Thursday, November 11
It may be 2010 and I know feminists are all the rage, but I'm just going to put this out there: I aspire to be a good hostess. Even scarier, I enjoy cooking dinner for people; I think creating a good meal for someone is a way to show you care. (Plus it gets you out of doing dishes- the #1 rule in my household? the cook does not do the dishes). It's been a long journey since college where I hosted Thanksgiving Dinner for my parents and realized I didn't have a single napkin or paper towel in the entire apartment. As we sat down to dinner with toilet paper on our laps, I made sure to double lock the doors so Martha Stewart wouldn't barge in and kick my ass for such a poor display.
This week I put myself to the ultimate culinary challenge, cooking Sean's birthday dinner.
in a foreign country.
in a furnished flat with no decor, ugly placemats, and one sad half used candle.
So please, learn from my mistakes over the years and take away these tips to becoming the Hostess (or Host) with the Mostess (or Most).
First thing you will need is a menu. If you can tie it around a theme, that's even better.
Our dinner was An Around the World Extravaganza where each of the 3 courses centered on a different country. It was the perfect theme for our latest travels. (It also sounded a lot better than Three totally random meals I am making because Sean likes them and I have most of the ingredients already)
You want to be sure to maintain your levels of class and ladylikeness (is that a word?!) at all times. For example, Nutella with carmelized bananas is really just a polite way of saying Orgasm in Chocolate Carbohydrate Form. (Sorry Mom, but it's true)
Once your menu is planned, it is time to get the essentials:
No no no. Wait. While alcohol is certainly essential, that's not quite what I meant.
Now that you've got your ingredients. It's time to get cooking. However, there are a few key elements that every good cook, homemaker, and party hostess must rely on.
1. If your recipe calls for a red wine reduction, always test the red wine before adding it in. This is very important. You don't want your guests getting sick from bad wine. Go to whatever lengths necessary to protect them from bad wine, even if it means drinking the entire bottle yourself.
2. When you are baking a cake in a non-stick pan, be sure you are actually using the non-stick side. Otherwise your cake will fall apart and you will need to do some massive frosting recon to get it back to normal. (and this is unfortunate because the more frosting you put on the cake means the less frosting you get to scoop out and eat with your finger. it's a travesty really)
3. When hiding chocolate baked goods, the cupboard where the gas source is supplied is always a good choice. Also, boys love purple candles. Don't let 'em tell you any different.
4. Always follow directions to the letter. It is like Mario Batali KNEW I had stolen his gnocchi ala ciorciara recipe from my crazy ex roommate, because when it came time to boil the gnocchi he instructed:
float aggressively? got it. But how does one tell when gnocchi is being aggressive? Does it steal your coffee table and threaten to call the cops on you?
5. Cater to your audience. For instance, Sean is a tequila man. I could've presented him with a bottle of tequila when he walked in the door and he would've been just as happy. Instead of an elaborate 3 course meal it'd be easy: salt, tequila, lime. done and done. (on second thought, why didn't I do that!?) To fit in with the season and my slight obsession with pumpkin-flavored products, I decided to make Rachel's Pumpkin Margaritas to go with our first course.
Holy hell. These things were to.die.for. Please, drop everything and go make these right away (well wait, finish reading my blog entry first). While they were a little labor intensive, the end product was totally worth it. I started out with this:
but soon ended with this:
and that, ladies and gents, is what a satisfied customer looks like
6. Always, always, always save room for dessert.
and when all the dishes are done and the food's packed away, it's time to settle into your food coma.
The high heels come off, the sweatpants come on and you can finally revel in all the hard work you've done. Pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself on another successful dinner without any food poisoning, fire departments, or lost appendages.