Hosting a dinner party for the first time can be so stressful for the host or hostess, that actually enjoying the event could be considered a totally alien concept. It can though, be different, if we use a bit of guile and imagination. Even if the method I’m going to describe is not suitable for your idea of a dinner party, it works just as well for more informal gatherings. Either way, what follows is a way to entertain without having frazzled nerves.
The formal dinner party has been around for goodness knows how long, centuries probably. Let’s have a look at a modern take on the dinner party idea, make it less formal and more enjoyable.
A typical dinner party involves the host or hostess disappearing at various times to take care of cooking a meal. This in itself seems to me to be somewhat anti social – it being a social event. Of course, in years past, if you were wealthy you would have servants to cook and serve. A bit of a rarity these days. However, there is a way to enjoy and take part in my sort of dinner party, have a good time and your guests will leave admiring your somewhat laid back efforts.
A buffet is okay for some occasions, but not for a dinner party. We’re expected to cook, and we will. Just not in the conventional sense.
Have you heard of Teppanyaki? This is a Japanese method of grilling on a hotplate, ‘Teppan’ meaning iron plate and ‘Yaki’ meaning to grill. We’d normally call it griddling but ‘Teppanyaki’ sounds much more upmarket and will fool one or two guests. These are the ones who will be impressed when you tell them what the translation is. OK, it’s a bit pretentious but why worry?
My take on this whole thing is to prepare your side dishes well in advance. This could be a green salad to accompany meat, or even vegetables kept warm in a bain marie. The meat part of the meal is going to be sizzling away on a Teppanyaki style griddle. In the UK, Andrew James does an excellent range and in the USA, Presto do a decent range of slightly smaller versions.
The whole point of the Teppanyaki grill is that the meat is going to cook in public. This is common in Japanese steakhouses and easy to replicate at home. The bonus for us is that we are having a modern informal dinner party. This means that we can invite people to eat without even mentioning ‘dinner party’. Your guests can choose their meat the way that they like it, taking that responsibility away from you. There is no reason at all why some of your friends who enjoy rare meat can’t eat while others have a glass of wine. After all, we accept this at a family barbecue so why not at other times?
Even if you are not keen on holding a ‘dinner’ party in this way, remember that this idea still works in any informal gathering where food is involved. Teppanyaki really works.