One of my absolute favorite activities is to host an intimate dinner party for four to six friends. Entertaining friends in one’s home is relaxing, fun, and a great way to socialize if you are on a budget. I learned very early on that I am able to feed four or more people depending on the dish for the price it would be for one or two people dinning in a restaurant. Perhaps even less if your guests bring the wine.
Start with a tried and true recipe. It need not be haute cuisine. Choose something that you enjoy making. The company and conversation at the table is what is most important.
When I was learning to first cook, the first recipes I wanted to attempt were my grandmothers. A true chef in her own right I would follow her recipe to the letter. Never did the dish taste as delicious as when my grandmother created it. How nettlesome, and what was I doing wrong?
It was simple, aside from being a new cook, I had yet to find the fun and passion of the preparation. My focus was on the destination, the end result and not the pleasure of the journey. The knowledge that I am cooking a dish that will connect me with my grandmother, as well as share such a favorite with my friends was forgotten in the nerves and exceptions I had set for myself.
As soon as I adopted the mantra, “I can always order pizza, I can always order pizza” as well as the encouraging words of my grandmother that she too has had mishaps with meals. I began to relax, have fun, and the food began to taste better and better.
Then one day after numerous dinner parties my cookery came close to tasting like my grandmother’s, but not exactly and I realized that I would never cook exactly the same as Grandmother. She was a different person, her pinch and my pinch could never be the same, and her experiences with food in life have been different then mine. Her perspective and pallet were slightly different. After all, I love sushi and my grandmother does not. My cooking became just that – mine.
My confidence grew and I felt the freedom of experimenting and trying new cuisine. I am still no where near as an accomplished cook as my grandmother but I have confidence and a true passion for food.
Next choose plates you would like to use. I believe strongly one eats with ones eyes first. Actually studies have confirmed this. Think of the table as the stage on which you set the mood for your dinner party.
The price and where one purchases plates is inconsequential. What is important is that they bring joy to one when looked upon. This basis holds true for the cutlery, glasses, table linens and accessories.
Since this is an informal dinner party, I will only need place settings for dinner and dessert. I like for my plates to have continuity throughout an evening, so I will stay with my favorite colour blue for the two courses.
I have decided to use my whimsical maritime plates. The color and the theme set the tone going forward.
Following the plates choose the glassware. I will be serving wine with dinner, and, of course, one must always have a water glass.
In keeping with the theme, and the casual easy ambiance I would like to achieve, I will use my cheap, cheerful, and hand blown glasses. The bubbles remind me of old glass lobster buoys.
The only cutlery needed is plased standardly, napkin and fork on the left, knife, blade iron the right. I could place the desert spoon at the top, just above the plate but I will bring them out with the dessert at the end of the meal instead.
The plates have touches of green. Thus, I pull the green color as an accent and use a green majolica pitcher for the wine, and some green and blue cloth napkins.
I love to decant wine. No one is ever concerned with the label when wine is poured from a lovely pitcher or decanter.
Then the fun bit, setting and accessorizing the table! Candles are a must! Everyone and everything looks better in candle light. I adore mixing and maching tapers and votives.
Have fun using your imagination to add accessories. Simple blue glass sea shells catch the light and bring another layer to the table scape. All set upon a blue table cloth.
Carrots, chopped into disks, one good handful per person
Garlic, minced approx two teaspoons
Butter, tablespoon per handful or to taste
Sea salt, a couple good pinches
Water to cover the bottom of sauce pan
Toss together cover, and cook down over low heat. You may also cook down like a spinach or other greens nice and wilted.
While the Kale and Carrots cooks, sauté the fish.
Simple provincial style fillets (as easy as chicken) Skillet
8 wild snapper fillets (bones removed)
Flour, enough to lightly dust fish
Butter, two sticks
Olive oil, a good swirl in the pan. Olive oil cooks at a higher temp and will help the butter not burn.
Herbs de provence, to taste
Garlic, at least three Hefty teaspoons. Minced
Lemon, half of a small lemon, to taste.
In a large skillet on med high, heat olive oil, butter, garlic and herbs. As soon as the butter has stopped frothing add the lightly flowered fillets. Let them cook until there is a light gold color and the edges have turned opaque white. Then flip over and cook the other side being sure to baste with the butter and herbs. I like to do this often. It will keep the fish moist. This does not take very long a few minutes each side.
All served on a plate along with some good quality crusty french bread.
A nice glass of white wine and some lovely company.