Attack of the Last Minute Dinner Party!!
It can happen to anyone at anytime. There you are, minding your business, when BAM—an unexpected dinner party at your home sneaks up. Whether your sister wants to move her birthday dinner to your house in say, eight hours, or your spouse informs you that a new client and his wife are just “popping by for dinner tonight,” you can pull it off. In fact, you can manage a fabulous little evening quickly and easily, and still come out smelling like a rose. Or a really good beef tenderloin.
I sat down with “The Chef,” also known as my husband, Chris, to determine what we’d suggest in the last minute dinner party situation.
Your first step towards achieving dinner party greatness is to breathe. Pour yourself a glass of wine or a cup of tea. Next, grab a pen and jot down anything positive you remember from parties you’ve attended, whether it was an intimate dinner, a casual hang with friends, or a formal soiree.
What elements stood out? If it was fresh flowers, add that to your list. You can get a bouquet for a surprisingly good price at many of our local grocers, adding color and life to your table. Do you recall specific dishes that you’ve wished you could recreate? Write these down, too, and chat with your local butcher—they actually love helping you create an entire meal and can recommend cuts of meat and recipes. The Chef and I have long conversations with helpful chaps at local stores including Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Publix and Kroger. It’s always good to brainstorm with someone who spends all day with the food you are purchasing.
Pick a main focal point for your dinner—whether it’s a chicken dish, an amazing cut of beef, or a vegetarian option like roasted eggplant—and build around it. Have a quick chat with someone at your local wine store for something new and interesting to pair with your meal.
The Chef and I recreated a last minute dinner party with friends of ours to demonstrate how quickly and easily we could pull it all together, He allowed us “non-chefs” to do much of the work, showing that it can be done by anyone. Really, anyone—I couldn’t boil water before I met him.
Smoked New York Strip
Served with whipped potatoes gratin, zucchini linguine
and wild mushrooms
(this will serve a party of four)
• A 3-pound center cut beef tenderloin roast (this is where the butcher-friend comes in handy!)
• Spices: Smoked paprika, garlic, kosher salt, ground pepper
• Olive oil
• Mashed potatoes ingredients to include 8 russet potatoes (see step 3!)
• Zucchini (8)
• Mushrooms (2 lbs.) Butter (1/2 lb.) Milk (1 cup)
STEP ONE Season entire cut of meat with smoked paprika, garlic, kosher salt and ground pepper. Slather that baby up on all sides with the spices, especially the smoked paprika!
STEP TWO Sear over high in olive oil in a sauté pan. Rotate about every minute to sear all sides, including ends. Set aside. Don’t worry, it’s not done yet; it won’t be mooing when you eat it (unless you just want it to).
STEP THREE Make your favorite mashed potatoes; if you don’t have a recipe, call The Chef—he has one that will knock your socks off. You can reach him a 615.305.4869. And now you can say you have your own chef on speed dial!
STEP FOUR Take washed, green zucchini, and using your “V” tool (see sidebar), run it down the sides lengthwise to make your linguine noodles.
STEP FIVE Sauté the zucchini in olive oil over medium high heat; lightly season with salt, pepper and garlic. Cook until zucchini is getting soft, a max of five minutes.
STEP SIX Cook the mushrooms in olive oil over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes until crispy and dry.
STEP SEVEN Cook the New York Strip at 400 degrees in the oven for 20 minutes. This will achieve a medium cooked temperature; adjust time based on how you like your beef cooked.
STEP EIGHT Let the beef rest (it’s so tired!). Plus, the chef says this is a very important step that so many people overlook. It seals in the awesomeness. Let it rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes, then slice it thin and serve (don’t get bitten).
STEP NINE To plate, place your mashed potatoes in the middle of your plate. Add the fanned tenderloin slices around the front, leaning against your potatoes. Place the zucchini behind the potatoes and then garnish your beef with the crispy mushrooms. Serve and enjoy.
Alternately, try your hand at a variation of this dish and substitute a different cut of meat or a hearty vegetable. No matter what, your guests will be impressed.
This is also a great way to get your neighbors out of the woodwork and make some new friends in the process. Invite a few people over, test a few different dinner parties out on them, and perfect your new skill of being a fabulous cook and host. Next time you get the surprise dinner party call, you’ll have a few culinary aces up your sleeve.
Want to make something else for dinner but need more suggestions? Chef Chris is ready to help! Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Erica with questions or comments at email@example.com.