This is one of my favorite Deb Runs non-running posts, edited slightly to update for tonight’s big event…
Tonight is our annual Italian Dinner Party – a night in February where I can shine and make my husband both happy and proud – happy that he’s getting a good home cooked meal; and proud that I try my hardest to replicate two of his favorite childhood dishes that his Italian grandma made for him.
I suppose I’m a pretty good cook. What I don’t serve up in quality, I make up for in quantity. I once overheard a guest tell another guest that when they come to Debbie’s house for any type event, they won’t leave hungry. Having grown up in the south, I took that as the ultimate compliment.
Whittling our guest list down to seven couples has always been the hardest part of the entire shindig. Bill and I put great care in deciding which personalities fit together, and last year we hit the nail on the head. The conversation flowed as freely as the wine, and everyone had a wonderful time! Using the motto, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, we invited the same fun couples to this year’s dinner. Five out of the seven couples are attending, so we’ll have a cozy gathering of twelve around the dining room table.
Whenever I’m planning a big dinner party, I throw all caution to the wind. I’m going to serve my guests authentic food, and I’m not going to cut corners or flavors trying to make it low carb or low fat. I will, however; always serve a huge salad to counter the calorie laden deliciousness.
I’m not the least bit ashamed to say that when a guest asks what they can bring, I start giving them assignments (usually appetizers or desserts). As a guest, I enjoy contributing to the meal, so I allow that same pleasure to my guests, and let’s face it, it takes a little pressure off of the hostess.
When entertaining a large number of guests, it’s all about planning. Bill and I make our guest list and menu at least a month out, and try to send out our invitations via Evite two to three weeks in advance. For some events, I even send out “save the date” emails as soon as I have my guest list complete.
I make the grocery list early in the week, and shop for the recipe ingredients at Wegman’s (always Wegman’s for any sort of specialty meal) a day or two before the event. Bill is in charge of the wine and our current favorite is Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon, special to us because we toured their winery several years ago while visiting Napa Valley.
I try to do some of the prep work the day before the dinner so yesterday I assembled the braciola, but will wait until this afternoon to sear them and make the sauce. Having my schedule laid out hour-by-hour the day of the dinner party is imperative to a stress free day.
Having a good sous-chef is also critical, and Bill fills that position nicely. He’s working this morning, but hopes to be home early this afternoon to help with washing dishes or running back out to pick up anything I forgot. At the end of a long day of cooking, it’s nice not to have a kitchen full of dirty dishes to wash before the guests arrive.
With assembly complete, and both main dishes in the oven, I’ll start putting together the salad just before the guests start arriving. Our dinner menu will include:
- Assorted Wines (our favorite and guest contributions)
- Assorted Appetizers (guest contributions)
- Tossed Salad
- Beef Braciola
- Chicken Parmigiana
- Mezza Penne Pasta
- Italian Bread
- Cannoli (guest contribution)
- Assorted Cheesecake Shooters (guest contribution)
- Limoncello and Bailey’s Irish Cream
We’ll set up the food on the kitchen island, and let our guests serve themselves before crowding into the dining room, decorated with Italian-style Chianti wine bottles with cork style candles and Spode Celebration china (the closest I have to Bill’s grandparents’ Italian pattern).
Throwing a dinner party is a lot of work, but so very worth it. There’s nothing like seeing your dear friends enjoy themselves; and let’s face it, who doesn’t like hearing that your beef braciola is “absolutely melt-in-your-mouth delicious!”
- What’s your favorite type of food?
- What food is your specialty for preparing and serving to guests?
- When you’re invited to a party, what food/drink do you like to bring?