When was the last time you hosted a dinner party? Not a potluck or chili and beer on football night and definitely not a mountain of fast food piled up for a championship buffet. No, I’m asking about a real, honest to goodness, sit at the table and enjoy each other’s company dinner party. Perhaps you had the family over for Thanksgiving or Christmas but what about your friends and neighbors? In case it hasn’t occurred to you, winter is a great time for a dinner party.
Here are a few reasons why –
It’s been too long. A few weeks or a few years, I’ll let you define how long is too long since you set your table for an evening of good food, wine and conversation.
Baby, it’s cold outside. There’s been a definite chill in the air lately – as in hovering-around-zero-type chill. Can you think of a better time to spend a few hours in the kitchen?
Slow cooking, comfort foods are perfect for winter and entertaining. These dishes simmer in the oven allowing you to relax with your guests. A cozy classic is perfect on a cold night.
So why the hesitation? Perhaps you have visions of Elizabeth Taylor taunting Richard Burton in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? I promise you, most guests are very well behaved. If you run across one who’s not, well then, don’t invite him next time. Or her.
Still hesitating? Don’t. You can do this; you can throw a fabulous dinner party. Here are a few suggestions –
Be realistic. Do you remember when cassoulet was all the rage at winter dinner parties? A big part of the allure was that it took three days to prepare. However, that was then and we are now well into the twenty-first century. Three days toiling in the kitchen is not (and never has been) a prerequisite for fabulous.
Less is more and balance is good. Yes, a beautifully prepared five course dinner is nothing short of spectacular. All those little plates are delightful. However, part of the magic of entertaining in the wintertime is that oh-so delicious and cozy one-pot supper. Keep it simple or simple-ish. When in doubt, pare down the menu. If you make a wonderfully complex stew, don’t follow it with your richest, most complicated dessert.
Make a plan and map out a timeline. Least you forget something – like shoveling the walk – grab a pen and piece of paper and write it done. Make a few notes on what to do when. Be honest. Don’t pretend you can get the stew prepped and in the oven in all of five minutes. Allow yourself ample time to relax and appreciate the Zen of chopping.
Wishing you delicious fun with friends, stay warm and bon appétit!
8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 1/2 pounds red potatoes, quartered
8 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
4 carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 large onion, cut in thin wedges
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 cups or more chicken stock or broth
3/4 cup or more dry white wine
1 bay leaf
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a roasting pan large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer in the oven for 10 minutes.
Season the chicken with salt and pepper and place it skin-side down in the hot roasting pan. Return the pan to the oven and roast at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.
While the chicken cooks, put the vegetables in a bowl, drizzle with enough olive oil to lightly coat and toss to combine. Sprinkle with half of the rosemary and thyme, season with salt and pepper and toss again.
Put the mustard and lemon zest in a bowl, whisking constantly slowly add the lemon juice, stock and wine.
Remove the chicken from the oven, turn the pieces and sprinkle with the remaining rosemary and thyme. Add the liquid ingredients and the bay leaf and scatter the vegetables around the chicken. Return the pan to the oven.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue roasting, adding more wine and broth if necessary, for 45 minutes-1 hour or until the chicken is cooked-through and golden and the vegetables are tender.
Transfer the vegetables to a large platter or individual plates, top with the chicken and serve.
You can time this dish to add the vegetables a few minutes before your guests arrive. Then, let dinner simmer while you catch up and enjoy a glass of wine. Or make ahead, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate. Adding more wine and broth if necessary, reheat in a 350-degree oven until bubbling and piping hot.
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What are your favorite dishes to cook up on a cold winter day? Feel free to share!
Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2019