I am very, very popular. And the curse of very, very popular people is that our time is so seldom our own. We are in demand. We have places to go, people to meet, meals to devour. There are drinks to be had, stories to be exchanged and long weekends to be spent in the company of other very, very popular people in their glamorous weekend homes.
There is only one way to maintain the status of a very, very popular person. You must reciprocate. Though I may be very, very popular. I am not very, very rich (shhh… don’t tell my very, very popular, very, very rich friends). So reciprocating to me means entertaining at home.
But Saturdays book up fast. What is a very, very popular person to do? Well, the answer is simple. Have a dinner party during the week. Now I know it’s hard to entertain at home on a weeknight (especially now that there is some CSI franchise on TV three times a week). But it can be done with some planning.
Here are my tips:
Set the table the day before. Let’s say you are having Tad and Buffy over on a CSI free Tuesday. Set the table on Monday night during Two and a Half Men (because you can’t be a SippitySup reader and watch that show, the 2 are mutually exclusive). Follow my advice and you’ll be done in plenty of time for CSI Miami.
The advantages of setting the table early are numerous. The obvious point is you won’t have to do it when you get home from work on Tuesday. So that’s a big relief.
But I also find artistic inspiration in having the table set early. Also, there is plenty of time to plan how it will go, tweak some element of dishware, line all the forks and knives up using a straight edge so that they are perfectly perpendicular to the plate…all the necessities that make for a perfect evening with friends. As long as they don’t touch anything.
But the most important thing I can say about entertaining on a weeknight is you must plan the meal wisely. This does not (necessarily) mean make something you have made before and feel confident making. No indeedy. Because you will be horrified when Buffy says “Oh you made this for the Diffenbachers when they were here on Sunday!” Busted you do not want to be.
My advice is "make something easy". Make it with fresh, gorgeous ingredients that look scrumptious together. That way you will be “assembling” more than you will be “cooking”.
Asian is a great way to go for this style of entertaining. So for my Sippity Suppers- Mid Week Menu that’s exactly what I’ll be doing.
Because, you see, for all my silly banter, I really am entertaining at home this week on a “school night”. I really do want it to be stress free but glamorous. And I actually like these people and I want to spend most of the meal at the table and not in the kitchen.
So I did set the table a night early, and I am planning a meal I can pull off with no worries.
To accomplish this I am turning to 3 cookbooks in my collection. I am choosing cookbooks with an Asian theme, which is not to say they are perfectly authentic, but their pan-Asian, fusion blah, blah, fresh and healthy formats will work for me here.
Another reason I chose these cookbooks is because they have great photos. For me a picture really is worth a 1000 words sometimes. I love long, verbose, technical explanations of cooking and cooking methods. I read that stuff for pleasure. I really do.
But tonight I want to be able to open that cookbook, look at that picture and be able to definitively say, “I can do that”! These three cookbooks all present their dishes with the kind of photos that make me feel like I know where to go with these recipes.
I am starting with a Tuna Pizza with Anchovy Aioli from Iron Chef America’s Masaharu Morimoto. His recipe is simply a grilled flour tortilla that is topped with tuna sashimi and some pretty veggies. It has a tangy anchovy-lemon-soy aioli that is decorative as well as very tasty. I plan to double the recipe because I can imagine using it later in the week drizzled over grilled fish.
It’s a weeknight so I am not going crazy with courses and too many elements. People want to get together, but nobody wants to make a late boozy night of it. With that in mind I am going to skip the wine entirely. We’ll do sake. Unfiltered, a bit sweet. It will work with the entire menu.
I will, however, offer a cocktail at the beginning. People will be coming straight from work and a cocktail is just so damn civilized after a stressful day at the office. I am choosing a Thai Basil and Lime Kamikaze from Tom Douglas’ 8-year-old (but still going strong) cookbook Seattle Kitchen.
It is an herb infused, lime puckering concoction that I have been making for years. People balk when I tell them is has basil in it. So don’t tell them until after they have tasted it. It’s really delicious.
Thai basil is different than the sweet Italian basil you find at the grocery store. If you have an Asian market near you seek this herb out. It has an anise undertone that is very unusual. But I have made this with sweet basil and it’s nearly as good. So don’t let any of that stop you from trying this.
Also from the Tom Douglas book I am making Udon with Sea Scallops and Miso Broth. It could not be easier or more impressive. I made the miso broth a day ahead. It’s the only cooking involved.
When it’s time to eat I need only boil the udon noodles and divide them between each bowl. I’ll add the scallops to the bowl raw.
Then it’s just a matter of bringing the miso broth to a boil and pouring some into each bowl. The broth will cook the scallops in 3 or 4 minutes to perfection.
Tom suggests a pretty topping of mixed veggies that includes julienned green onions, carrots, bean sprouts, mint and my beloved cilantro. Serve with lime wedges and voila!
I could stop here and have a pretty nice meal. But the miso scallops are very light and fragrant. I think I need a side dish with some bolder flavors.
I am turning to Martin Yan for this. In his Quick and Easy cookbook he has a recipe for Three-Minute Baby Bok Choy. Three minutes! That is no time at all!
It’s basically a quick stir-fry of quartered baby bok choy and lots of garlic. He then pours a pretty straightforward Cantonese sauce (rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, pre-made black bean sauce) into the pan and plates it. Boom. Done.
It comes to the table hot, fragrant and garlicky. A great counterpoint!
So the next time Tad and Buffy jet off for a weekend in St. Baarths, guess who’ll be right at their side? I just hope they don’t expect me to cook!
SERIOUS FUN FOOD