Sunday, December 9, 2012

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

LUCY BURDETTE: Does it seem to you that big dinner parties prepared by one hostess have gone the way of the dinosaurs? I know I used to make more elaborate meals for bigger crowds, but life's gotten so busy...

Some five or six years ago, a group of friends decided to launch a supper club. Six couples meet six times a year for a big dinner. The hosts make the main dish and tell the others what to make. We're all competent cooks (a key I think) but only one of us, Tim, is a true gourmet. He's been known to cook with Jacques Pepin, and his son Adam is a professional chef (and a character in TOPPED CHEF!) 

While the rest of us might assign the others to bring a generic salad or vegetable, Tim's been known to hand out a particular recipe. None of us will forget the time he asked Cathy to bring green beans--not just any green beans, but Thomas Keller's green beans. Err, I should say Haricots verts, tomato tartare and chive oil salad. Among other steps it involved blanching, peeling, and roasting the tomatoes for several hours. We can't remember what the main dish was that night, but we all remember Cathy's stacked beans.  

This time, Cathy had the appetizer assignment, which we all agree is not that easy. These shrimp were wonderful--tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper, and roasted at 400 degrees for ten minutes, rather than boiled. (I'm sure I had three, maybe four...)


Here's the rest of our dinner--Scott made the pork roast, Sue the rice, Tim and Stacie the roasted veggies, me the pomegranate salad (recipe for the salad is posted at Mystery Lovers Kitchen), and Barbara, the pies. 

This makes the whole idea of entertaining so much more reasonable. And with our busy lives, it's great to know we'll be seeing our pals at least every other month--and eating well. 

There's only one downside to being the host and hostess...but we can handle the mess once a year!

How about you Reds, do you still throw dinner parties?  What should we bring??


  1. What a fun thing to do! We had four couples in a group many years ago. We had so much fun we did it every other month, and would probably still be having dinners were it not for divorces. :) Our group all hated the wine assignment because you had to pair with everyone's dish. I came up with a magnum of 1959 Chateau Talbot once, which to this day is still the best claret I've ever poured. Of course that's my biggest memory.

    Also, it's a pretty good setup -- "friendly" couples meeting regularly -- for a murder mystery, eh?

  2. We also tend to hand out assignments, although never specific recipes. If each couple does one course, it usually means it will be excellent. I am toying with having a Downton Abbey dinner in January when we are all bored to tears and Season Three arrives to save us. Already have the cookbook.

  3. Oh Jack, too funny--divorces and murder and dinner would all certainly go together. We don't assign the wine, everyone just brings some...

    Michele, I LOVE the idea of the Downton Abbey party. Costumes too? Do you have Pamela's cookbook?

  4. I love dinner parties, and even enjoy doing all the cooking, as long as it's just once in awhile.

    For my father-in-law's 90th birthday I hosted a dinner party for 22 here at our home. (Swapped out the furniture in the living room for dining tables, which worked so well we've done it twice more since.) The main course was prime rib, which I'd never made before, but it turned out great.

    When I was buying the meat I got into line behind a friend whose family is vegetarian. He took one look at the giant slab o' beef and asked me if that was the fatted calf.

    We have several couple friends in which both partners are great cooks. What a fun idea for getting together, and much less stressful than one person doing all the cooking and cleaning and furniture moving! Love the Downton Abbey party, too. So fun.

  5. Since I don't have a dining room/set (just open space) I tend to have buffet-style parties. And I'm furiously cleaning and moving the furniture for one right now! I've never had any luck telling my friends what to bring, they just don't take direction well. Side dish lady will inevitably bring a dessert, and appetizer man will always show up 1 hour late, but it seems to work out. No one goes hungry chez Harris.

  6. We live in a very small, very rural neighborhood full of people who love to eat and love to cook, so we do this sort of thing fairly often, but usually without assigning anything which does make for some interesting combinations.

    I love the camaraderie of sitting around a table enjoying a lovely meal having interesting conversations with people who care about one another.

  7. Karen, prime rib for 22--wow! that's impressive.

    Ro, so sorry to miss your spread--sounds like fun!

    I agree, Kaye, nothing like talking over a home-cooked meal:)

  8. I love to throw dinner parties, but I confess that once the guest list is over 10 people I completely lose any sense of how much to make. Just for example, 1/2 cup of (raw) rice is just right for 2. But cook up 5 cups of raw rice for 10 people and you'll be eating leftover rice for weeks.

    Tonight we're have two other couples over for dinner. I just baked cheese straws -- buttery cheddar sticks spiked with a little cayenne and hot paprika -- to have with drinks and the house smells heavenly. Yesterday I made a brisket and tonight, after everyone's here, I'll start shredding the potatos for latkes.

    We've dusted off the menorah and tonight we'll light 2 Hanukah candles plus the shamash (the one you light the others with).

  9. And YES we used to have regular dinner parties where each couple brought a different dish. We'd plan each menu in advance. It was great because you could have four dishes each of which was more work than an entire 'normal' meal.

    Our first meal (1975??) was legendary. Onion soup (starting with roasting beef bones, making a stock, and then using pounds of onions and smothering the result in gruyere cheese); Tournedoes Rossini (filet mignon with artichoke hearts and truffles); and for dessert a Gateau St. Honore complete with a glistening caramelized sugar cage.

  10. Beautiful images of parties -- ah! the mind begins to create scenarios -- Inauguration! (for Obama's first I made a buffet of a Kenyan dish, a Hawaiian dish, and some dishes I found through the internet that the Obama's especially liked.) A Downton Abbey dinner sounds great.

    We are having my brother-in-law & his family for dinner -- brisket, potato kugel, carrot tsimmes (??) -- and, for dessert, I am slicing one or two of those little chocolate-orange bundts.

    We celebrate Christmas, but I have learned many wonderful Jewish dishes from friends, and I enjoy having a piece of other people's holidays.

    We will light an Advent wreath.

    Happy Holidays.

  11. Oh, Lucy, what fun! I've been tempted over the years to join dinner group, but between traveling and book deadlines I figured I'd have conflicts and be stressed over it...

    We've done so little entertaining the last couple of years. But last night dear friends (former next door neighbor and her partner and toddler) came for dinner. We did pulled pork and sides, they brought the appetizer and dessert, and even though it was late and we were all exhausted, it was such fun. Resolving to do more in the new year.

    Oh, and I have pomegranate and am going to try your salad. (A friend told me she saw on a cooking show that the best way to get seeds out of the pomegranate is bang on the back of the cut half over bowl. Will try it.)

  12. Very fun, indeed! In grad school some friends and I formed the Bloomington Gourmet Society. One Sunday a month one person (or couple) would cook the entire dinner for everybody, but you only had to do it once a year.

    I am still making "Gary Cooper's Housekeeper's Cheesecake via Henry Kingsbury who got the recipe from Judy Norsegian's mother" and it's still the richest, smoothest, best cheesecake ever. Also Jennifer's Ode to Summer Fruit Tarte, Bobbi Singer's Black Bean Extravaganza, and more.

  13. Oh boy Hallie, dinner sounds wonderful. I looooovvvvve cheese straws!

    Denise Ann, your election celebration was so clever! and clever you to borrow other people's holidays too...

  14. Debs, I can't picture that with the pomegranate, but let us know. Pulled pork sounds so good...

    Edith, I don't usually like cheesecake that much but I'll definitely try a slice of yours.

  15. "Edwardian Cooking, 80 Recipes Inspired by Downton Abbey's Elegant Meals" by Larry Edwards.
    Recipes look yummy, especially if you like butter and cream! Don't know if you could fit into costumes if you eat these recipes!

  16. How fun - we use to do that in Fla, only 5 houses on our street, we'd have BBQ's,fish frys, Christmas parties - lovely memories

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  19. Lucy, the pork was fabulous, and incredibly easy. My daughter's recipe. Her boyfriend get a secret recipe rub from a friend at work and she shared some with me.

    Slice an onion, put in bottom of crock pot. Cover pork tenderloin liberally with the rub, put in crock 76 inuonpupot, pour over half a cup of chicken stock. Cook on low all day. (I usually start the slow cooker on high, then turn in down.) By dinnertime, you could pull the pork apart with a fork, and it was delicious.

    I'll see if I can find out the secret rub recipe and share with Reds and readers!

  20. Oops, apologizing for the stray captcha that sneaked into the post above:-) Gremlins did it.

  21. Y'all are making me very very hungry.

    Denise Ann - you made the little chocolate-orange bundtlettes! Yay! I hope you all enjoy them.

    Hallie - I am over the moon impressed with the 1975 dinner party. wow.

    Debs - do whatever it takes to get the recipe for that secret rub, please and tell them we ALL promise to keep the secret.

  22. I don't do much in the way of dinner parties any longer, but we celebrate Jewish holidays (Ben's Reform) with a group of friends at potluck vegetarian dinners which we love.

    Coincidentally, today we were at the Kansas City Cherokee Community general meeting with potluck lunch. Wonderful down-home dishes, including my favorite--delicious pork and hominy. The women at our table were laughing together at the memories of how it was prepared when we were kids. We had to scrub and scrub the hominy to get the husks and lye off. We had to soak the hominy in lye first to soften the husks enough to come off. Now, you can buy it already prepared in cans or frozen. Life does get easier.

    I topped off my lunch with someone's moist and tender pineapple cake with cream cheese frosting. Potluck was always a way of life when I was a kid. It was in the late 60s and early 70s that the idea of one person cooking the whole fancy meal came about. Now, we're back to the sensible concept of sharing the cooking and work again.