Now that we’re great virtual mates and all that, it’s high time I invited you over for dinner. But, stone the crows would you look at that, I don’t have enough room, given that I live in an apartment so small it’s practically rodent real estate (though thankfully free of actual rats). So we’ll have to do that virtually too. Sorry.
But it’s a good job I’ve had lots of dinner-party-hosting practice in my first year at Granny flat HQ, who provides excellent entertainment herself what with the roll-out bidet, 1950s carpet cleaner and all (refer to March’s archives for a nosy around my tiny palace to see it in all its glory), so I’m well educated in the subtle art of throwing the perfect dinner party.
Yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking; there are plenty of amazing places to eat in Paris where some other poor chump gets to wash your dirty dishes for you. But personally I’m a bit sick of the Parisian version of customer service that involves eye-rolling, impatient sighing or complete unashamed ignorance, green beans from a tin served with everything, and quite frankly lazy menu choices. An evening spent dining at Casa Kim means you’ll avoid all of that merde, and you don’t even get a bill at the end of it (though wine is always appreciated*).
It’s a pleasure to say that finding willing diners is not the challenge. The real trick lies in preparing a four course meal in a teeny tiny kitchen, where even cooking for one is a complicated culinary juggling act. But readers, I’m proud to say, I’ve totally nailed it (even if I do say so myself). Here’s how to make sure guests’ bellies will be bulging in pure delight (and not just limited to Parisian kitchens mind, if you own a big one wherever in the world you are, you’re laughing).
Apero – Because ceremony outweighs everything in this charming French early evening tradition, your work is already done. A few bowls of olives, cherry tomatoes and saucisson and you’re all set (Granny, bless her heart, thoughtfully left me some vintage bowls for exactly this), though for Pete’s sake make sure you’ve got the beers/wine/mineral water chilling waaayyy ahead of time. A rookie mistake waiting to happen.
Starter – From here on in, it’s essential to keep things nice and simple – you didn’t invite your friends round to spend all of the evening talking to the cooker in another room did you? Make ahead dishes are the key; soups are always super easy to heat up, oeufs en cocotte take minutes to assemble and fling in the oven, and things prepared ahead and kept in the fridge only to be whipped out just before serving are dinner party gold. Think pâté, simple salads, and my personal favourite, leeks vinaigrette (see February 6th post for recipe).
Mains – You are not, and never will be Jamie Oliver. Only the very skilled can pull of fancy pants creations whilst still taking the time to amuse their guests. It’s better to create something that entertains itself in the oven or on the hob while you’re entertaining your guests with your witty banter, impressive encyclopedia of jokes, and hilarious animal impressions. I usually go with something like a lasagne, chilli, curry or a simple roast. Fish en papillote is super easy but looks and tastes a whole lot more complicated. Last week’s dinner party saw me roll out a panzanella salad made with tomatoes and day-old baguette happily marinated for hours before my chums arrived (google it).
Dessert – You lose 1000 hosting points if you don’t prepare this in advance. The options are endless. Cheesecake, French favourite chocolate mousse, pavlova, crumble, or my current favourite, macerated strawberries with balsamic vinegar, can all be whipped up during the day, or even the night before.
Cheese – Go for a soft, a blue and a harder one to make a nice balance, and take them out of the fridge a few hours before serving. Only serve The Laughing Cow triangles if you have actually invited the laughing cow to dinner and you want to make her feel at home. Otherwise, er, no.
So there you have it! Don’t forget to buy a couple of baguettes, download the latest Michael Bolton album, and a good time will be had by all. To try and keep things seasonal, here’s a list of things good to eat now: apple, apricot, aubergine, beetroot, broccoli, carrots, cherry, courgette, fennel, french beans, nectarine, peach, pepper, radish, raspberry, rocket, spinach, strawberry, tomato, watercress.
* Read ‘absolutely mandatory, otherwise you eat in the hall’. My British politeness filter doesn’t allow me to say what I actually mean.