Dinner Winner: 5 Tips On Hosting A Dinner Party
As our culinary skills continue to sharpen during COVID, and as the weather begins to cool over the next few months, the recipe is ripe for hosting dinner parties. Here’s a few tips from our in-house panel of semi-experts on how to nail hosting duties.
Plan the meal well. You should have a really clear idea of the courses you’re going to serve, and the timings you’ll need to hit. Make a few notes if you need to - there’s nothing worse than getting to the end and realising you forgot a sauce, or forgot to serve a key ingredient. Part of that planning should also give thought to the style and heaviness of the courses - nobody wants consecutively heavy courses, so try to balance some lighter options with some richer things. A delicate fish for a main meal is great, but if you’ve knocked everybody’s taste buds into the stratosphere with fried chicken just before, they’re not going to be able to appreciate the subtlety of the flavours. And remember to work in any dietary restrictions - it’s rare there won’t be at least one around the table.
Make it a bit easy for yourself by thinking long and hard about how comfortable you are cooking these dishes. We’re all for diving into some new recipes and pushing your culinary limits, but the more you experiment, the more likely you are to make mistakes, get stressed, and serve up rubbish. We suggest balancing the two out - try something new, try something you’re reasonably confident with, and cook one of your signature meals. Also give some thoughts to the dishes that give maximum bang for back when it comes to work versus impression/taste - a big pot of mussels, for example, can bring the house down, but a large amount is pretty quick and easy to pull together.
What prep can you do up front? Are there any sauces or marinades you can get done earlier in the day? Any vegetables that can be chopped up, meats tenderised, seafood gutted? These jobs make mess, take time and occupy valuable bench space, so it’s great to get out in front and do what you can before your guests arrive. Just be wary you’re not doing things out of order - a salad that’s been dressed a few hours earlier will be soggy by the time it’s ready to serve, and things that have been fried can lose their crunch.
Remember that presentation is a key part of the evening. The right serving dish, some fresh citrus as garnishes, and a sprinkling of fresh herbs can make all the difference. The old saying goes that you eat first with your eyes, so make your first impressions (and your guests’ Instagram stories) a feast in their own right.
Provide a good assortment of drinks that covers all the bases and matches the meal you’re serving. Yes, good guests will bring a bottle of wine, but there’ll always be something missing and it’s (unfortunately) part of the job of hosting that you should have extra on hand in case. A six pack of beer, some white and red, and some soft drinks or sparkling water for the non-drinkers or drivers should be on hand. In terms of choosing the right wines, think about the styles that’ll match your food - like heavy reds like Shiraz and Cabernet for red meat, lighter reds for other meats.