Yesterday moning, I received a phone call (at 6am) from DH stating that he had had a very bad night at work (he is an ER RN in a large hospital) and was wondering if we could host a happy hour for about a dozen of his co-workers. At 8:30. On a Sunday morning.
I did a quick mental checklist about what that meant to me (coffee, stat!) and of course said yes. I was able to pull it togther pretty well- we had some wine and beer (try not to judge- it was 8:30 PM to them!), some fruit , phylo cups and eggs, green onion (so I made mini-quiches) and we had cheese and crackers left over from God knows when.
But, it got me to thinking that we should really have some supplies on hand for spontaneous get-togethers, and I wondered what that might be. So, dear CHr's I am turning to you for suggestions for foods that 1) store well and 2) can be whipped up quickly for an 'instant party'.
I love to cook, and my friends love to eat my food, so we were the impromptu party house for over a decade. This is what I always had on hand.
Large sack of frozen meatballs
Large sack of frozen chicken breasts
2 lbs dry pasta
3 cans spaghetti sauce
Large stouffer's mac and cheese
40 plus fresh spices in my cabinet.
For the Sunday brunches we hosted, I made sure I had plenty of eggs and cheese for eggs to order. And Knorr hollandaise mix for topping everything. I always have at least a pound of butter on hand.
From this I could make Spanish tortillas, rosti, potatoes Anna, hash browns and potato pancakes. Fried baked or boiled chicken in white or red sauce. On a bed of pasta or rice.
Stir fried rice with chicken. Meatballs in anything. Crushed meatballs stirfried with noodles and lots of hot and pungent spices. I was doing Chopped decades before the food channel even started.
And I still get challenged at a friend's kitchen every once and a while to make dinner on hand. I usually end up throwing out most of the nasty old spices.
There are three meals that I usually try to keep the ingredients on hand for, in case I need a last-minute meal, especially for crowds since they feed quite a few and are very easy to multiply: BBQ pulled pork, chicken & dumplings, and chicken tortilla soup. These are all "meals" and not "appetizers" or finger foods. But I make them often for get-togethers with friends and all of our friends have raved about each of them.
The pulled pork might be the easiest. Just keep a cut of pork in the freezer and when needed, thaw, brown, throw into a crock pot with a bit of water, let cook until falling apart, shred, and toss with BBQ sauce. Heck, you could probably even skip the "thaw/brown" steps if you want to and just toss the frozen pork into the crock pot, but it will take longer in the crock pot that way.
For chicken and dumplings, you just need some kind of chicken (leftover, frozen skinless/boneless, even canned works), some kind of mixed veggies (I usually use frozen, canned works too, or fresh if you have them), cream of chicken soup, water/chicken broth, spices of choice, and some kind of biscuit (either the refrigerated canned kind, or homemade...that includes Bisquick.) Dump everything except the biscuits into a crock pot, stir, and let go as long as you like. About an hour before you want to eat, drop the biscuits on top (if using canned biscuits, cut them into thirds or quarters), cover, and let them cook until done.
The chicken tortilla soup again involves chicken (leftover, frozen, or canned), canned beans (rinsed and drained, I usually use kidney or black), frozen or canned corn, canned tomatoes with green chilis, water/chicken broth, spices, and cream of chicken soup. Stir together in a crock pot and heat until ready to serve.
The only downside to these is that they do require a crockpot and a little bit of time to cook. But with the chicken & dumplings and chicken tortilla soup, everything is already cooked anyway, you just need to heat it through. So 2 hours on high is probably long enough. You could also try doing any of these in a dutch oven on the stove or in the oven to speed up the process, just be careful not to burn it.
I try to keep pizza dough or pizza shells in the freezer...you can toss anything on to a pizza shell...keep a can or two of decent sauce on the shelf and some generic 'pizza mix' shredded cheese in the freezer. I've used caramelized onions or leeks (I always have onions), jarred olives, jarred roasted peppers, canned tuna, whatever I can lay my hands on. I just made my first 'dutch baby' pancake this Sunday, (feeling too lazy to flip pancakes), and as long as you have enough ovenproof skillet-type pans to make them in, they would also work great for a put-together-your-own impromptu gathering, they go together in just a few seconds in a blender or food processor...just set them out with whatever jams or jellies or fruit or syrups you can lay hands on (we used lemon curd, huckleberry jam, and my daughter put caramel ice cream topping on hers...). Keep some bacon or packages of sausages in the freezer and you're good to go. Nice of you to host that gathering, I"m sure his co-workers envy him his good-tempered and resourceful spouse.
for breakfast-y stuff I make up mixes for dutch baby pancake that bakes in the oven and a whole package of bacon will cook beautifully in the oven at the same time as would a package of sausages. Frozen juices. A strata if you have some stale bread. Having things that bake in the oven really leaves you free to get the rest ready.
I worked nights at our hospital for quite a while, and I do understand a cold beer at 0800. :)
I sometimes used to grab a breakfast croissant on the way home (an aside: Jack in the Box may start their shake machine for you at 0800 if you ask nicely, takes 20 min to get going); the food I wanted was simple, homey, familiar, warm, cheesy, crispy, a bit fatty. I wanted junk at that hour.
Costco frozen spanakopitas. Maybe 18 min in oven, lightly crunchy and delicious.
Pizza rolls, those tasty tiny lava pillows.
Homemade breakfast tacos/burritos: any combo of scrambled egg, cheese, breakfast meat, jalapenos, peppers, onions, salsa, sour cream.
Frozen egg rolls.
English muffins with neufchatel (flavor with herbs/pepper as deired). Smoked salmon/lox.
Toasted spiced nuts.
Some fresh sliced carrots, grape tomatoes, snow/snap peas with a bit of dip.
Coffee. Nurses can sleep after any amount of coffee. Flavored creamer (you'll be judged like the new 50's housewife on the block if you don't have this lol -- "Jeesh, fresh-milked cream from her backyard Guernsey but no artificial hazelnut creamer?! Where was SHE raised.").
Edited to add: end with fruit. Sliced mango, half bananas, grapes, strawberries.
And re: Sour cream -- keeps for a long while in the fridge. Spoilage tends to occur if you introduce a spoon with some other food on it, then that bit will get fuzzy; but clean spoons = long fridge life.
I should begin by stating that I am a food hoarder and always keep food stored as if I'm preparing for the apocalypse.
I'm not quite sure what I'd do for breakfast--I usually have a box or two of some nice muffin mixes, maybe lemon poppyseed. Perhaps make those into mini muffins or whip up a coffeecake (very likely to have those ingredients on hand). I don't always keep breakfast sausage links on hand but this would be a good reason to. I typically have both juice and champagne for a quick mimosa, and I also generally have vodka and tomato juice. I always have eggs, so potentially a quiche but that would be a bit more work.
I always keep Italian sausage, good jarred sauce, spaghetti, and frozen garlic bread in case someone "pops in" and want a fast, filling, on hand sit-down dinner. Boxed brownie mix. Not fancy, but always pleases.
I do quite a bit of entertaining so I have a variety of cheese, crackers, and pickles on hand. Sweet pickles, dill pickles, pickled okra, roasted red peppers, kalamata olives, green olives, cheddar, havarti with dill, camembert. I also generally have sour cream and can add various seasonings for a dip, hard rosemary breadsticks, and much of the time, salami. Also pistachios or almonds. And, hardly worth mentioning, fully stocked liquor cabinet :)
Assuming that you always have a dozen eggs in the refrigerator, if you have hash browns in the freezer you can always make a fritatta, and if you have frozen pie crusts you can always make quiches out of anything, and both are good for whatever meal a person thinks it is. I second frozen waffles, also keep an extra pound of coffee on the shelf. And it should be recognized that you are a good, good partner to be so empathic to the instant needs of a frazzled ER team.
thanks for the replies so far-I hope we don't have too many more morning parties! Or at least not ones I wasn't prepared for, at least mentally.
I love the idea of having some pizza crusts in the freezer ready to go. We almost always have 'something' that could top it. (Just thinking that what I have in my pantry/fridge right now includes bacon, gorgonzola and figs...mmmm...). also like the idea of frozen dips. Does sour cream freeze ok? I am always leery of freezing dairy. I don't know why. Ice cream is frozen, and so is butter...
Take out is always an option, but then people might feel obligated to 'pitch in' some cash since things were bought-and I don't want to get involved in that mess :).
And chowser, I WISH I had thought of popping on CH for some ideas. When he works weekends that is my girls night out. So let's just say I wasn't thinking entirely clearly. LOL!
Bloody mix is always on hand. Too bad we were out of vodka (see above) ;)
As long as you have frozen puff pastry or frozen pie crust, you're good to go for sweet or savory, with some pantry items. You could do quiche, pot pie for savory. You'd need eggs, boxed stock/broth, milk, cream, some type of protein. Rather than stocking up, I'd be more inclined to come onto CH and ask, "I have xxx, yyy, zzz, etc. and need to make breakfast/lunch/dinner in two hours. Help!" Creativity=great instant parties.
Baked goods freeze well so if you envision more AM parties, maybe do some muffins, quick breads, even cookies? I've frozen quiches with success, you just need time to reheat in the oven. Even if I'd worked all night, I think I'd prefer a bloody mary to wine unless the bloody part stirs up bad work thoughts. Have vodka and champagne on hand; run out for mix and OJ.
Frozen toaster waffles, syrup, eggs for a frittata or 2, and a 12-cup coffee maker and ground coffee if you're considering breakfast. A Chinese carry-out menu, a carry-out sandwich menu, a frozen dip that can be quickly thawed and crackers if you're considering lunch of dinner.
i don't know too many chinese restaurants that are open at 8:00, but stuff like fried rice freezes very well. so do egg rolls. so does take-out pizza.
agree about freezing quiches, muffins and quickbreads, a giant egg scramble can be made pretty quickly.
they may not want breakfast, so meatballs in sauce can go in a pot to thaw/heat. lasagnes and ziti can be cooked in mimi-loaf pans, so will heat up well. i usually have small, cooked spanakopitas in the freezer and a whole pan will heat through in about 20 minutes. do you have a 24-hr store or deli with extended hours? you can run out for deli meats, sandwich breads and cold salads.
i understand trader joe's has a good selection of frozen party food. keep a few boxes of those on-hand too.