Friends, I’ve made a discovery. If you want a fun evening of food, camaraderie, and drinking, you needn’t fuss over a really lavish dinner. You need only do two things: (1) make a nifty, crowd-pleasing dessert; and (2) prepare a big, simmering pot of something delicious.
For example, a few weeks ago I made a giant pot of chili. I used this recipe which is pretty killer. Here’s the big pot of chili:
And here’s the spread of chips, sour cream, cheese and green onions:
It may not look like much, but this spontaneous party proved to be WAY more fun than the parties where I attempted to cook something difficult. Everyone showed up, the chili was ready, I made a dessert earlier in the day (the rosemary olive oil cake from the back of the Babbo cookbook) and we had a blast. There was beer, there was wine, big bowls of chili, and dessert. Afterwards we watched clips from the MTV Video Music Awards and had a fierce debate about Britney Spears and the paparazzi. What more could you want?
A similar spirit informed the first dinner I cooked for both Craig and Diana after Craig’s big return; Mark Bittman’s tomato paella:
It was another big dish that fed us mighty well and there was leftover apple pie for dessert. Look how bent over with joy these two are:
Then, the other night, there were four of us for dinner so I made the Arroz con Pollo from last month’s Gourmet–another big pot of goodness, please excuse the dirty stovetop:
The crowd was pleased and buzzed from the Spanish wine the guests done brought. Dessert, meanwhile, was interactive. I wanted to make the coconut rum cake from that same issue of Gourmet, but I was having trouble cracking the coconut. Diana gave it a go:
But it was Craig who was victorious, look how smug he is:
The finished cake made everyone swoon:
The cake had 4 eggs, 3 egg yolks, with 3/4 a cup of cream of coconut brushed on afterwards so it was really rich. The icing also had cream of coconut plus rum, so the flavor was zippy and exciting. Look how much we ate in just one sitting:
The whole thing was gone by the next day.
And so, in conclusion, my theory stands firm: to please a crowd, just make a big pot of something good and dessert. That’s all you need. No salads, no appetizers, no side dishes, no bread. I mean, you CAN have all those things but they’re not necessary. By keeping it simple, you can have fun too and that provides the single most important ingredient for a successful evening: a happy host. If the host is happy, everyone will be happy.
And drinking helps too.