Place.
12. A multitude of sins can be easily overlooked when people are basking in a warm glow: Lighting should be soft.
13. Bathroom checklist: Close the shower curtain, empty the trash. If there is no lock, make an “occupied” sign to hang on the knob. Better yet, have the kids do it.
14. Invest in a collapsible metal coatrack and never dive through a mountain of identical black wool overcoats heaped on a bed ever again.
15. Winning Cheese and Fruit Pairs for a Starter Spread: Apples + Cheddar, Quince Paste + Manchego, Figs + Gorgonzola
16. Good salumi needs little accompaniment. But no one will object if it’s next to some good bread, olives, and crisp fennel slices.
17. To make after-party cleanup less soul-crushing, always start the evening with an empty dishwasher, dish rack, trash can, and sink.
19. Yes, you can bring wine = The answer when your friends ask What Can I Bring?
20. A good party is much more than the sum of its parts. The gathering takes on a life of its own, and it almost always works out, even when it doesn’t.
21. The no-fail menu for entertaining kids and adults: Ribs, Slaw (lose the brussels in the summer), and make-ahead Ice Cream Sandwiches.
To make: For each sandwich, place a scoop of ice cream on a chocolate chip cookie (try Tate’s brand or another thin crisp cookie). Top with another cookie and press down gently. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and set in the freezer. Wrap individually after they’ve hardened, and freeze until ready to serve. (more…)
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Tags:entertaining·entertaining families·paloma cocktail recipe·susan spungen entertaining·susan spungen what's a hostess to do
I am always stumped when a vegetarian comes to dinner. It’s not that we don’t have a whole archive of family-friendly vegetarian meals (ok maybe flexitarian meals would be more accurate) in the DALS rotation. Or that I’m in any way annoyed that there won’t be meat on the evening line-up. Quite the opposite actually — I feel like I’ve been heavily leaning towards more plant-and-whole-grain based dishes at our everyday dinner table. But on a weekend night when a guest is at that table — a guest who has sometimes traveled from the far corners of Brooklyn — the 15-minute black bean and goat cheese quesadillas that get the job done on a Tuesday night after soccer is just not going to cut it. I don’t think it’s going overboard to want to present something a bit more elevated than your everyday fare when you’re entertaining — whether your guest is a carnivore, herbivore, locavore, or whatevervore. Do you? (Maybe don’t answer that.)
Anyway, this is why twice a month I seem to issue a plea on facebook begging you for your most show-stopping vegetable main dishes. (One out of three of you seem to point me towards Smitten Kitchen’s Mushroom Bourgignon.) And why one of my resolutions this year was to come up with a meat-free meal that someone might describe as “enticing.” There are way too many vegetarians in this world now for me to NOT have expanded my horizons beyond my comfort zone of minestrone and Amanda Hesser’s tangy-sweet Pasta with Yogurt and Caramelized Onion. (I’ll never forget my friend Laurie taking a bite of that one back in the 90s and saying, “This is, like, a whole different flavor that I’ve just…never….experienced before.”)
But the comfort zone still tastes so damn delicious! And so a few weeks ago, when a vegetarian came to dinner, I stuck with my tried-and-true pasta, but changed up the starters and the sweets. But for some reason it was one of the more successful menu line-ups I can remember. You know how when you buy a new sweater it somehow makes an old top feel fresh? I guess that’s what happened, because it just… worked. And it was incredibly easy, too. Anyway, I thought you guys might like to hear what I did:
To start: blistered peppers. Ratio of Time Spent Making to Wow Factor: obscenely unbalanced. Easiest thing ever. I used shishitos, which you can usually find at better supermarkets. (I found mine at Tarry Market.) I served these alongside burrata (that really soft, creamy mozzarella) and drizzled it heavily with good olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt alongside slices of a crusty baguette. [Careful readers might notice that there's salumi (salumi=pig) scribbled into my diary. Careful readers might also point out that pig is not vegetarian. I have no excuse that would hold up in court other than my kids go crazy for it and I wanted them to have a moment of happiness during the starter portion of the evening.]
Dinner: Pasta with Yogurt and Caramelized Onions and Shredded Kale Salad with Lemon & Ricotta Salata (I added a teaspoon of lemon zest and Andy made a very subtly balsamic vinaigrette. Also: You don’t need a lot of ricotta salata because the pasta is already creamy and yogurt-y.)
Dessert: Just-out-of-the-Oven Mexican Chocolate Cookies with Cinnamon Ice Cream (Book owners: Page 72)
Related: A Stress-Free Gluten-Free Menu
Photo of peppers: Ditte Isager for Bon Appetit
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One of the first things I learned about food when I started caring about food was that smaller usually translated to better. As in, a golf-ball-size lime is going to be juicier than a steroided-up one. As in, the meat from a 1 1/4 pound lobster is going be sweeter than meat from his 4-pound older brother. As in, those two-carat-size spring strawberries are going to taste more like strawberries than the strawberries that resemble McIntosh apples. And after writing a story about hors d’oeuvres for the current issue of Bon Appetit I remembered another one: Hors d’oeuvres for dinner are so much more fun than dinner for dinner. (See: Small Bites Phenomenon sweeping New York City Restaurant Scene) Why did it take writing this story to remind me that those shrimp rolls I’ve been making since my 1999 visit to Nova Scotia would be so much more appealing for the kids if I miniaturized them? How had I forgotten Cardinal Rule #2 of Family Sandwiches: Minimizing Size = Maximizing Appeal. (Cardinal Rule #1: Anything Tastes Better in Slider Form.) Well, either way, the little rolls were on the dinner table last week (it’s a good make-ahead if you can swing it) and will likely show up there again very soon.
Perhaps my most favorite magazine opener ever. (“Opener” = Old-school parlance for the image that opens the story.) Alex Grossman, the creative director, actually had this invitation letter-pressed before it was shot. Credit: Kallemeyn Press.
This Butternut Squash Tart with Fried Sage, developed by the BA test kitchen, was in the star-studded line-up, too. Instead of a assembling a platter of fussy finger food for your party, each puff pastry square requiring it’s own individual piping of spicy mayo, this is just one big tart that you bake and cut up like a pizza before your guests arrive. It’s called Economy of Scale and it is up next on my Hors d’oeuvres-Turned-Dinner menu.
Check out this month’s issue of Bon Appetit (The Entertaining Issue) to read the story and the entire issue. They’ve also put together an appetizer slide show which party-throwers would be wise to bookmark as the calendar inches its way towards the holidays. Two words: Queso Fundido.
Photos by Romulo Yanes for Bon Appetit.
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Tags:bon appetit shrimp rolls·sandwiches for dinner
I had such fantasies when we invited our friends Todd and Anne for dinner. It wasn’t a special occasion dinner — only a sort of a “last gasp of summer” kind of night since both our families are going our separate ways for the rest of the month and the next time we see them we’ll be all busy with things like teacher conferences and homework supervising. I thought the occasion offered the perfect excuse to experiment with all those recipes I had been dog-earring and bookmarking for the past few weeks. Plus, The Sprouted Kitchen had just landed on my doorstep and I loved what I saw — whole grains and the most inspiring vegetable-heavy dinners that take advantage of beautiful, gem-like, peak-season summer produce. (These three weeks are the ones I look forward to all year long and to waste a single August eating opportunity is a crime!) I drew up a menu for Tuesday night, the night they were coming over. There were beet slaws and buttermilk dressings. Exotic grains and chilled soups. Yes, this would be one to remember.
But there I was on Tuesday afternoon, a few hours from dinner with no time to shop, still looking at the line-up which was not so much inspiring as it was taunting. Various assignments and appointments had conspired against my Fantasy Summer Menu and so instead of sniffing melons at the market (as I had imagined I would be doing), I found myself in what is increasingly becoming my default position: Standing in front of refrigerator scratching my head. Luckily it was only Tuesday so we still had a lot of food from our weekend shop. And luckily I had my Big Feel-Good Batch of Barley that I could transform to something nice in minutes. The rest of the menu holes I filled in with dishes that were the opposite of brand new, i.e. dishes I had been making for the past fifteen summers. But as soon as Todd and Anne and their kids arrived and sat down to the meal, I was reminded why the dishes have lasted fifteen summers — because they work! And they’re delicious! I totally forgot — when produce is this good, you don’t have to perform any culinary acrobatics to make a successful meal. You don’t have to outshine yourself just for the sake of it! You just keep it simple and let the food do the talking.
A Summer Menu
It worked out well because Grandma Jody’s Chicken is just as good at room temperature as it is hot from the skillet so I could make it an hour or so ahead of time and leave on the counter tented with foil. When the doorbell rang, everything on the menu was ready to go — except the gin and tonics.
Starters: Baguette slices, figs, parmesan, ricotta mixed with lemon zest, thyme, and honey. Gin and Tonics.
Dinner: Grandma Jody’s Chicken with Arugula and Heirloom Tomatoes (page 13, Dinner: A Love Story), Bacon-Corn Hash (page 29), Herbed Barley Salad (page 245)
Wine: A beautiful Italian Sauvignon Blanc, a gift from my babysitter Ali who had just spent the month in Florence.
Dessert: Emily’s Peach-Blueberry Cobbler and Cold Watermelon
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Do you have certain meals that you make rarely, on special occasions, and then, as soon as you’re done eating them, you say to yourself, Damn, that was good. Why don’t we eat this once a week? I do. Roast turkey with stuffing and gravy is one of those meals — so deeply satisfying, and come on, would it be any less satisfying on a Sunday night in January? Pasta with fresh clams and basil is one of those meals: why do we only make it in the summer, when we love it so much? Our New Year’s lobster is one of those meals and so, I’m not afraid to admit, is the twice-a-year kid birthday staple, Hebrew National pigs-in-blankets, with which I shall never ever dream of arguing. But the biggest heartbreaker for me is our beloved yet marginalized friend, the glazed ham. Why is it that we only eat glazed ham in mid-to-late December, at holiday-themed dinner parties? Who made up that rule? No disrespect to our entertaining stand-bys — short ribs, ragu, pork loin braised in milk — but is there really anything tastier or more dramatic looking or, honestly, easier to pull off than a crispy, sweet, salty, diamond-scored, slightly caramelized, fat-marbled, relatively inexpensive, even-better-the-next-day ham sliced up tableside (more…)
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Tags:cocktail party menu ideas·glazed ham·holiday entertaining·holiday menu ideas
If you come to our house for a grown-up dinner party, there’s a good chance it’ll be just after 8:00, and our two kids will greet you at the door. If all has gone according to plan, they’ll be bathed and pajama’d, their teeth will be brushed, and with a little luck they’ll be in bed, out of sight, 30 minutes later.
It’s not that we worry about the girls being un-presentable or that we fear they’ll pillage the crostini plate before our guests have taken their coats off. (OK, maybe we do worry about the crostini thing. It’s a problem.) It’s that usually the people we have over for dinner are parents, too. Parents who have already spent the waking part of their day doing what parents do – suffering through another Wa Wa Wubbzy marathon, doling out snacks, pretending to lose at Uno – and probably, if they’re being honest, don’t feel a real powerful need to spend valuable babysitting hours doing the same with someone else’s kids.
In our experience, what our guests are looking for is a cocktail with plenty of ice, some tasty food, and a conversation that does not begin with the words, “I am counting to three…” So usually, after our kids make their Dinner Party Cameo – the key with kids, like food, is to leave your guests wanting more — one of us will take them upstairs and shepherd them through their bedtime paces, while the other sets the table and puts the finishing touch on whatever has been braising away all afternoon in the Dutch Oven.
Very often in our house, it’s short ribs. We love braised short ribs for three reasons: one, they’re unstoppably, almost obscenely good; two, they’re impossible to screw up; and three, they require no hands-on time once the guests arrive. Entertaining, for us, is all about not having to start from zero once the kids are in bed, chopping and blanching and reducing – and sweating — while our guests stand in the kitchen, hungry, with one eye on the clock. It’s about having a glass of Barbera and diving into a dinner that is ready to go, but that also feels simultaneously casual and special. And when everything goes right, you can almost forget — for a few hours, at least — that there’s a Thomas the Train track running through the living room, and that you have to be awake at 5:30 the next morning to perform a sock puppet show. – Jenny & Andy
This story appears in the current issue of Bon Appetit. Head over to their website for the Short Ribs recipe, which is a simplified version of an old Balthazar favorite. Photo by Christopher Testani for Bon Appetit.
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Tags:braised beef·entertaining families·one pot meal
At what point do I stop feeling that pit in my stomach, that gnawing sense of dread, when summer ends? Is it me, or was last week officially the longest four-day week in history? Okay, maybe that’s overstating things, but still: I was hurting, in a real back-to-school way, and I’m a grown-ass man. Back behind my desk, staring at the screen. School lunches to be packed. Bills to be paid, rising anxieties to be tamped down, alarm clocks to be set, soggy basements to be dried, soccer and piano schedules to coordinate, times tables to be memorized, reality to be reckoned with and, most crushing of all, vacation officially over. We did a little posting from our trip in August, but in case it didn’t come across: we had fun, and were extremely fortunate to have had it, and were unbelievably bummed to be back. We had so much fun, we kept looking for ways to relive our trip once we were home — inflicting our pictures on polite friends (“hold on, you gotta see the sandwiches we made for that picnic in Place des Vosges”), making epic photo albums, leaving our souvenirs around, in prominent places, to remind us of where we’d been, replaying our favorite moments (walking up the Eiffel Tower, hiking the South Downs, napping on trains, watching a clueless, jet-lagged dad try to pay for a crepe in Paris with a ten dollar bill) with the kids around the dinner table.
If you were to call this a form of denial, you wouldn’t be wrong. Two weeks after coming home, we’re still denying, still holding on. This weekend, in homage to the few days we spent in England on the way home from Paris, we had a fry up — cardiologists and vegetarians, avert your eyes — and kicked off our Sunday with an absurd plate of runny eggs, sausage, bacon, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, baked beans, and toast. Of all the unhealthy things we ate in England — to name a few: rock cake, apple tart, banoffee pie, Cadbury bars, clotted cream, rose and chocolate eclairs, scones, currant scones, cheese scones, lamb shoulder, beef roasts, fish and chips, Victoria sponge cake, summer pudding, maple pecan ice cream, etc etc etc — none was more bald in its unhealthiness, or more satisfying, than the fry-up. It’s one unapologetic, greasy, bursting plate of deliciousness. We’d like to live long enough to see our kids reach their teenage years, so we’re not making a habit of this, but man (blimey?): the Brits know from breakfast. I love this, particularly with the beans. I love vacation, particularly with the kids. Can it be summer again? – Andy (more…)
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Tags:breakfast entertaining·breakfast party·british breakfast·fry up breakfast
Let me put your minds at ease, right here at the top: No, our kids do not love clams. They’re kids, first of all, and clams are kind of freaky. The most I can say, while maintaining journalistic integrity, is that our kids and clams are in the process of learning to coexist. They’re getting to know one another. They’ll eat one or two, at most — warily, and with some prodding — before they move on to the safety of chips and guac. But learning to coexist is important, and exposure, as we have argued here before, is half the battle. And, this summer, we’re not having any trouble in the exposure department. This summer, we are all about clams.
At the risk of sounding predictable, Jenny and I are sticking to a script these days when it comes to entertaining – and, more specifically, when it comes to appetizers. There will be no elaborate cheese platters, no overly-produced dips, no bruschetta. (Okay, maybe some bruschetta.) Whenever we have people over, and even when we don’t, we do up a bowl of littlenecks from The Fish Guy at the farmer’s market, slice a fresh, crusty loaf of bread, set out some napkins and forks, and let that be our appetizer plate. We find that even if the kids won’t touch the clams, they’ll gladly take a hunk of that bread and dip it into that deep, salty broth. Which, as my parents always used to say, just means more good stuff for us grown-ups. There are endless variations to this dish — spicy, not spicy; garlicky, not garlicky; wine, no wine; basil, or tarragon — but it’s easy and fast, it only dirties up one pot, and clams are, on the farmer’s market spectrum, a relative bargain. Plus, there’s just something festive (and yes, I just used the word festive) about sitting outside with some friends on a summer night, as dinner sizzles on the grill, burning through a bowl of clams and a loaf of bread and tossing the shells — clank, clank, clank — back into the bowl. That’s living. – Andy
Steamed Little Necks
Maybe the best part: there’s no stress about overcooking or undercooking when it comes to clams; these things literally open their mouths and tell you when they’re done. (more…)
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Tags:easy appetizer·easy starter course·steamed clams·summer appetizer
Before kids we were mushroom-stuffers and tomato-scoopers. Before kids we weren’t afraid of the adjective “hot” before the word “appetizer.” I think when we lived in Brooklyn — when the girls were as distant on the horizon as the suburbs were — we might have even served a chilled avocado and cucumber soup as an amuse bouche for our friends Jeni and Ben. We don’t do the amuse bouche anymore when we are entertaining. In fact, we don’t use the word “entertain” anymore. These days, it’s more like we have friends over or we have what you might just call “giant family playdates.” All of which is to say that the cheese plate has never been more vital a move in the married-with-children culinary repertoire. Cause when you’re at the point that we’re at, you just want to buy a bunch of crowdpleasers — cheeses that are somewhere between Kraft twisted bi-color sticks and aged Stilton, things you don’t have to cook or carve or stick toothpicks into — and then be done with it.
Crowdpleaser Cheese Plate
You can find most of these at Murrays, Dean & DeLuca, or Whole Foods.
La Tur (pictured, above) This is an airy, mild cow-milk-goat blend — probably too mild for hardcore cheese afficionados, but kids will eat it like it’s cream cheese.
Point Reyes Blue – Award-winning blue from the family-run northern California dairy farm. For the kids, it’s a good introduction to stinky. For the grown-ups, it’s just plain good.
Humboldt Fog – The bougie staple. It’s a tangy, but not too tangy goat that’s chalky in the middle and creamy around the rind. I don’t think I’ve been to a party in the last decade where this wasn’t on the cheese board. The kids love it because little layer of ash down the middle makes it look like a piece of cake.
Trader Joe’s Cheese Twists (not pictured, sorry!) Not the actual sticks made of cheese, but the sharp cheddar baked twists, which I usually shove in a jam jar to give the plate some height.
Aged Manchego Aged is operative word. You want something with some bite. My friend Joyce was the first one to tell me to go ahead and pair it with fig or quince paste on a baguette slice. PER.FECT.
Quince or Fig Jam Such an easy way to elevate the spread. And did I mention so delicious with aged Manchego or Parm?
Baguette, preferably fresh, preferably skinny, cut into thin slices. No need to toast.
Halved pomegranate Purely decorative unless my 7-year-old attends your party — she will decimate it in about 3 seconds.
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Tags:cheese plate for kids·family friendly cheese plate·humboldt fog·la tur cheese·point reyes blue
Spoiler alert: If you come over to our house for dinner any time between now and the first day of spring, there’s about a 90% chance we’re going to cook this for you. The pork shoulder ragu you see above is our new obsession. It’s the ideal dish for Sunday dinner, or even better, an informal winter dinner party: It’s warm, it’s hearty, it smells insanely good, it goes well with red wine, and my God, is it tasty. But none of those are the main reason we’re so obsessed with this right now — no, the best part of this one is that, once the guests arrive, your work is already done. All the prep — what little of it there was — is four hours ago, a distant memory. Which is increasingly the way we like it. It seems like the older we get, and the more cooking we do, the simpler we want our entertaining to be. For sure, there was a day when we would have spent the afternoon, Martha-style, frantically scooping out little cucumber cups with a mellon-baller and filling them with creme fraiche and topping them with smoked salmon and dainty sprigs of dill, when we would have been stirring (and stirring) risotto and mandolining three different kinds of potatoes and being distracted, instead of hanging out with our guests. But then kids happened, and our tastes changed, and those days are gone. These days, I love nothing more than a one-pot meal — I am a braising machine! — and this really basic pork ragu over pasta is where our heads are at right now. It’s an instant party: you just take it out of the oven, shred the pork, boil some pasta, and you’re done. If the kids don’t like pork, they can eat the pasta; if they do like pork, then I love them, and there’s still plenty for everybody. Though I should add that, as good as this is on a cold winter night, it’s even better for lunch the next day. If it weren’t for a little thing known as coronary heart disease, I would eat this every day for the rest of my life. –Andy (more…)
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Tags:entertaining families·family entertaining ideas·one dish dinner·pasta for family dinner·pork shoulder ragu
Sometimes it feels like all I accomplish in a single day is quenching my childrens’ thirst. Is it like this in your house? Is it a national emergency when you forget a freshly filled Sigg bottle for the hour-long road trip? Do you find yourself filling and refilling sippy cups and drinking glasses and thermoses all day long to the earsplitting chorus of Mom! I’m Thirsty!? Unless it’s mealtime, at which point I always forget (always!) to set out the drinks or have one of the kids do it for us until the moment I collapse my tired body into a dinner table chair. My friend Lori, with whom I worked on the Real Simple Dinner Doula story, said that the single best piece of advice I ever gave her about family dinner was to get the kids’ drinks on the table before doing any cooking. The task was just annoying and afterthought-y enough to set the wrong tone for the meal she worked so hard to get on the table. I will take this so-stupid-it’s-smart tip one step further: When you are entertaining, fill the water glasses and sippy cups before the first doorbell ringing. Then you won’t have to root around matching lids to cups for the 2-year-old at the very moment the sauce is treading the fine line between deglazing and disappearing.
Speaking of thirsty guests. I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer a few wine suggestions for the grown-ups. These come from Andy, who doesn’t claim to know much about wine, but enjoys drinking it*. Probably best to go with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay — or, if you’re feeling adventurous, a hardier Rose — if you are serving traditional Thanksgiving fare. Prices are approximate and based mostly on current prices at wine.com and our local wine store.
Louis Jadot ($15); La Crema ($19), Norton Ridge ($20), Simi ($22); Talley ($25-$30), Neyers ($25-$30); Off-the-Chain Options: Ramey ($40+), Kistler ($50+)
Castle Rock ($12), Norton Ridge ($19), Veranda ($15-$20); Bouchaine ($25-$30); Off-the-Chain Option: Schoolhouse ($65+), Paul Hobbs ($75+)
Muga ($15-$20), Tavel Chateau De Trinquevedel ($18-20)
Illustration is by Jessica Zadnik, who also drew the cool pix for the cookbook, and the DALS’ official Picky Eater Taxonomy.
*Andy actually does know a lot about wine. He logged into this post when I wasn’t looking and added that sentence thinking I might not notice.
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Tags:cocktails·drinking in front of kids·thanksgiving·thanksgiving wine