When You’re Late to Your Own Party, Here’s What to Do
Filed in: Your Brain
In a perfect world, you’d have immaculate dinner parties with music cued up, candles lit, and food all ready in time to have a relaxing cocktail—or even a refreshing catnap!—before your friends arrive. But in reality, your turn to host book club rolls around to find you racing home after work, praying that you beat your guests to your door (and, um, remembered to run the dishwasher that morning). For those nights, we present the MM team’s tried-and-true shortcut “recipes,” sure to please a crowd when you’re stretched for time.
The Gourmet Cheese Board
A cheese plate is a welcome addition to any party, but adding Julia Turshen’s chorizo with spicy honey really takes things to the next level. Pick up any chorizo from the bodega, slice it up, throw it into a skillet, drizzle with spicy honey (mix honey with vinegar and a dash of red chili flakes), and cook until the chorizo is crisp. I pair it with olives, crackers, and a couple of cheeses (soft and hard) for max effect. The end result is a beautiful, vaguely Spanish, highly Instagram-able board.
—Lesley, social media manager
Comfort in a Bowl (Also Known as Artichoke Dip)
This is the best artichoke dip—someone always asks for the recipe, and the dish is always scraped clean. All it takes is “a cup, a cup, and a can”: a cup of mayonnaise, a cup of grated parmesan, and a can of artichokes. Mix everything together in a baking dish, add a sprinkle each of basil, parsley, and paprika, and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. It’s best when eaten on the couch, in sweatpants, when you and your girlfriends have decided that a night in sounds much more appealing than braving the crowds at the latest cocktail spot.
—Ashley, D.C. showroom manager
I always keep fresh tortillas in the fridge, and they make all the difference—everything tastes good wrapped in a hot, freshly-cooked tortilla. Throw them on the stove for a minute or two on each side, and then stuff them with whatever you have on hand: leftover chicken, canned beans, scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, etc. If you have toppings like salsa and sour cream, offer those on the side. This works well as a build-your-own so guests can make the tortilla exactly how they want.
If you truly don’t want to lift a finger, “Seamless Racing” is no-work hosting gold. Gather a group of friends and have your laptops ready to scour the best delivery food options in your area. Each person chooses one dish (shareable entrees preferred), and everyone orders at the exact same moment. The food arrives in waves, providing mystery and excitement. Metrics may be tracked to compare delivery time, food temperature, portion size, and approval rating.
—Jonny, warehouse supervisor
When feeding a crowd, my go-to is baked Brie. Buy a wheel of Brie (nothing fancy), slather one side with jam (any kind will do), and then plop it fruit-side-down on a sheet of Pillsbury pastry (dinner roll dough, ideally, although pie crust works fine in a pinch). Then wrap it up like a big diaper, throw it in the oven, and hope the smoke alarm doesn’t go off (which shows you how often I cook). People are always impressed because pastry looks fancy, and no one’s ever hungry because they’re basically eating a giant cheese pie. Serve with baguette slices or just crackers.
—Charlotte, editorial director
Ina Garten’s tagliarelle with truffle butter has the ideal effort-to-payoff ratio: It takes mere minutes to whip up, but tastes sophisticated and delicious. I try to keep a few packs of truffle butter in the fridge (you can buy them at Whole Foods or any high-end grocery store), and the rest of the ingredients are ones you’ll probably have on hand. This is great for a crowd because it’s fast, simple, and the truffle element seems extra special—sure to impress!
When I have things really together, I try to have a batch of these meatballs in the freezer. Then, all you need to do is plop them (still frozen and raw) in a pot of tomato sauce and simmer for 20 minutes. Toast up some bread (or boil some pasta), grate a little parmesan on top, and you have a quick, homemade dinner. I’ve served it to some unsuspecting friends with great approval.
—Callie, art director
If you always keep a jar of Stonewall Kitchen’s roasted garlic onion jam on hand, you can transform frozen pizza dough into a party-ready dinner that puts Domino’s to shame. Spread the jam over the dough, sprinkle with your favorite kind of cheese (I’m partial to feta), and then bake it for a few minutes. Serve when the cheese is bubbly and the crust is golden.
Almost anyone who has eaten at my house or known my family longer than a year has been served Silver Palate’s chicken marbella—it’s my can’t-fail dinner party go-to. It’s flavorful and delicious; sweet and brine-y and juicy all at once. Stick the chicken in a baking dish, sprinkle all the ingredients on top (almost no chopping required; just measure the ingredients and add them to the pan) and refrigerate until you’re ready to put it in the oven. Serve with some crusty bread to mop up the sauce and be done.
This is my go-to recipe for nights when you say, “The more the merrier!” and suddenly you’re cooking for 13 people in a tiny Brooklyn kitchen on a Friday after work. It’s easy to make, delightfully creamy, and feels more elevated than your basic tomato sauce or pesto—plus, the ingredients cost next-to-nothing. It’s no exaggeration to say everyone loves this dish, and I’ve observed many friends who typically avoid carbs go back for seconds.
—Caroline, marketing associate
Salmon with Dijon Dill Sauce
This baked salmon recipe is so easy and always a hit. The filets roast in the oven for under ten minutes, and while they’re baking you mix together a yummy mustard sauce to spoon over the top. I serve this almost every time I have guests over, and one of my friends loved it so much she made it for her New Year’s party!
No-Fuss Baked Chicken
My go-to recipe is Jamie Oliver’s chicken legs with sweet tomatoes and basil. It requires a bit of baking time, but is incredibly easy to prepare. There are only a few ingredients, and you can easily tweak the recipe depending on what flavors you prefer—I like adding pesto for the last ten minutes of baking time. Serve the chicken on its own, over pasta, or with a hefty slice of baguette.
—Yan, graphic designer
Images via Food Network, Smitten Kitchen, and Simply Recipes.