Because I have had little motivation to go out to eat lately for caloric and economical reasons, I've been hosting a number of dinner get-togethers. Luckily, my friends have not complained having to eat at Izakaya Alice (yet), but I try to limit repeating menu items as often as possible. Besides our now standard Sushi Party, I've thrown traditional roast-poultry American, Americanized-Italian and Slightly Japanese-Mexican-themed dinner parties. Well... if we get really technical, all my cooking uses the Japanese elixir, dashi, for broth, so they all are slightly Japanified. Izakaya Alice is fusion at its core...
What I learned from throwing dinner parties is that the protocol for success is very much like what I do in the laboratory at work. If the party starts at 7 PM, I go to my whiteboard in the kitchen and start with this:
t=0 7 PM
time=0 indicates when the party starts; in other words, that's when all the prep work need to be completed. Then, I fill the rest of the menu items, so now my whiteboard looks like this:
Set up quesadilla bar & taco shells
t=0 7 PM
Finally, I add when I will need to start to have the dish/prep work done by t=0. I also order things so that things that can be made ahead are done first, so as to serve hot foods hot when at t=0.
5:00 PM Mango salsa
5:00 PM Salsa
5:00 PM Guacamole
6:20 PM Ground meat
6:00 PM Chicken drumsticks (oven, 6:30 PM)
5:45 PM Taco veggies
5:00 PM Mexican Rice (stove, 6:30 PM)
6:00 PM Beans
6:30 PM Set up quesadilla bar & taco shells
t=0 7 PM
I then get started with each task, referring back frequently to my whiteboard to plan a few steps ahead as I prepare dishes. I even actually check off items as they are completed. This organizational tedium has helped me throw parties with minimal time commitment and pressure. In fact, with my super dishwasher with its godzillion plate-load capacity, throwing a dinner party, start-to-finish, is leaps and bounds easier than going out to dinner in San Francisco!
Here are a few winners from the Mexican Dinner Party:
Izakaya-Alice Non-refried Beans:
Sautee 1 onion and 5 cloves of garlic. Puree sauteed stuff. Add 2 can canned beans to food processor, making separate batches if needed to fit into food processor. Puree beans with the onion-garlic mixture. Add dashi to thin if pureeing is difficult. When liquefied, put bean mixture into a pot and mix dashi to achieve desirable consistency. Add salt to taste.
Sautee 1 onion and 5 cloves of garlic. (I actually made a big batch of this onion-garlic mixture and used it in several recipes during the evening. This heating step is necessary for me, because I am allergic to raw onions and garlic. It's likely not necessary for anyone else, but heating it definitely brings the sweetness out of the onions.) Puree 2 avocados, 1/2 cup fat-free cottage cheese, and onion-garlic mixture together. Chop tomatoes and add to avocado mixture. Add salt and lime juice to taste.
Photo: compliments from Jumprdude.com. I have a contributing photographer now, so you will likely start seeing more pictures on MED again!