Up until last week, I hadn't cooked for a dinner party in a long while. The last one was a sweaty frenzy of spaghetti and meatballs for 14, and I had to take four months off after that. This time I just cooked for six, and found myself enjoying the hourly turn of the slow-roasting pork and even the carrot peeling (which I've begun doing right onto the counter instead of hunching over the trash since it's pretty easy to clean up and so much nicer to my back). The difference between this dinner and the other one was not only the number of servings I was responsible for, but two of the dishes — the spring carrots and the main dish — could be made ahead of time. Every single other task that could be completed in advance, I did, too — washed the salad greens, cut the grape tomatoes, boiled the water for the pasta.
That is to say, I learned my lesson: What I hate most about cooking is timing.
This element of dinner prep makes me a kitchen stress case. I can't talk to people very well, that includes guests coming in the door. Those pictures in Gwyneth Paltrow's cookbook of her laughing and drinking wine over a pot. None of that. The pressure of timing everything to come out warm at the same instant actually made me think I didn't like to cook for a few months there. That's the danger. If you don't identify what you hate most about cooking, you may not figure out how to work around it so that you find out what you love about it.
To recreate this calming dinner party meal in your own home, check out the tips below:
The dinner party for 6 that I actually enjoyed cooking...
Start with Arugula Salad
1 ½ bags arugula
1 package grape tomatoes cut in half lengthwise
For the dressing, mix extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, one large pressed garlic clove, salt, and pepper to taste. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/roy_)
Pork Ragú with Pasta
Pork shoulder ragú with pappardelle pasta (or whatever pasta you got). This recipe I got from Jen here at Shine who got it from the wonderful blog Dinner a Love Story. Check out the recipe there. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Tara Fisher)
A few bunches of small carrots with the greens still on top -Olive oil -Salt and pepper (freshly ground is best) Boil enough water to submerge all the carrots. Cut the greens on the carrots so only ½ an inch is left on top. Cook them in the boiling water for 4 minutes (exactly). Drain them, let them cool, then put them in the fridge. Once cold mix them with olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste (Photo courtesy of Corbis/Roulier)
Chocolate Ice Cream with Raspberries (Photo courtesy of Corbis /Chrystal Cartier Photography)
More to check out: