‘Tis the season to stay in – but not in the kitchen by any means! Staying in during the chilly season does not necessarily mean staying out of touch. Winter is the universal holiday season where people are often seen flocking to meet and greet their near and dear ones. So how can you entertain at home without slaving away in the kitchen? Simple – one dish parties! If this picture from Bon Appetit Videos is anything to go by, then delicious evenings cocooned at home await you! You do not need to Martha Stewart your way into every party that you organise – sometimes, the comfort of taking it easy is all that your guests need!
The one dish party is a flexible one. It can be a simple dish cooked by the host or it can be a potluck where everyone brings in one dish from a decided menu. Whatever the case may be, one dish parties are perfect for casual, fuss free evenings spent in the company of friends and family. One of the reasons I really love one dish parties is the fact that you actually get to concentrate on the finer print. You can actually pay attention to the music you want to play, the wine you want to open, the way you want to lay the table (or maybe not lay the table at all!), the smiles and happy faces as well as the stories that we miss out in the humdrum of the week. Imagine being stuck in the kitchen with a post it stuck on fridge door laying down the Hors devours, the entree, the dessert and so much more in between – where is the fun? You are busy making so many trips between the kitchen and living room that most of the stories get lost in translation. And you miss out on actual catching up. Hence, a one dish meal where everyone can just be is just what the doctor ordered for December.
So, what are some ideal dishes for this kind of a party? Here is my list!
- Lasagna: Granted, this takes a little bit of hard work. But on a Winter afternoon or early evening before the guests begin to trickle in, I like nothing more than the smell of freshly cooked sauces, as I walk around the kitchen, picking and adding ingredients to the stewing sauce, stirring them to perfection. And the layering is just as much fun with the precision based activity dripped in the promise of a delicious meal later. I have never failed to evict oohs and aahs over a well put together lasagna that can be cut into sandwich like slices, even as the still moist filling spills over delicately. Ah, comfort food for winter! Be sure to pick out fresh ingredients and herbs for the sauces and do not stop stirring until the first boil.
- DIY Wraps: Get the tortillas out and put out some home made salsa, beans filling, a creamy salad and plenty of different kinds of cheese, sour cream and crushed nachos. Nothing says one dish parties better than the DIY wraps and tacos. I usually put all the ingredients on the table and ask my guests to dig in and add their filling of choice. A small table top grill keeps the bacon and other meat strips nice and warm, while the tacos can be grilled as per personal taste, once put together. And the beauty of it all is that conversation veers from the location of the olives to a Summer spent in Italy, to a wine tasting plus book reading do, to favourite books on everyone’s night stand. Get the picture?
- Stews: Now, this one smells of my childhood. I still remember my mother bringing out bowls of steaming stew with the fresh vegetables of the day, plenty of legumes and some meat as well. Bread would be passed around and nutrition would happen in a single dish. Ideal for one dish parties! Of course, I would still bring out a few appetizers before serving this dish. But what I have also noticed is that people love to pour themselves a fresh bowlful or even take some gravy in a mug as the evening progresses. An empty tureen is guaranteed by the end of the night! Do not forget to get different kinds of breads and keep them at different points around the table. I also place some fresh greens or a stir fried warm salad, for those who want to cleanse their palate in between sips and bites of the stew. You can also place some warm and crunchy chips fresh from the oven, around the table. Best eaten around a table seating all your near and dear ones!