Halloween kicked off the busiest season for me when entertaining. As my small business has grown to capacity, I am finding my inclination to plan and put on staged events has disappeared. For the second year in a row, I turned to a no stress way of having friends over. It is what I call "Main Dish Entertaining."
Soup Night was my first soiree where I employed a main dish entertaining mentality. It was held on a weeknight between Thanksgiving and Christmas. At the time, I didn't want to compete with the fabulous holiday functions friends and associates hosted in a wealthy, oil town. I decided what our guests would really enjoy is a piping hot pot of soup on the stove whenever they could get there. Whether leaving a long work day or hours at the mall, all anyone had to do was show up when they could, fill their soup bowl, enjoy a glass of wine and head off as soon as they were ready. This ultra-casual event became a welcome commitment in an otherwise busy social season.
Since Halloween fell on a workday this year, I was able to assemble a flavorful pot of chili in a couple of hours-a main dish staple, surely. Our friends loved it and even the trick or treating parents remarked about the smells coming from the kitchen (solidifying my reputation for being the house with the good food and good times!).
Chicken Stew and Biscuits. Ribollita. Kitchen Clambake. This are just a few of main dishes that have carried me through to an easy time of throwing a no fuss party. Just so happens these are all Ina Garten's recipes!
In The Don't Sweat Guide To Entertaining, Richard Carlson wrote the essay, Make It A One-Course Event. His advice echoes perfectly why I turn to main dish entertaining when I want to save time, honor my budget, meet time constraints or simplify entertaining.
"When you choose to host a one-course get-together - appetizers, dessert, tea, or whatever - you eliminate some of the complexity, narrow the range of fixings, and make it possible to put your primary emphasis on enjoying the people involved."
"You may want to narrow your food focus even further by making a particular food the theme of your gathering."
"Sometimes, we fall into patterns of entertaining that are elaborate and time-consuming. You need not perpetuate such patterns. Break the trend with a one-course party..."
For me, the key is what I can put in one pot. Let your imagination run. Your next party could be as easy as dropping by your local artisan bakery for some sweets to go with a bottle of champagne. Whatever you choose, make something out of the ordinary and your main dish entertaining will be a great event for everyone.