The days are getting brighter and warmer, and after a few months of hibernation, it’s time for a dinner party. Along with a three-course menu celebrating the season, here are 10 tips for stress-free entertaining.
- Choose a menu that will allow you to have fun at your own dinner party. Why not make a one-dish dinner like Creamy Spring Chicken Stew that’s both beautiful and complete?
- When getting started, unload the groceries, pull your pantry items and organize them by dish.
- Set the table before starting to cook. This way you look ready to welcome friends and family when they arrive.
- Decorate the table with simple seasonal ingredients like citrus, berries, apples, pears or nuts in the shell, that are both beautiful and edible.
- Prepare the main course first. Work on other dishes as time permits.
- Have on hand roasted nuts, pre-washed baby greens, and premium ice cream in case there’s no time to make the appetizer, salad and dessert you originally planned.
- At a casual supper, have wine drinkers take their glass from the table and use it all night.
- If you’ve run out of time, keep the party in the kitchen. (No one wants you toiling alone while they’re having fun.)
- Assign simple tasks like filling water glasses, lighting candles and serving salad to eager guests.
- Make sure the dishwasher is empty so you can load as you go.
With these tips as your guide, hopefully you will look forward to having people over more often.
Fennel, red onion, radishes and carrots offer great texture and color to this salad while the grapefruit and orange, both juice and sections, brighten it.
The salad can be prepared several hours in advance but dress it right before serving.
- 1/2 large fennel (about 3 cups) halved, cored and thinly sliced
- 1/4 large red onion, thinly sliced
- 12 radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
- 3 large carrots, shaved into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
- 1 orange, peeled and sectioned
- 1 grapefruit, peeled and sectioned, juices reserved
- 1 cup pre-washed baby arugula
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and ground black pepper
- 1/4 lemon
Place salad ingredients through arugula in a large bowl; drizzle with olive oil and a light sprinkling of salt and pepper; toss to coat. Add a little of the reserved grapefruit juice and a squeeze of lemon juice; toss to coat again. Adjust seasonings, including additional oil, salt, pepper or lemon juice. Serve.
Creamy Spring Chicken Stew
Serves 6 to 8
Offering all the comfort of winter and all the vibrancy and beauty of spring, this stew is perfect for March and April. The colors are marvelous: orange carrots, pale green leeks, along with purple, red and yellow multicolored new potatoes. The oven roasting doesn’t diminish their beauty. The finished dish is equally beautiful.
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into large pieces
- 1 bunch leeks (about 4 medium), trimmed of dark green parts and root, light green and white part quartered lengthwise, cut into 1-inch lengths and washed thoroughl
- 1 1/2 pounds new potatoes, your choice (red, yellow, purple, or a mix of all 3), halved
- 1/2 pound carrots peeled and cut into medium chunks
- 1/2 pound mushrooms, quartered if large, halved if small
- 4 large cloves garlic, sliced
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons dried tarragon
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1/2 cup cream heavy cream
Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 425 degrees.
Mix chicken, leeks, potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, garlic, olive oil, tarragon and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper in a large heavy-duty roasting pan. Set pan in oven and roast until cooked through and juices have released, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and set pan over two burners at medium-low heat. Stir in enough chicken broth to moisten; simmer to blend flavors and thicken slightly, a couple of minutes. Stir in cream; continue to simmer to heat through. Serve!
Roasted Pineapple With Ice Cream and Natural Caramel Sauce
If you like, sprinkle this ice cream-topped pineapple with optional roasted chopped pistachio nuts or toasted coconut. To toast coconut, spread 1 cup of sweetened, flaked coconut in a 9-inch baking pan. Bake in a 300-degree oven, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 pineapple
- 1 1/2 pints premium vanilla ice cream
Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Melt butter in a 13x9-inch baking pan in preheating oven.
Meanwhile, twist off pineapple top and slice off top and bottom. Remove skin, cutting deep enough to remove pineapple eyes. Cut pineapple into 6 thick rounds, removing the core from each with an apple corer or small biscuit cutter.
Sprinkle brown sugar over butter, then place pineapple over sugar. Bake until tender, 45 minutes. Turn fruit over, baste with pan sauce; set pan on bottom oven rack and continue to bake until fruit is golden brown and juices are sauce consistency, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Place a piece of pineapple into each of 6 serving bowls, top with a dollop of ice cream, drizzle with caramel pan sauce and serve.
Also of interest: Healthy hors d'oeuvres and appetizers.