Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Cooking

Everyday Entertaining: Making the case for a Friday night dinner party

Here's a radical idea: Get home from work on Friday and host a dinner party.

That's right. Friday, not Saturday.

The idea was born out of necessity. Saturdays are more likely to get booked with other events, leaving Fridays often free for dinner. And the more I do this, the more I want to host on Fridays.

With less time to cook, there is also less pressure. A dinner party on Friday is instantly more casual, and the short window from quitting time on Friday to dinner party mode forces me to get organized with a menu and a game plan for executing it. If I have all Saturday to get to the farmers market and spend the day cooking, I probably will. I'm likely to get more ambitious with what I'm cooking. But for a Friday, almost everything is made ahead. My menu has to be more relaxed, and as a result so am I.

There's another bonus benefit: We tidy the house on the weekdays leading up to the dinner, so it's a task that's done by dinnertime. My house is cleaner and happier and filled with friends more frequently. Friday night dinner parties change lives!

Recently, I served Shepherd's Pie and Chocolate Guinness Cake for four. (Why, yes, it was St. Patrick's Day.)

On Wednesday, I braised the lamb stew after dinner. After cooling, it went into the fridge in the same Dutch oven in which it was cooked. On Thursday, I made a simple chocolate cake enhanced with Guinness stout. As the cake baked, I mashed potatoes and spread them over the lamb stew, which I had transferred to a 13- by 9-inch baking dish. By Friday, all that was left to make was an easy frosting that I spread across the cake when I got home from work.

With a Friday night dinner party, I'm also more inclined to take up someone's offer to bring something. Our friends showed up with a so-called Irish pub salad that made the night's menu even more exciting; it was a surprise for me, the cook, and my friend was clearly proud of his contribution. If your friends want to bring more than just a bottle of wine, let them.

When we celebrate on Friday nights, it also feels like we're squeezing more out of the weekend. You know how everyone loves Fridays more than Sundays even though most people actually work on Friday and Sunday is a full day off? It's about anticipation — of the possibilities of a couple of days off versus a looming Monday morning and commitments. By getting right to the good food and good company as soon as the weekend begins, you can maximize the weekend and set a better tone for the next couple of days. So tell your friends: Dinner's on Friday at your house.

Ileana Morales Valentine can be reached at [email protected] Follow @alittlesaffron.

Comments
Drunk in love with banana bread

Drunk in love with banana bread

I have a thing about bananas. They have to be perfectly yellow, with a light hint of green. And they absolutely cannot have a spot of brown on them. At all. Brown bananas make me gag. My window of tasty opportunity is small, so I love to bake with ov...
Published: 04/24/18
Cooking Challenge: Making a stovetop steak for the first time

Cooking Challenge: Making a stovetop steak for the first time

Raw meat terrifies me. Growing up, I was the kid who avoided cookie dough because it could give me salmonella poisoning. Just imagine how I feel about a slab of bloody steak. So for my latest cooking challenge, I’m diving into the deep end and making...
Published: 04/24/18
Taste test: vanilla wafers

Taste test: vanilla wafers

When it comes to cookies, our judges are all in. When it comes to vanilla wafers, most of them admitted to reaching for the familiar Nilla Wafers in the bright yellow box. Surprisingly, they liked the well-known brand least of the seven wafers sample...
Published: 04/23/18
A taste test for drinking water? They can be surprisingly different

A taste test for drinking water? They can be surprisingly different

BROOKSVILLEThey brought it in glass carboys, in jars, in 2-liter bottles. It stacked up at the entrance to the auditorium, some of it just slightly murky but most of it crystal clear.Water. For more than 15 years the members of Region IV Florida Sect...
Published: 04/18/18
Five ideas for travel-friendly snacks

Five ideas for travel-friendly snacks

Whenever I fly, I pay way too much for food. I’ve stumbled jet-lagged into fancy wine booths and nearly bankrupted myself with cheese plates. I’ve purchased granola bars that cost more than my plane ticket (okay, maybe it just felt that way). If you’...
Published: 04/18/18
Enjoy a slice of sunshine with Tangerine, Ginger and Chocolate Tart

Enjoy a slice of sunshine with Tangerine, Ginger and Chocolate Tart

There are chocolate people, and there are vanilla people. I am a lemon person.Show me a dessert menu, and I’ll choose whatever is flavored with puckery lemon or any of her citrus sisters — lime, tangerine, kumquat, yuzu. Even as a kid, I went for lem...
Published: 04/17/18
Recipe for 30-Minute Spaghetti and Meatballs

Recipe for 30-Minute Spaghetti and Meatballs

As the name suggests, 30-Minute Spaghetti and Meatballs is no substitute for the kind of meatballs simmered for hours in your nonna’s Sunday gravy. Strangely enough, the recipe doesn’t even include oregano or basil or a dry Chianti. And yet I think t...
Published: 04/17/18
Re-create that fancy spa water at home

Re-create that fancy spa water at home

It was lunchtime in the middle of the workday, so although I sat at the bar at downtown St. Petersburg’s Asie Pan-Asian, I opted for a water. The bartender poured a glass and I took an unknowing sip.Cucumber. It was definitely cucumber. I’m not the b...
Published: 04/17/18
Taste test: citrus-flavored sparkling water

Taste test: citrus-flavored sparkling water

Many years ago, I took a trip to Rome and learned enough Italian to find directions and order dinner from menus. I learned very quickly that if I didn’t make it clear, I would get sparkling water rather than still water at every restaurant. My husban...
Published: 04/16/18
Here’s how to make shakshuka, the egg dish with the awesome name

Here’s how to make shakshuka, the egg dish with the awesome name

By Rick NelsonSuddenly, it seems like shakshuka is everywhere.Restaurant menus. Food Network how-to shows. YouTube videos. And on breakfast, lunch and dinner tables in homes across the country.Maybe the dish’s ascendancy can be traced to cookbook aut...
Updated one month ago