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Company's coming. What do you make?

Do you have a go-to dish or appetizer that you make in a pinch? 

I have a few dishes that I do well enough to please my own people, but when it comes to feeding the masses, that's tricky. It's too easy to boil up pasta and call it good. 

On vacation, since we happened to be there this year at the same time as the man's ex-wife, her husband, her identical twin sister and their family of five, my fiance's brother and his clan, we banded together on the last night for a dinner of "mustgo" (as in, everything must go). It's was a buffet of leftovers and not too shabby. Of course, that's a pretty easy meal when you're (a) emptying the vacation pantry and (b) not interested in impressing anyone. 

But what do you make if you're maybe kinda hoping to make the guests happy? Let me know. I am looking for new food to make this fall. 

In other food news, I still love THIS cookbook and would recommend anyone who doesn't really cook but wants to start. It's perfectly designed, graphic, glossy, colorful and witty. And it's also only .86 cents on Amazon from used sellers. What a bargain. 

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Anonymous said...

fish tacos or asian steak salad: On both dishes you can prepare the bulk of it before hand--chopping veggies etc--and the steak or fish are grilled on the bbq outside so the kitchen doesn't get too crowded/trashed. They are also lighter to eat especially in the summer when you typically eat later in the evening.
If it's a more intimate group, cheese fondue with artisan bread and big chunky veggies is fun and easy and a great reason to throw back ridiculous amounts of wine.

David said...

Everybody likes my butternut squash bisque in the fall. The recipe calls for chicken stock but I think vegetable stock gives it a cleaner flavor. Add a salad and good bread and go.

I also do polenta topped with a ragout of tomato, red pepper, onion and olives that's been popular.

My stand-by pasta is farfalle with prosciutto, mushrooms and asparagus in a cream sauce.

beachbungalow8 said...

i can't believe i'm commenting on a food related post

trader joes. trader joes, australian lamb. pre seasoned. watercress/endive salad with, candied walnuts and a roqueffort type of 'fromage' ~with a good red wine. easy. wintery.

Maciolek Family said...

roasted pork tenderloin recipe from susan spungen's book
recipes:a collection for the modern cook. delicious with a tossed salad and a glass of wine! ... and very easy to make:)

An Aesthete's Lament said...

Mushroom lasagna from Nigel Slater's "The Kitchen Diaries". Always a crowdpleaser. Never fails.

K.Line said...

I have a whole arsenal of great meals that aren't difficult. BBQ (steak, pork, chicken) with various rubs or marinades is always yummy. I also do a roast chicken with lemon and veggies which is a hit (technically my husband cooks it, but I take the credit :-)) I have a lot of desserts that seem impressive but aren't too challenging to make (a pound cake, pies, crumbles, great icecream with berries and homemade choc sauce). I do enjoy cooking so it's not like these are 3 minute meals. But they aren't scary and they don't require 87 ingredients.

An Aesthete's Lament said...

Also oyster loaf, a Duchess of Windsor recipe which has been a hit ever since I started making it a decade ago. It's in a list of recipes at the back of "The Windsor Style" (1991) by Suzy Menkes. And a great dessert everybody loves is the bread pudding from "Arabella Boxer's Book of English Food". Another great dessert is to bake lots of blueberries with a splash of port and some brown sugar and spoon it over vanilla ice cream.

Mint Julep said...

I'm a Cajun living in the desert. I make shrimp creole or gumbo. When I'm feeling really lazy I make pizza served with lots of vino.

lamentable house of pig aesthetics said...

Just reading the phrase "oyster loaf" makes me lose my appetite, solving the whole "What's for dinner?" dilemma.

eM said...

potlucks are chic and retro

Uncle Beefy said...

Funny, Ms. E., I just kinda posted something like this on m'blog. I use Gourmet magazine SO much in these instances! My favorites are (you can look them up on Alsatian Cheese Tart (It's got bacon, what's not to love?) for an appetizer, Fettuccine with Sausage & Kale for dinner, & Raspberry Charlotte for dessert. Easy, easy, easy...and people always "say" they love it.

Anonymous said...

For big parties (more than 12 people), I'll make smoked salmon pasta - it's ridiculously easy and people seem to love it. I got the recipe here:

For sit-down dinners, I often will just get steaks from Whole Foods & shove 'em under the broiler with a meat thermometer. Alongside some asparagus and some goood crusty bread, it's a delicious meal that also allows you to engage with your guests rather than relegate you to the kitchen. Chicken Kiev is another good wintertime recipe - it's essentially comfort food but you can prepare the chicken in advance, stick it in the pan in your fridge and just pop it in the oven when your guests arrive:

4 Chicken breasts, pounded flat between wax paper
Freeze-dried chives
½ teaspoon marjoram
½ teaspoon thyme
Black pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons water

Pound chicken, sprinkle with salt, pepper, chives, majorum, and thyme. Place stick of butter in chicken, roll up and secure with toothpicks.

Lightly beat 2 eggs, add 2 tablespoons of water. Dredge chicken in egg mixture, dredge in breadcrumbs, and drizzle with melted butter.

Bake in pan lined with silver foil. (Spray foil with cooking spray). Cook in 450 degree oven for 20-25 minutes

For the vegetarian crowd I serve my favorite lentil soup recipe. It's hearty and just incredibly good served with a warm baguette and a good bottle of cabernet sauvignon:

• 1 medium onion, finely chopped
• 2 bags of baby carrots, finely chopped
• 1 bunch celery leaves (½ cup) chopped
• 4 cup split red lentils
• 2-3 containers of Imagine brand vegetable stock
• Salt & pepper
• 3 TBL cumin

Saute chopped onion, carrot, and celery until the vegetables are soft.

Add lentils, stock, and salt & pepper to taste and simmer for 30-45 minutes until the lentils have disintegrated. Stir in and cumin.

None of these are crazily fancy, but the food is delicious and pretty simple to prepare (which seems important when you are having a dinner party).

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the Duchess of Windsor used Oyster Helper?

i suwannee said...

green bean casserole.

mac and cheese.


salad with blue cheese, walnuts and pears.

spinach artichoke dip.


vodka mixed with an izze.

Mary said...

Rissoto made with scallops/crab/or veggie if veggie guests. It requires some patience, but it's really impressive and you can pretty much find a recipe for every taste.
Homemade bread is always impressive (I've mastered the "no-knead")
Salad/roasted veggies
Ice cream with some kind of seasonal pie for desert
I don't do allot of options for people, I'd rather do a few things well than a bunch of things anxiously- so no appetizers or multiple sides unless someone else brings them.

AvenueFog said...

I slice and sautee whatever veggies I have on hand with some onions and garlic and toss in pasta.

Fast, easy, good for you and cheap!

Robin said...

My go-to, dress-to-impress dinner party meal is as follows (serves 6, requires about 1-hour of pre-guest prep time):

APP: smoked salmon (comes pre-sliced in a package in the deli section), with whipped cream cheese and mini-rye bread with mustard and capers on the side. You spend $16 and people ooh and aah like you spent $50, it's crazy.

ENTREE: pre-wash and cut up a 5-lb bag of red bliss potatoes (skin on) and toss in a big pan with olive oil, garlic (from a jar), rosemary and S&P. Pan shoud be big enough so it is one layer of potatoes) If you use the proper amount of oil and cover the surface of the potatoes with saran wrap they won't turn brown while you shower and change.

Pre-trim a 5-lb pork loin. It shouldn't require much trimming, just any big hunks of fat and the silver skin (I don't understand why they don't trim that at the meatpacking place, you can't eat it and it ruins the cut (curls the meat b/c it shrinks) when you cook it). Sprinkle with S&P and some gobs of garlic (from a jar).

Trim the ends off about 5 big handfuls of fresh green beans and put them in a steamer pot with 1 inch of water.

Take a shower and get purdy

Pour yourself a glass of wine. Oh, and some for the guests. Put the salmon on a pretty platter.

Put the potatoes in the oven at 375. Set the timer for 20 minutes. Mingle with guests until it goes off.

Heat a 10- to 12-inch skillet. I use a 10-inch All-Clad on medium and I get the equivalent of med-hi. Drizzle oil in pan and when it is rippling from the heat, start searing the pork loin pieces. Don't crowd the pan. Tell noisy guest who wants to help to get you more wine. Put the seared pieces in a pyrex 7 x10 baking dish while you cook the rest. Sprinkle with more S&P and some rosemary. Once all the pieces are done, cover with foil and put in the oven next to the potatoes (will be in for about 20 minutes).

Deglaze the pan with about a cup of your favorite wine (I use a red or sherry). While it is reducing, turn on the green beans and bring to a boil. Remove potatoes and meat from oven (potatoes should have been in total 1-hour and meat about 20 minutes). Pour liquid from meat pan into wine pan and cover meat with foil on cutting board. Bring wine mixture to a boil so it reduces quickly and season to taste (usually just needs a bit of salt and sometimes I add 1 tbsp of brown sugar). Put some butter on the beans and dish it all out with a nice shiraz. Smile and nod at the compliments.

This sounds like you spend the whole time in the kitchen but there is plenty of time for back and forth with the guests.

Anonymous said...

I'm moving next door to I Suwannee immediately.

Anonymous said...

Ok, to defend the oyster loaf..IT's NOT a MEATLOAF...I had it as a guest at a party and it's a big french bread stuffed with an oyster filling (also famously made by some other old 'celebs') It is a really pretty presentation and IF you like oysters, you'll love it. If you don't like oysters, then no. The woman who made it for our club's party is quite the chef and always seems to pull out these unique but yum recipes that end up looking catered. Me?? I bring excellent spring rolls from a really good Thai place....

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:37--

We believe you. The person who originally suggested Oyster Loaf just did it for the excuse to brag about having something in common with the Duchess of Windsor, that old Nazi-sympathizing hosebag.

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