This Sunday, I had an 11-person, surprise birthday dinner for my mother in law. But I also had a 5K to run the morning of the party and well, a life. That means I couldn't do anything too time consuming, or that I couldn't tackle ahead of the party. Here are a few things that can be made pulled together quickly or made ahead - and the most important things I've learned about stress free partying.
Mediterranean Orzo Salad I made this for Sunday’s party on Friday night and wrapped it tight in the serving bowl I planned to use. By Sunday, the flavors had combined beautifully and it tasted even better than when I made it on Friday. And the beauty of an orzo salad is that it's a blank canvas. I included olives, roasted peppers, tomatoes, feta, tarragon, olive oil and lemon.
Buffalo Chicken Wonton Cups On Saturday, I baked the wonton cups and put them in an airtight container. I made the Buffalo chicken filling and put it in a Ziploc bag so that on Sunday, I could just snip a corner off the bag and use it to pipe the filling into the wontons. Right before the party I baked the filled wontons and added garnishes. If Buffalo chicken is not your thing, baked wonton cups can be filled with just about anything.
Deviled Eggs Have you ever met someone that doesn't like a deviled egg? Me either. They’re a total crowd pleaser. I used the same phased approach for the eggs that I did for the wonton cups. I hard boiled the eggs on Friday night; made the filling on Saturday and put it in a Ziploc bag; and piped the eggs straight from the bag right before guests arrived.
Salad Bar Why not let everyone fulfill their own salad destinies? I chopped up various veggies and set them out with toppings and dressings. It was the “choose your own adventure” of salads.
Lobster Rolls It’s summer. It’s New England. People love lobster. I love lobster. But the nice fish market man did the math for me – 1/3 pound of lobster meat to make a roll – 3 to 4 pounds of whole lobster to get a pound of meat. For 11 people? I did not have the time for a lobster massacre of that ilk. The nice fish market man then let me in on a little secret: 24 fresh, prepared mini rolls for $70. Sold. Picked-up on Saturday, refrigerated until Sunday. Ask your local fish market what they have available. These rolls, while cocktail size, were well-stuffed, fresh and delicious.
Take a breath. Have a drink. Get some help.
Take a breath. Your friends and family are happy to be invited to your home and not have to make dinner themselves that evening. If you aren't quite ready when the first guest arrives; if someone alerts you mid-party that there is not a square of toilet paper to be had; if you burn the dip – relax. No one. Really. Cares.
Have a drink. Your guests will have fun if you’re having fun. Do the prep work ahead of time. Go ahead, get crazy and anal-retentive about it – or don’t. But once your guests arrive, be with them. Pour yourself a cocktail when you pour theirs and have fun at your own damn party!
Get some help. People like to help and it will help you immensely. The birthday girl’s close friend makes outstanding cakes. She was happy to be the dessert hero of the evening. I asked another friend of the family to do a signature cocktail. Never hesitate to ask for a hand.
All in all, it was a successful party. My mother in law and all of her guests had a lovely time. The food was good and plenty, glasses were full and merry was made. And not a single soul missed that dip anyway.