Who doesn’t love a good party?
But, you know what a lot of people don’t love? Planning a party.
It can be very stressful. And figuring out how to get a bunch of food on the table at the right time can be intimidating.
I get that. But, I truly believe that entertaining doesn’t have to be a daunting task. It can be enjoyable. It can be insanely rewarding. If you have a plan.
I’m here to help with that plan and I actually looooooove few things more than the logistical portions of hosting an event. How can that be possible?
Because I’m a Penelope and I. Love. Lists.
PENELOPE REASON TO HAVE A PARTY: Entertaining gives me such a great excuse to make lists and then enjoy the giddiness that comes from checking things off those lists.
It’s silly how much mojo I get from a simple line through a simple word. Done. Accomplished. I’m a Bad Ass. (yes, I literally say those words as I’m crossing things off. Sometimes even out loud. Don’t laugh.)
BONUS: this gives me an opportunity to make a custom May Book notebook. This one has grid (graph) paper inside so I can use it to make lists and sketch table set ups and is the perfect size for keeping all my notes from my dinner parties in one place.
In an attempt to dispel the myth that hosting a crew of family and friends has to be a mad dash of stressful effort, here’s my play by play account of a recent dinner party I threw. I’m hoping that you’ll catch a new trick or tip that you can use next time you want to host a gathering of your own.
Guest Count – 12 adults
Appetizers – asked 2 couples to bring a bite to nosh on while final dinner prep occurs
- Mango Pork Tenderloin
- Saffron Rice with Nuts and Dried Fruit (doesn’t sound super sexy but its delicious!)
- Platter of grilled/roasted veggies – I included my “go-to’s” but you can sub any veggies of your liking!
Dessert – asked 2 couples to bring a sweet treat
Drinks – asked everyone to bring a bottle of what they enjoy
- 3-4 pork tenderloins
- 3 yellow onions
- 2 red onion
- 1 head of celery
- 2 carrots
- 1 apple
- 4 cups diced fresh pineapple – I cheat and use the Trader Joe’s precut pineapple spears. Then just a quick chop and voila!
- 1 head of garlic
- 4-5 zucchini
- 4-5 roma tomatoes
- 3 portobello mushrooms
- 1 bunch asparagus
- 3 sticks butter
- 2 jars Major Grey’s Mango Chutney
- Curry powder
- saffron threads (these can be pricey, but they are worth it and a little goes a long way)
- 4 cups apple cider
- 65 ounces chicken stock (or vegetable stock if you prefer)
- 3 cups pineapple juice
- 2 cups long-grain white rice
- 2-3 cups of your favorite nuts/dried fruit. I use Trader Joe’s Organic Trek Mix – Simply Cashew, Almond & Cranberry. No fuss.
- Olive oil
- Salt and Pepper (I highly recommend Kosher or Sea Salt)
- Place 40 ounces chicken stock in pot and add crumbled saffron threads. Heat to a simmer and then turn off and let steep.
- In a large saute pan melt 2 sticks butter. Add 2 diced yellow onions and 2 cups white rice. Cook over medium-high heat until the rice is toasted and a deep golden brown. Transer rice/onion mixture to a casserole dish. Let stand at room temperature.
- Wash and dry vegetables. For mushrooms, use a damp paper towel to remove dirt. If you wash them or soak them, the mushroom will absorb the water like a sponge and will get mushy when cooked.
- Trim a small piece at both ends of zucchini so it can stand up on its end on the cutting board. Slice zucchini lengthwise into long pieces about 1/4 inch thick. Lay slices on baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Remove stems from portobello mushrooms. Slice portobello mushrooms into 1/2 inch thick slices. Lay slices on baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Remove ends of asparagus where they naturally crack when bent. (I crack one, then line it up with the rest and give it one quick slice.) Lay spears on baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Trim top and bottom of red onion. Remove peel. Slice red onion into 1/4-1/2 inch thick sliced. Keep concentric circle in tact. Lay slices on baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Slice roma tomatoes in half. Lay slices on baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place Roma Tomatoes in oven for approximately 45 minutes to an hour. They are done with wrinkly and brown around the edges. Check out this recipe from a great blogger for details and pics! These are seriously delicious.
- Heat grill until grates are nice and hot. In batches grill the zucchini, mushroom, red onion and asparagus. The vegetables should have nice grill/char marks and be tender. Don’t overcook.
- Arrange all veggies on a platter and cover loosely with foil. You don’t want to cover and seal, as that will create steam that will continue to cook the vegetables. Just lightly cover to protect and set aside. These will be served at room temperature!
T – 2 hours: Relax for a quick minute and get yourself gussied up for a fun night with guests! (about 1 hour)
T – 1 hour: Get rice and pork tenderloin in oven (about 30 min)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Remove the saffron-infused stock and pour over prepped rice/onion mix. Stir lightly. Cover the casserole dish tightly with foil and place in oven.
- Remove pork from brine. Place in a roasting dish. Discard brine.
- In a large saute pan, melt 1 stick butter over medium low heat. Add 2 Tbsp curry powder (don’t panic about the curry flavor, its suuuuuper mellow) and stir for 3 minutes to mellow the curry. Add chopped pineapple and stir to coat with curry butter. Add 3 cups pineapple juice and 3 cups chicken broth and bring to a boil. Boil uncovered for 10 minutes to reduce slightly.
- Remove the pineapple from pan and place around and on top of the pork in the roasting pan. Pour about 1 cup of sauce over the pork, reserve the rest for basting, if you so desire.
- Place pork in oven and set timer for 40 minutes.
T – 20 minutes: Pour yourself a drink and give the kitchen a quick clean up so you are ready to greet your guests.
T – 0: Guests arrive! You are calm, cool, collected because you’ve got a plan for dinner and you’ve stuck to it! Place appetizers that your guests brought with them in the common gathering place in your home. As much as we try to direct them elsewhere, usually everyone will congregate near the kitchen! Embrace it!
T + 20 minutes: Remove pork from oven and uncover. Spoon mango chutney out of jar on top of pork. Spread with back of spoon to lightly coat. Place back in oven uncovered for 15 minutes or until pork temperature reaches 150-160 degrees.
T + 40 minutes: Remove pork from oven and let rest before slicing. Check on the rice. If all of the liquid has been absorbed, its done! Remove, keep covered and let sit until ready to serve.
T + 1 hour: Dinner time!
- Slice pork into 1/2 inch slices and arrange on platter. Scatter pineapple on top of pork.
- Remove cover from rice. Top with nut and fruit mix. You can stir or I think its pretty to leave it topped with the goodies! It’ll incorporate as people scoop.
- Uncover veggie platter!
- Guests grab a plate and serve themselves from the delicious spread you have prepared.
T + 1.5 hours: Set out the desserts that your guests brought along. Don’t forget to put out some napkins and forks/spoons if needed!
What I love most about this menu and plan is that I can do it in chunks and once my guests arrive there is very little to fuss with. That makes me feel calm and allows me to enjoy their company.
I also feel really good about serving a nutritious meal that everyone enjoys. And, as an added bonus, this entire meal is gluten free (if you have a Celiac friend or family member, double check ingredients to make sure they are all GF safe) and could easily be made to accommodate vegetarian friends too (make rice with veggie stock).
If you have a favorite “go-to” entertaining plan, I’d love to hear about it.
If you have a menu that you love but need help breaking it into an executable plan, send it my way! (I’m totally serious. I have a passion for this stuff!) If you’re inspired to go for it and make the menu above, please, please let us know! That’d literally make. my. day. #easytoplease
Happy Entertaining, Penelopes!