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Sep 21, 2008 04:21 PM

Practicing my hostess skills

I'm recently married. Living in a small one-bedroom NYC apartment, my husband and I have done almost no entertaining. I'd love to start having people over for dinner but definitely need to practice my cooking, timing, etc. I'm going to invite one couple over -- they are VERY close friends so I can't be too nervous. Now, what to serve? I'm not a huge cook, although I enjoy cooking when I do, so don't want to try anything too complicated, and I'd love to do as much as possible ahead of time.

Here's what I have: Cuisinart Griddler (can be used as grill), food processor, KA mixer, stick blender, pizza stone, plus all the basics.

Here's what I'm thinking for the menu:

Butternut squash soup
Roasted chicken? (have never made one) or some sort of grilled fish -- salmon?
Side fall vegetable dish?
Roasted new potatoes w/rosemary & olive oil
Salad/cheese plate

What do you think? Any tips? Thanks so much!

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  1. Never make a dish to serve for guests that you have never done for yourself. Now learning a good roast chicken is a skill that you will be very glad you put time into. I extol Anthony Bourdine's, others like different recipes. a good Roast Chicken is simply perfect.

    The butternut soup is great, easy do ahead.
    Think in terms of cooking groups. If you are going to roast a chicken, then roasted potatoes fall in fine... are in oven...think baked apples or baked onions as well.
    Be kind to yourself, as a 1st time hostess. As many things you can do ahead, and at one time (roasting) go for it. But juggling a grill, a roast, a pilaf a salad....Oh My!

    Since you are starting small and with close forgiving simple, let the food speak dishes, with maybe one "headliner"

    And it is OK , since this is close friends, if they ask..can we bring anything...say YES! dessert.

    1. Jenn: The menu sounds lovely. The soup you can definitely do ahead and reheat. Cheese platter can be assembled and sitting at room temp. Something green on the dinner plate would be good -- green beans, petit pois and pearl onions, a wedge of spinach pie.

      Are you thinking of a whole roasted chicken for the wow factor, carving at the table? If so, since you've never made one, do at least one trial run. Shredded chicken off the bone freezes well, so even if you over- or undercook it, pack it up for later soups or stir-fries and practice on another one. Make broth out of the bones before you toss the carcass (concentrate it if you don't have the freezer space).

      However, if you're going to plate in the kitchen, consider roasting pieces. Brown thighs, legs and/or breasts stovetop, then put in a 350 oven for 45-60 minutes. You may want to do a test drive on this method as well for timing.

      You're very smart to invite a close couple for the first dinner. Everyone wants to help, so let them! There's ice in the freezer, would you please do the water glasses. Could you please open that bottle of wine. Hey, would you please grab those plates and help me with dessert.

      Also, I keep a list taped to an eye-level cupboard door of my menu, what needs to be done in advance (make extra ice cubes two days ahead) and the count-down for the day of.

      1. Great menu, I'm with the others, keep it simple, and do a trial run of new dishes...even seasoned home cooks do trial runs (some are hits - like tonight's tuducken, and some are misses)

        Otherwise, invest in a copy of Joy of Cooking if you don't already have one. There is a plethora of information on menu planning and entertaining in the front, to go with the amazing depth of recipes and how-to's in the rest of the book.

        1. the menu sounds great though I would make sure you are comfortable carving the chicken. I imagine that you will be doing this in front of your guests, so it is good to feel at ease. Other easy dinner ideas would be a great bolognese sauce, spaghetti carbonara. Coq au Vin is actually a fairly easy dish too and once it is cooking you can forget about it.
          Good luck and have fun!

          1. it's easier to do a good chicken than a good fish (fish dries too easily, chicken is more forgiving). use a good, heavy and sharp knife for the carving and let it find its way into the joint. I'm serious, start where it looks like it should and with little effort and just a little wiggle it will find the right place (ok maybe not exact and it won't be fast) but better than trying to do it in one fell swoop.

            and the leftovers (if any) make great sandwich/casserole fodder and the bones an excellent stock base. if you can, drain the schmaltz into a jar for soup, noodles, etc. in the fridge. keeps forever.