Make it possible

Recently Tad and I had dinner on a school night at the home of our good friends Strauss and Wendy.  When we arrived, their kitchen was clean, sparkling and quiet.   There was a small plate of asparagus on the counter and a sauté pan on the stove.  Otherwise, there was no sign of the dinner that was to come.  Strauss poured us drinks, led us to their fab living room and sat down with us and gabbed.   Wendy soon appeared from organizing children upstairs.  Did she head for the kitchen to start our dinner?  Not on your life!  She came right in with the grown-ups and joined the party!  Their children popped in and out and soon Wendy went upstairs to oversee a quick tuck in.   Still, nobody moved towards the kitchen.  Finally, Strauss excused himself, headed towards the kitchen and five minutes later we were called to the table.  This truly was kitchen magic!  How did they do this, and what were we eating? 

Once in their dining room, it all became clear.  There on the sideboard was an absolutely delicious looking (and tasting, by the way) poached salmon and two sauces that were not made by either of our hosts.  AH HA! The main course and its’ condiments had been outsourced.  Strauss and Wendy did not make it; they made it possible! And, by doing so, they were able to hang with us, and relax-which is what we really wanted anyway.  They made the sides-asparagus, steamed rice and a salad-all of which were quick, easy or could be made ahead and provided the meal with a homey feel. It was a brilliant strategy!  Don’t make it all; make it all possible!

So, I invite you to take a page from Strauss and Wendy’s playbook the next time you entertain and don’t stress about outsourcing some, or even all, of your meal.  Your guests get to have you all evening, and you won’t be beaten up from slaving in the kitchen before they arrive.  You can still make a part of the meal-either quickly at the last minute or in advance and served at room temperature-to make the meal yours.  The important part is that you will get to really see your guests-which they will love.  While food is important, nothing tops hanging with good friends!

One of my favorite “do-ahead” sides is my take on the Nutted Wild Rice from The Silver Palate Cookbook.  This actually gets better a day later, so make it ahead and just bring it back to room temperature while you enjoy your guests and before serving.

Nutted Wild Rice– adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook

½ lb raw wild rice

6 c. chicken stock

1 ¼ c. pecans, roughly chopped

1 c. craisins

Grated rind of one large orange

1/3 c. mint, roughly chopped

6 scallions, thinly sliced

¼ c. olive oil

1/3 c. fresh orange juice

Sea salt/pepper

  1. Place rice in a strainer and rinse thoroughly under cold water.
  2. Place rice in a medium-sized heavy saucepan.  Add stock and bring to a rapid boil.  Adjust the heat to a gentle simmer and cook uncovered for 45 minutes.  After 30 minutes check for doneness-rice should not be too soft.  Place a thin towel inside a colander and drain.  Transfer the drained rice to a bowl.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients to the rice and toss gently.  Adjust seasoning to taste.  Let mixture stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours for flavors to develop.  Serve at room temperature.
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4 Comments

  1. Forest
    Posted March 6, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Brilliant!

  2. Suzanna
    Posted March 6, 2010 at 5:38 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Is “outsourcing” the new word for “takeout?” If so, it sounds more expensive!

  3. Posted March 6, 2010 at 6:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

    By the way, meant to say you’ve inspired me to “outsource” dinner tonight! You’re so right — why always kill yourself with kitchen duty if you need to relax and spend time with friends? That said, I love it when you cook!

  4. Martha
    Posted March 8, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Permalink | Reply

    One of my favorite posts yet. We all need to remember why we entertain, friends of course! That being said, my second favorite strategy is to invite people over at the last minute, it doesn’t allow me time to agonize over food, and friends, again, are my first priority.

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