The Sit-Down-And-Socialize Dinner Challenge

John Liu

This thread is a fork of the Chinese Dinner thread.

It is a challenge, un defi, for those of us who love to give dinner parties but hardly spend any time at the table, socializing with our dear friends and loved ones, because we are too busy running around the kitchen plating and cooking and serving.

Has a guest ever, while leaving, said "It was sure nice seeing you. We never had a chance to talk. We'll have to get together again soon."

Did you feel proud of the culinary effort but still have a sense like you missed something?

Cue "Cat's In The Cradle" by Harry Chapin (not Cat Stevens!).

Here's what I propose. The next time you put on a dinner party with guests and everything, if you manage to stay SEATED at the dinner table, enjoying yourself and having long meaningful conversations with your guests, for the WHOLE meal from starter to dessert - tell us about it. How did you do it? What was the menu? What's your trick?

Brief absences for calls of nature, or to fetch something needed by a guest, permitted of course.

No fair pressing family members into service or hiring caterers!

Why did I think about this. My dear friend Iain passed away a few years ago. He and his wife were our most regular dinner party guests. They probably dined here fifty times in a decade. Iain would often hang out in the kitchen, we'd drink Scotch as I frantically cooked and temped and plated, so we'd get to talk, a little. But in years of dinner parties in my house, I seldom had a chance to sit by Iain and talk, unhurried, over good wine and food. When Iain became ill, he deteriorated very fast. He was a proud man, didn't want his male friends to see him wasting, and he was dead less than a month later. I never saw him after his diagnosis. I've not really accepted that he is gone. Sometimes I find myself thinking, "I haven't seen Iain in ages, we need to get a drink and talk". Then I regret all those dinners when I thought it was more important to show off in the kitchen than sit with my friend Iain.

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amylou321

Hmmmm. While I don't really give dinner parties, I can't imagine spending more time in the kitchen than at the table with the guests. Nor can I imagine staying seated through the whole meal. I would make as much as i could ahead of time and serve things family style or at the table, rather than individually plate the courses in the kitchen. Dessert most definitely be made ahead, and set on the table or on a sideboard in the same room. Things that need to be carved can be done so at the table. I remember going to some distant relatives home when I was very young. I still cant remember who it was, but i do remember the food. (is that wrong???) She served a light, delicate potato soup for a first course, brought into the dining room in the pot it was cooked in, and served by the bowl to each guest while a basket of homemade rolls was passed around, a roasted pork loin for the main,with potatoes and onions (also roasted), some sort of wonderful cream sauce and cabbage(ick). She carved and served it at the table. It was lovely. And two different desserts to choose from:Rhubarb pie and Pineapple upside down cake. Those were NOT so good. It might have been my 6 year old pallete, but i haven't eaten rhubarb since. Anyway, they were also served at the table. You can certainly have a beautiful presentation without fiddling over individual plates. And you can have delicious food without chaining yourself to the stove. I think the keys to a good party are the menu one chooses, the planning ahead, and a dessert not made with rhubarb. Or pineapple.


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foodonastump

I don’t particularly recall having been to a sit-down dinner party where the host spends significant time in the kitchen while the guests eat. The few times I’ve attempted hands-on multi-course meals I’ve felt pressure to sit down and pretend to join the conversation, while all that was really on my mind was what I should be doing in the kitchen. Everyone seems happier and more relaxed if I just pull a lasagna out of the oven and call it a day. Summer meals, casual outdoor cooking, lends itself better to milling about the heat IMO.

John - Do you feel guests are always waiting for you, or is it established that this is your hosting style? Do your friends/family host in a similar manner?

Don’t get me wrong; I’d most gladly be a guest at any dinner you’ve shared with us. Catch up with you at dessert! Just curious as to whether what you do is the norm within your circle.

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lindac92

Been a few years since I have had an honest to gosh dinner party....come for dinner is more my style. But I do know people who are fussers..."go ahead....don't wait for me" sort of entertainers. but mostly that's not me. I try to have most of it ready to go. I excuse my self in time do last minute stuff to the main course and to plate the salads and put on the table, with the rolls or bread and set the wine out. Usually someone will help filling water glasses. Then I bring out the main dishes and remove the salads. I try not to do anything last minute fussy, like for example a chicken picatta for more than say 4 or 6.
I remove the plates and just put where ever in the kitchen and serve dessert and coffee....and my guests can sit and drink wine and coffee as long as we like....sometimes I will pull out a few things to add to the coffee. For me that's the best part of a dinner party in lingering over the last of the drinks.....and if anyone tries to help with the dishes, I am not pleased. I had one friend who would always go into the kitchen as we were enjoying coffee and pretty well clean up and load the dishwasher. I discovered after a few times like that that she was also helping with the bottles!! A dear friend with a problem and I miss her....

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Islay Corbel

I get quite antsy if the guest isn't there at the table. I wonder if somthing has gone wrong lol

I solve this problem by having a big kitchen that we eat in.

I prepare most in advance and have only last minute things to do. Also, I've never come across a guest who doesn't mind chipping in. I suppose we eat French country style so no fancy plating up. I'd rather leave that to the restaurants and have fun with my friends.

Its easy. Starters pâtė, terrine, meat or fish ones.....

Big roast for main, with veggies, or single dish mains, then cheese and salad, then dessert. No reason not to be at the table.

I think you underestimate how people are coming to see you.....food is an added bonus!

Edited to sayb"host" at the table!

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colleenoz

I’m another “pick dishes you can make in advance and only have to do little things to” dinner party planner.

Start with soup, pate/terrine, prawn cocktail etc.

Main a roast with roasted vegetables, or something like lasagna or chicken divan or a curry or fancy stew like boeuf Bourguignon. Edited to add ...or individual beef Wellingtons or something like the phyllo scrolls I made the other night.

Dessert cake or pie or cheesecake or mousse etc.

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artemis_ma

Let's see, for the last large party I had here, there were vegetarians, putative "obligate" carnivores, and a few allergies/sensitivities. So, I set up a make your own soft shell taco station, and otherwise also let people serve themselves. There was also vegetarian chili, and a tossed salad, plus one or two small things I can't recall but could be made in advance.

The last two smaller parties here, I served the first helping, brought food to the table, and if/when folks wanted seconds, they helped themselves. That would have been Rooster Corfu (a Greek-influenced stew) plus on one occasion, tossed salad and scalloped potatoes and cabbage au gratin, and on the other occasion, quinoa in the rice cooker (with assorted veggies), and nutmegged winter squash.

I was able to sit down for the entire meal for the two rooster dinners, and had minimal hopping to do for that large party.

It's always a bit hectic until just before we eat, but then... we eat. Together.

Appetizers do seem to require more running around with less socializing, but part of that is tying together the last bits of the actual dinner.

I do have to pull out the dessert, if any (the last small dinner party I knew I could dispense with dessert as none of those participants would particularly want it). But I give folks time to digest and chat at the table before pulling it out, always pre-made and either chilled or room temperature, maybe in need of slicing if that.

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LoneJack Zn 6a, KC

I prefer to plan most if not all of the meal to be cooked on the grill. Usually surf and turf with steak, shrimp/scallop skewers, roasted corn on the cob and/or a veggie medley. A salad can be prepared ahead of time and baked potatoes are ready in the oven when I'm done grilling.

Weather permitting we dine on the deck and everyone is out there gathered around the table within 10' of the grill while I am cooking so I can join in the conversation and still tend the food.

Of course this wouldn't work well in the colder months!

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Martha Scott

We do it all the time. I and my husband are gone a bit when we plate and serve the courses but not a terribly long period of time and it is leisurely so there is much conversation during each course before the next course. I never feel as if I've missed out on our dinner party. I plate the salad before we sit down, the entree and sides are all something that never requires last minute prep (other than plating and garnishing) and dessert is easy as well. We've even done multiple course dinners (like six or seven courses) and I honestly have always felt part of the party. NOW, I must admit that i

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foodonastump


Gone off to prepare the next course? ;)

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eld6161

I come here mostly as a lurker. Love seeing and reading about all the amazing meals.

i think that you are an amazing and quite professional cook. You probably enjoy outdoing yourself with more and more complicated dishes. It is now what is expected.

Simply to answer the question, there is no way to do what you have been doing and be able to fully socialize with your guests.


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CA Kate z9

I rarely have formal dinner parties anymore. I cook up a meal, set it out and everyone serves themselves... what and however much they want. Way-back-when I did do the plated dinners I usually hired someone to serve, so you threw me there when you said that didn't count. :-)


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writersblock (9b/10a)

The only big sit-down dinner I do for a lot of people is Thanksgiving, and then someone carves at the table (not me--I'm a lousy carver) and people serve themselves. So I'm inclined to agree with CA Kate--the need to have a gorgeous presentation may be the biggest interference in socializing.

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gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

I guess much will have to do with the tone of the dinner party. In my social circle, they are never elaborate, multicourse or formal meals. While the food is a very important component, it is not the be-all, end-all and the socialization is equally, if not more, important than what is being served.

As an example, a dinner party I attended this past weekend, the hostess had 95% of the meal prepared in advance - Morrocan chicken, couscous and a salad. All she had to do was dress the salad and fluff the couscous before serving, which was family style. So she was able to sit in the living room with the rest of us and enjoy a cocktail, light hors d'oeuvres and lots of conversation before dinner was served! And of course there was plenty of conversation around the table while the leisurely dinner was in progress.

Personally, I don't understand why one would throw a dinner party that one was not able to enjoy as well as one's guests......unless it was just to show off one's culinary skills. All of the dinners I attend (or host, although I do so rarely these days) are more casual, comfortable affairs that can be prepared pretty much in advance or with some last minute input from some of the guests (making gravy, tossing a salad, carving a roast, etc.). And even with some last minute kitchen activity, guests hang out at the kitchen island or bar to chat and have a drink and a munch before sitting down to the meal.

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Anglophilia

Dinner parties were at least a once a week event when I was a young married. No, not once at week at MY house, but at someone's house. We didn't think of them as formal at that time - men wore a suit or sports coat - always a tie, ladies in their little black sleeveless dress with their pearls and a nice brooch. I guess today, we'd call that formal.

Meals were always 3 courses - rarely 4. We usually served the entree first, and it was nearly always some form of chicken - it was what we could all afford. Sometimes it was even turkey tettrazinni. Chicken breasts could be sautéed a head of time, and the sauce made and the rice or noodles were made quickly and put over the chicken which stayed warm under foil. A veggie was quickly made while making the sauce. It was plated and served by me, while DH entertained the guests.

I had the salad ready to go after we ate our entree, so I could clear quickly, scrape and rinse, making what we call a "clean mess", and then serve the salad and sit down again.

After clearing the salad, I made my mess a bit "cleaner" - no smells or dried on food. Dessert was usually ready to serve and I sometimes served it at the table. After that, this was cleared and again, a quick clean mess was made in the kitchen.

We always retired to the LR for demitasse and after dinner drinks. This was when the nice long conversations took place. SO much more comfortable in the LR, sitting on upholstery, than at the table.

Guests were always invited for 7, usually arrived between 7-7:20. I had hors d'oeuvres ready - never hot ones - often just pepper jelly over cream cheese or cheese straws - simple - already out on a chest in the LR. DH made drinks for all, and we visited. I usually needed 15-20 minutes in the kitchen - sometimes a good friend would offer to put water and ice in the glasses on the table and that was welcome. We all had babysitters that had to be home by 1AM, so the evening had plenty of time for good conversation.

If I didn't know the people that well, I sometimes hired my cleaning woman to come and serve the meal. Everything was pretty much ready, but she plated the food and served the table, did the clearing and all the cleaning up. When she was about ready, my husband would call her a cab to get her home. When guests left, the only thing left to do was put the glasses from the after dinner drinks in the dishwasher, and quickly wash out the demitasse cups.

When we moved to LA and I my help would not have been up to serving, I hired my children to do this and to do the clean-up. They loved having the money, and still had time to be with friends later.

Now that I'm alone, it is not as easy as one leaves ones guests alone in the LR while final things are done. When I still had dinner parties, I tried to have a one-dish meal - risotto with shrimp & asparagus, or pork loin roast with veggies roasted at the same time. This made the time in the kitchen much shorter.

There are few forms of entertainment more enjoyable than a dinner party for 6 or 8 people. Good friends, good food, good conversation. Unfortunately today's young prefer going out as a group to expensive restaurants and then do their visiting in the restaurant bar afterwards. We couldn't possibly have afforded to do such at their age (or now!). And if that's what one does, what's the point of having a lovely home with pretty things with which to set a table? I'll take turkey tettrazinni in someones home over a 3 star restaurant any old day.

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l pinkmountain

I disagree that this is always easy, particularly if you have an older home that is not "open concept." Or if your home is tiny and cramped because of all the family demands and no money to get a bigger house. The reason this was a problem for me was at my last house (a row house) there was a narrow hallway between the living/dining area and the kitchen. It was at the back of the stairwell going both upstairs and down to the basement, so there was no way to open it up. Whenever I had to go into the kitchen for anything, I had to leave my guests and go completely out of sight and earshot. I tried as much as I could to set up serving in the dining room, but the house was old and also limited in electric outlets, plus the dining room wasn't exactly huge. And I had a "one butt" kitchen so really not conducive to me hanging in the kitchen with guests after. I remember one epic dinner party with scads of folks in the kitchen trying desperately to help with clean up but it was just so difficult. I got married to an introvert specifically so he could do the kitchen clean up and coffee duty while I socialized with guests after. (I'm kidding, sort of!)

My new house has no fewer than three eating/entertaining areas--one on the screened in porch, one formal dining room parlor area, and a family room/dining area open to the kitchen. The kitchen is smack dab in the middle of the house, that's what you see when you walk into the front entrance, the kitchen wall with a hallway either leading right to the formal part or left to the informal area. Both are small though. I still find myself disappearing into the kitchen way more than I would like, which is partly just me needing to re-organize my space and reclaim some areas from clutter, and partly a party planning issue. The best party I ever had was a tea in honor of my mother, and I had everything out on a buffet table ahead of time so guests served themselves sat around in the family room and chatted. But those buffets are not very conducive to eating more than finger food, due to not having a table to sit at. But if I don't have room for a buffet table for food next to the seating area, my house is too small. That would be my dream, a room large enough to have a serving area for keeping foods warm and cold coming out of the kitchen, and dining area. I could use carts but I haven't found ones I like, plus I have no where to park them when not entertaining.

But part of this is just better planning on my part. So many folks have dietary restrictions nowdays in my elder crowd, the elusive "make ahead something for everyone but nothing fussy" menu is a challenge when entertaining. I long to be one of those people who could pull a great spread out in a matter of minutes, but limited finances preclude that. That's part of the secret, being able to afford a few nice pre-made things you can have on hand, like nice crackers, some canned things, etc. Or having time to create your own freezer and pantry full of home made ones. I used to have that kind of stuff but our finances have made that not a very workable idea. I even try to bake bread every weekend to save money. But as a result of saving money by making things at home, if you add in time at work I have no time to entertain.

Oh, another strategy is to hire some neighborhood kid to help so you have less to do. Or train your kids. We helped my folks when I was in jr. high and high school and I know some great hostesses in town who have grown kids nearby who have helped out on occasion. It's a time issue. Some of the great hostesses and hosts I know do not work outside the home or work part time.

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Louiseab Ibbotson

We love to entertain. Although I do have very expensive and beautiful china and crystal that I will put out when there is only adults in the group, we are very casual in our ways. We have a large, 8 burner Viking Range with 2 ovens that 80% of the time the food, except the salad or soup, will but put on for everyone to help themselves. If there is room on the table I will put the food there, family style. But if there are more than 3 couples it just gets too crowded to pass the food around. Also, this is just me, but friends of ours like to serve us while we are seated at the table and I am really uncomfortable with this. This couple, by their own admission eat huge portions of foods, I am a very light eater and they know this, but they always give me way, way, more than I could possibly eat. I just feel horrible leaving most of their lovely food to go to waste.

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artemis_ma

I guess, I have to say: Appetizers... people walk around and mingle. First / Main course... the salad, mains, sides all served together, and sit down. Depending on the crowd, they self-serve, or I serve the first round of this and people go back for seconds. (By this I mean, do we have people with differing food needs or not?) Second sit down course is the dessert, about 20 minutes or something after the first part is finished, giving people time to digest and talk.

I want to grill outdoors some more, but every time the occasion arises, so does the Weather.

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nancyjane_gardener

Spring, summer and fall we BBQ, so sides are usually salads and other do-aheads.

After 40+ years of doing the traditional TG and Christmas dinners and wearing myself out, we have switched to a couple of go to's. Crab and lasagna! Not the same meal!

Lasagna is pretty much an all day thing, but just done in spurts! DH loves to crack and pick crab for some weird reason, so I let him!

Both only require a salad, some garlic french bread an appetizer and a desert! Easy peasy!

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party_music50

When I have a dinner party I set my menu specifically so that I don't spend all night in the kitchen! I go with a sauerbraten, pork roast, chicken & 40 cloves of garlic, or that kind of thing. I also have an extremely small kitchen, so that limits my possibilities. :)

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artemis_ma

Curiousity, from louiseab's post: " But if there are more than 3 couples it just gets too crowded to pass the food around. " -- how many people just invite couples???

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Louiseab Ibbotson

Well, a good question. I don’t know any people that aren’t a couple? We live on an acreage out of town and I guess that’s the kind of people that do that.

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Louiseab Ibbotson

We just don’t have many friends and none that are single, to quote Jerry from Seinfeld, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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nancyofnc

I gave up on dinner parties since most of my friends don't drive at night and we live out in the country, on a hill, surrounded by trees, and there are no street lights for a couple of miles. When people do come by, it is usually unannounced but totally welcome. I drag something out the freezer and reheat it while we chat. It has worked well for us and more people drop by knowing they will get fed something I had slaved over a month or so ago, but with fresh coffee or a sweet tea.

Also, a long time ago I gave away my ordinary everyday dishes, silverware, and glasses to charity. Now I use my 3 grandmothers', my mother's, my 5 aunt's, (etc.) china, real silver, and crystal. I don't baby them although I do wash the silver by hand. Lots of stuff has gone bye-bye but since neither of my children wanted any of it, nor did other family, I decided to thoroughly enjoy the lovely heirlooms as an heir to a fortune of beauty and for my personal joy.

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Jakkom Katsu

I used to give a lot of classic, sit-down dinner parties. Loved doing it, but the parties were small (4-10 including us) and my apt kitchen was not only small, but virtually within arm's reach. I could hear conversations and participate even as I was cooking, no problem.

When I did Chinese food - which I did a lot in those days - most of it was make-ahead/heat-up. There was little of it that needed fuss or last minute cooking; just the veggies or steamed fish or a last-minute stir-fry.

We supplied everything start to finish. All we asked was that people converse with one another and be willing to spend a few hours over good food and wine. We had a good "core" group, fortunately. The dinners have been remembered fondly by us and the participants, which is all one can ask for.

Now everybody does potlucks. My family is doing one for Chinese New Year and I'm totally cool with it. Because now I realize it's the shared experiences of socializing over food - good or bad - that is the real point of getting together.

I totally understand where you're coming from, John. Being a host(ess) can get a person so wrapped up in minutia, where the hyper-focus of "checking off each item on the list" gets in the way of socializing.

All I can suggest is to simplify. Whether it means doing recipes which can be done well in advance (or even frozen), or even ordering a couple of dishes from a local restaurant to add to the table, maybe you need to organize your menu according to how much of your time it will take, as opposed to producing a "banquet menu of plenty."

It takes time and effort to produce a menu with six or eight or ten dishes. But is it really that much better than a menu with four dishes, double-sized?

Nobody loves great food more than I do. But as you've discovered, it's really the friendship one shares over that food that's special.

When you're with people you enjoy, it doesn't matter if you're eating burgers and fries vs filet Rossini. It's that gift of time spent together you want to give to people you love.

Sometimes we who love to cook lose sight of that.

Food = Love, we think. We just need to remind ourselves, it's equally true Time = Love, as well.

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John Liu

SWMBO has announced we're doing a Chinese New Year dinner on Feb 5. I'm going to get everything set and everyone seated, then glue my butt to my seat! Not sure how but that's my plan.

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l pinkmountain

I totally relate to what Jakkom is saying. Some of this is just personality style though. There are different personality styles of cooking and entertaining. I love hodge podge dishes with a lot of ingredients, and my decorating style is "eclectic" with a lot of color and pattern and a wall full of art rather than one big dramatic piece. I dress that way too, layers, patterns, mix and match color. I like a mix of a lot of people at a party, sometimes more than I can realistically spend quality time with. My husband on the other hand, is a person who sticks to a few tried and true classics. I always joke that my meals look like a Jackson Pollack painting. His are more Vermeer. He has only a couple of mostly solid colors of clothing in his closet and not a lot of options. He just wears an rewashes the same basic clothing over and over. As a result, he does laundry a lot more often than me, but I have a lot more clothes to fold and put away when I do get around to doing it. My husband has only a very few good friends, I have a list of 50+. Every time I turn around I am talking about visiting or socializing with a friend and he says, "Who?" even though he has met them before. He can't even keep track of more than one or two. At a party, he does the classic introvert thing of spending most of the time talking in depth to one person. So much that I think sometimes it starts to bug the other person if they are not like him.

There's nothing wrong with either style, but recognizing that your style has some limitations is half the battle. I now know I have to focus on simplifying my menus and what I'm planning for the party, and my skeptical husband often helps me do that . . . he helps me catch things that are too elaborate for my own good. I also tend to want to try out some new dish that I would not be willing to try on a work week night or that makes too much to work for a meal for single me. But sometimes that leads to disaster.

This musing on entertaining styles reminds me of a story: when my husband and I first me (we found each other online) he wasn't very forthcoming about whether he wanted to date me or not. He says it's because he was new to the dating game after being married previously for so long, and also he is just not as friendly as me, doesn't socialize as much. So we went out on our first date and he said he wanted to get together again and weeks are going by . . . we're communicating via e-mail but I wasn't really into just that, I wanted a friend to actually socialize with, not a virtual relationship. I was trying to be reserved and follow the "rules" of dating and not appear to eager, but at one point my fridge got filled up with food and I thought, "Boy it would be nice to have a little dinner party out on the patio" (it was early summer and the weather was really nice). So I broke the rules and called him up and invited him to my house for the second date! That was a rule breaker on a couple of points! And we've been together ever since. I joke that the reason we are together is because he is a good eater, and it's only half a joke!

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Sherry

John, I don't cook like you do or have "dinner parties" like you do. Mine is mostly family and we do family style on the table or serve yourself from the stove. For the holiday dinners, I do use the china, silver, and tablecloths, but I don't "plate".

If you and your guests like that, that's great!. Maybe try to plan an appetizer hour and dessert after dinner, that does not require any extra prep for plating. Visit then.

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Louiseab Ibbotson

Sherry, that is exactly what I was trying to convey, you said it better.

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plllog

I'm (*hem*) late to this party. I'm usually fried when I give a party whether I'm cooking or not. In fact, we used to have caterers for the holiday party but I wasn't so happy with the food or service and decided to cook myself. The trick to that was getting enough kitchen help who could put things in and out of the oven and refresh the table, besides cleaning. Hosting is hosting, and either way, I seem to do a lot of running in and out of the kitchen, finding stuff for people who need this or that, and making sure everybody has been greeted and introduced to some other people. I usually end up having one or two real conversations, and a number of "we need to catch ups". It's just the way parties are. Even Passover Seder, which is a huge sit down feast, I do get to speak to some people.

For me, I think at a party of fewer than ten diners, of whom usually three or four are immediate family, means I get to really feel like I've visited with all the guests even if I'm doing all the cooking and cleaning (with only casual help from those assembled).

The one thing caterers are great for is getting to put one's feet up an hour before guests are due.

Sometimes during a week long holiday (of which we have several), I've tried having serial small meals for six or fewer, so I could really enjoy the guests, but while in many ways it's less stressful and less work than having one big party, most of the guests, I think, also want to see each other, and look forward to holidays to do so. Many aren't related to each other and only see each other at our house, so that's an important consideration as well. The young ones, however, unless I have others their age to hang with, prefer the smaller parties where they can talk to me, and at bigger parties will come in the kitchen and help to get some face time. Some of the old folks are really interesting people, but don't always exert themselves to draw in the youngsters, I think.

That's my take, anyway.

I don't know how to entertain without any help at all, so I reject John's no fair clause.

I don't know how to be a guest and not offer to carry dishes at the very least.

Christmas day dinner I was staggering on a bum ankle on the left and a broken toe on the right. One of the company carved the goose. He and another one sliced the fruit. A third carried many of the dishes to the dining room. And once it was all out, I didn't rise again until dessert. I said so. I couldn't walk. I directed others to do so. I did Advil shooters. The others cleared the table and made the coffee. But while we all conversed, I don't think there was anything deep and meaningful said.

May I suggest baseball? Some stadiums actually have some good food available. Most have ballpark favorites, at least. Go early and catch batting practice and share a bag of roasted peanuts in the shell. Plenty of time to chat. Plenty of time between innings. Plenty of time between pitches, while you chow down on gourmet ballpark food or overdressed hotdogs. And guys will come down the aisles and pitch desserts to you. It's a leisurely outing, where picking up your own papers is the extreme of contributory labor, and even that is voluntary (though polite). Afterwards, after the dim sum and craft beer are long digested and the topics of conversation are hazy and run together, one of you will say, "Remember when Jones threw so hard the catcher fell over backwards?" and you'll laugh and the day will all come back to you with its warmth and depth of friendship.

John, I'm so sorry you've lost your friend. Please don't blame yourself for the dinner parties. They weren't sit down and talk occasions. I wish you'd had more time together, but maybe it would be nice to go to the ballpark or the beach or a bike ride and raise a beer or a latte or a water bottle in his honor and remember what he would have said if he were there.


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John Liu

That sounds painful, plllog! We don't have major-league or even minor-league baseball in Portland. We have soccer, which bores me stiff, and basketball, which I like but is expensive and very noisy. The best places to talk here, for me anyway, are pubs, of which we have a few, the Rose and Japanese Gardens, the art museum, etc.

Figuring out menu for Chinese New Year dinner. Menu still in flux but items on the list:

- Roast duck (the whole multi-day process with bicycle pump etc).

- Chinese tea eggs (I found the thread where we talked about these, long ago).

- Long noodles (for long life, SWMBO informs me; she knows more about the CNY traditions than I do).

- Fried rice (I want to make one "comfort food" dish).

- Char siu pork (roast pork). I've never been able to make these with the vibrant red color you see in Chinese restaurants, probably because I don't use food coloring, but I may experiment with beet juice).

- I may make another attempt at xiao long bao (soup dumplings). I'm very bad at these. In the last few years, a couple of xiao long bao houses have opened, so I don't "need" to learn to make them anymore, but its just a point of pride for me now. In case I fail - sad, deflated, leaky, dumplings - I will make some other dumplings too.

- DD is coming home for the evening, and wants to make bao (steamed buns). I'll let her do that, I don't like bao that much.

- A soup. Something simple, like egg drop soup.

In theory, I should be able to have all of this on the table at the start of dinner and not have to unglue my butt from my seat :-)


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lowspark

I'm with the others above who keep menus simple and 90-98% make-ahead. I do some last minute stuff, like add dressing to a salad. But otherwise, everything is done in advance.

I like to set a nice table, using pretty dishes, napkins, serving plates and utensils. But when it comes to food presentation, I don't do individual plating. Everything is serve yourself. My food presentation is done at the serving dish level rather than at the individual plate level, but even that is kept quite simple.

There is a bit of back and forth to the kitchen, mostly at the beginning of the meal, and if I'm serving dessert at the table. I often choose to serve dessert in the living room so that we can sit in what I call "comfy chairs". Someone above mentioned that too.

But other than that, I pretty much sit at the table and eat with everyone else.

John, I notice that your menu is quite ambitious with several courses. The only time I do that is at Passover. And I still make everything ahead as I am participating in the Seder, so when it's time to eat, I just need to grab everything out of the oven where it's been keeping warm. Then it's just grab each dish and bring it to the table for passing.

I think it's great to serve a gourmet meal with lots of courses if you have the ability and inclination, but in the end, I agree that it's the company that's most important.

In my crowd of friends, no one expects anything elaborate. Reasonably nice presentation, delicious food, and limited courses work well for us. And we always retire to the comfy chairs, whether it's for dessert or afterward.

Clean up is for later and I always implore my guests to leave their dishes on the table. The next morning, I spend a bit of time doing all the clean up while lingering over the memory of a nice time the previous evening with my friends.

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sleevendog (5a NY 6aNYC NL CA)

I use beet root powder and tomato powder for intense color. I have a sous vide thick boneless pork chop from Saturday marinating in such, and fresh ginger, a knob of fresh grated tumeric for tonights noodle bowl ...though swinging towards white bean macha, leek, escarole. maybe kale. Avocado. White miso broth?

My fridge crisper drawer is insanely efficient so I have many choices.

We have zero issues with dinner parties. So well planned and shopped ahead, prepped ahead I might discover I'm out of candles at the last minute, lol. But I set the table 2 days ahead with an array serving bowls to sift through and decide what will be used for what.

kitchen is spotless well head of any guests.

Our parties have a two hour intro. Apps and cocktails, the social catch-up. Some of our close friends we only see once/twice a year. Hour three is maybe a soup, warm salad, sit down or standing. We only have a formal sit for the main course and a couple sides. Dessert/coffee/tea/aperitif/scotch....at the table or wandering. We all have our personal preferences. Up and a stretch out on the deck or couch lounging.

On the other hand daily meals...DH wanted a semi-simple seafood risotto last night...I woke wanting brothy pho and fresh veg and raw greens...risotto would have been a park walk. My simple pho and all my 'tarting' took three hours of prep and dancing.

I do doubt you will sit. Compromise and have your seat/place setting close to the kitchen and plan to zip in and out briefly.




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John Liu

lpink: "I always joke that my meals look like a Jackson Pollack painting. His are more Vermeer. " Interesting, I have never thought of looking at meals this way. I think that concept is worth of its own thread, hint :-)

lowspark, I am simply incapable of going to bed until the dishes are all done and put away! SWMBO and I used to stay up until 2 am waiting for the dishwasher to finish cogitating over the first load so we could start the second load. Then we gave up on using the dishwasher and for years we just hand-washed everything for hours and hours. A few months ago I finally got my dream dishwasher, a used commercial high-temp machine. Now I can wash, dry and put away all the dishware, glassware, silverware from a 15 person dinner - even the over-the-top holiday affairs where every person gets three wine glasses, multiple plates, two spoons and three forks, teacups and dessert settings - in about an hour. Or a little less, if I'm really organized!

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plllog

Hm... I don't think you can eat peanuts in the art museum, but maybe they have a nice cafe. :) But, heck, you could find a nice view point and just watch the cars go over the bridge. :) The point is some relaxed one on one time. Conviviality is fantastic, but not great for real conversations.

I love soup dumplings! I always burn my mouth on them, but love them. Do you have good instructions? They seem just like magic to me. I'm pretty sure the secret is a high collagen broth reduced to jelly, right? I don't blame you for wanting to perfect them. I love egg drop soup too. Simple doesn't exclude luscious.

Sleevendog's beet + tomato is probably a better shade if you can make it work. I like annatto, but perhaps it's not brilliant enough? Saffron is good for the golden yellow, and if you want color rather than flavor the "cheap" threads work just as well as the good stuff. Because you should have some gold too, right?

What about vegetables?


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John Liu

I haven't thought of anything fun in the vegetable department. Last time I steamed some bok choy with a plummy sauce and it was kind of boring.

Sleevendog's coloring idea sounds like exactly what I need. Granted, the char siu pork I see nowadays is often uncolored, but I'm trying to get the deep red colored pork that was more common when I was little.

The filling on soup dumplings is indeed a tasty and high collagen broth, chilled to jelly. A packet of unflavored gelatin saves the day if you didn't put in enough pigs feet etc. My problem is always the outside. The skin leaks, the pleats untwist, or the dumpling simply looks plump and bouncy right after steaming but is wrinkled and flaccid by the time anyone is ready to eat it. The mayfly is long lived compared to my xiao long bao. This dish is going to be hard to reconcile with my "seated chef" ambition. Maybe I can time it to be ready right when people sit down.

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lowspark

SWMBO and I used to stay up until 2 am waiting for the dishwasher to finish cogitating over the first load so we could start the second load.

Ugh! I would fall asleep if I attempted that! I do clear the table and at least give everything a quick rinse or soak before retiring, but the bulk of the clean up is done in the morning. Particularly because I do wash some things by hand, and I'm simply not going to do that amount of work that late at night. Glad you have the equipment to ease that task now!!

---

Maybe I can time it to be ready right when people sit down.

Good luck with that! I've found that one of the hardest things to do at a dinner party is get people out of the "cocktails and chat" mode and into the "sit at the table for the meal" mode. It's like herding cats sometimes! ;)

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rob333 (zone 7a)

I cook it all ahead of time and hold it in the oven. I drag it out and plop it on the counter and we eat buffet style. I haven't had a dinner party. Maybe people have very few of those these days? I'm hoping we'll have something more like that for our supper club. It starts in March. I'll be checking back here often after I get to see how it pans out. Get it? Bit of cooking humor there


;)

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Louiseab Ibbotson

Rob , you and I are of the same mind as to entertaining. We were at our best friends house on the weekend for dinner and although everything was prepped ahead, it was all put together at the last minute. I know this is the best possibly way to serve your food, freshly cooked,, my husband and I were left on our own for quite a while. Dinner was great, but I would have felt more comfortable with them sitting down with us.

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John Liu

Looking at some recipes online, seems the red color of traditional char siu pork comes from red fermented bean paste, which I guess is basically red miso?

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sleevendog (5a NY 6aNYC NL CA)

I think it is red miso but not active/live culture. But if easily available it would also give the 1/4inch deep penetrating color me thinks. If allowed to 'brine' overnight. Using tomato/beet powder does not add all the salt.

Our favorite braised chicken thigh recipe uses a dark brine overnight. Originally it was way too salty so I cut down all that soy. And replaced much of it with tomato/beet. And the usual spices. Then by mistake I bought organic 'boneless' skinless thighs and it turned out even better with more open surface area with the bones removed. I can give them a much longer brine time less salty with gorgeous color. (red miso sesame glaze just out of the oven)....now I really want to try that with pork!

You could slice a big beet thin and dehydrate in your oven on the lowest. A bit soft fine since will go in your marinade/brine. Zip in blender or stick. (your DD wants a mandolin...I insisted a 'no cry' glove is an absolute). ...it will up her game, : ) mandolin makes very thin slices.

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John Liu

Thanks! I will try this and tell everyone it is a secret recipe for "char siu pork New York style."

I have a wonderful mandolin. Sadly, it lives on top of the refrigerator and gets overlooked a lot.

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plllog

I love it! New York style! Isn't the deep red for the, I don't know what to call it, metaphysics?, of the color? If so, I wouldn't think it would have to be traditional so long as it's attractive and lucky.

Thanks for explaining the dumplings.

I have my family trained. I give them a warning, then an order and they go to the table. :)

The soup dumplings give you an opportunity to combine the two tasks. Tell the guests that they have to sit down now because you're serving soup dumplings as an amuse bouche. If you want to do more you can serve more with the rest of the dinner, but they will at least have seen your fresh and perfect ones and made it to the table as well. :)

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sleevendog (5a NY 6aNYC NL CA)

Soup dumplings need to be served asap. That lovely firm gelled stock gets sassy fluid so fast. I save that jones for my favorite Mott St dumpling house.

I made them once and had leak issues. if I did it again they would be served pronto.

I also don't care for the buns.

My crowd of friends are such raw fruit/veg lovers a fresh spring roll is a meal for most of them. And growing a forest of greens all winter now I can bang them out without shopping,


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John Liu

Are those being grown under artificial light, or do you have good light somewhere indoors? I used to watch a cooking show where the chef had herbs and greens growing in his kitchen, and he just grabbed a handful when the recipe called for it. Of course that was TV . . . but I'd love something like that.

The leaking is part of the problem with soup dumplings. If you make the wrappers thick enough, they don't leak. The other problem is deflation. If you look at xiao long bao pictures online, some are plump and round and others are limp and flat. I think thicker wrappers tend to hold their shape a little better. So all this points to making the wrappers thicker than, say, for potstickers - but then they become doughy bun things. I haven't found the magical middle ground yet.

The other Chinese comfort food I like is the long fried crullers called you tiao. I have never made these but am tempted to try. https://thewoksoflife.com/2015/08/youtiao-recipe/  I might even pull the deep fryer out of storage.


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plllog

The only soup dumplings I've had were in a thick wrapper, and kind of bowl shaped. The wrapper was thicker than ravioli, let alone potstickers. I'm sure there must be experts who do them really thin and super magical, but keeping them filling in is more important!

I applaud the idea of getting out the deep fryer and trying the "cruller" recipe--for the family. For the company, it's anti-sitting down with the crowd and not to be contemplated. Make some New Year's colored macarons a couple days ahead of time. All the almond flavor with a multinational flair, for dessert. :)

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Jakkom Katsu

>>The mayfly is long lived compared to my xiao long bao. >>

XLB are really difficult to pull off, even for pros. Down here in the SFBA we get more bad ones than good ones. I probably wouldn't even try making them at home (but 99Ranch has them frozen anyway, although I've never bought any).

How about the Sheng Jian Bao instead? Sturdier and more filling, but easier to manage. I don't like them quite as much as XLB, but they are very tasty when done well and served hot. They're actually a bigger deal than XLB here, as they're much harder to find.

Serious Eats: Sheng Jian Bao (Pan-Fried Pork Soup Dumplings) Recipe)

BTW - how would you serve the you tiao? My DH (Chinese-Portuguese from HK) only eats them with jook. Would you just treat it as a side for the entrees?

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John Liu

If I made you tiao, they would join the xiao long bao and other fussy stuff as the first course. To avoid all the running around with one's hair on fire *during* the meal. I've always eaten you tiao plain, nothing on them. I think they can be made ahead and re-crisped in the oven. Actually, I could even buy them take-out but that wouldn't be any fun, so if I can't fit them into the prep then we simply won't have any you tiao.


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sleevendog (5a NY 6aNYC NL CA)

These make every top 5 list, and often the top. Tender and not at all doughy as they appear. I failed even with a nice thick broth I could cut with a knife using duck and chicken paws...

Easier and no-fail (for me) are thinner ginger/pork dumplings I serve on the side with a miso soup dropping a dumpling in or a dunk.


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sleevendog (5a NY 6aNYC NL CA)

The macro greens are growing on one of my seed starting shelves. Under a 4ft LED shoplight from Costco. A downstairs workroom that has our freezer and bulk pantry. I do have a suspended kitchen shelf in a sunny south window but many grey days this time of year. They thrive having both options. Still do fine with just LED. Or just a sunny window.

Most of my 'students', (friends and co-workers), us a sunny window and/or a bookshelf cleared off and a Ikea/lowes LED strip light. Only a 9inch deep shelf about 2-3ft long is needed to keep an endless supply going. Start harvesting about ten days from sowing and continues for 12-15days...start a new 'stack' every 5-7days keeps and endless supply available at all times. I got ahead of myself recently with all the holiday festivities so I had to actually bag up for the crisper drawer rather than cut fresh....

I think we are up to 15 co-workers growing now. Some in tiny NYC apartments.

My harvest last Sunday we have been eating all week. I needed the room for the next row that is about 6 days old.


When work slows down next week I want to send DD a starter 'kit'. I think she would be good at it if even if just a testing grow.

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l pinkmountain

OK guys and gals (and I include myself in this group) I think it is time for some "tough love" here. Maybe John you can't have it all, the plethora of elaborate fun-to-try dishes and the insistence on clean-up right after, and the languid time at the table with friends and no hired or arm-twisted help. I don't know much about Chinese culture, but in a lot of scenarios that I am envisioning in my mind, there are SOME folks relaxing and sitting at the table, but behind the scenes there are others making the food and bringing it to the table. Maybe servants, maybe the women of the household, etc. Or there's a rotation.

For example, we spend a lot of holidays with some close family friends and the meals go like this: cooks put out some pre-made appetizer stuff on the counter between the family room and the kitchen, with little plates. Whomever is not cooking sit around nibbling and watching TV, usually sports, sometimes a rented movie, but could also be playing a parlor game or just conversing. Cooks can also nibble as they work in the kitchen. Big family so the cooking is usually a rotating group affair of two or three and that means that someone can leave for a bit if they want to join into whatever is happening in the family room. Then everyone sits down to the dinner the cooks have been slaving over all afternoon. After dinner all the folks who did not cook clear the table and clean the dishes, while the cooks sit around and chat. Then everyone gathers for pre-made dessert time. Guests often bring the desserts. The key there is a mix of pre-made and cooked food, a team approach and delegation of duties, plus a home set-up that is amenable to informal socializing.

I'm also reminded of a wonderful dim sum that I went to in my youth in NYC Chinatown. The place was huge and loaded with families, all enjoying each other's company for a long stretch. No one was rushing you to leave and half the time you couldn't even find a person to wait on you. But there were insanely busy waiters and people rolling around the carts full of a variety of wonderful, elaborate little dishes. They were not at the table enjoying the company. Spanish tappas bars are similar I imagine. Or I'm thinking of the Chinese restaurants with the lazy susan in the middle of the table and everyone can try a little of everything. Wonderful for socializing BUT, the folks at the table are not the ones cooking the dishes!

You could recreate that feel by prepping some food that could be held for a while, like velvet corn soup, for example (I say that because it was at the dim sum restaurant I first had that memorable dish) and a cold marinated seafood salad, and then you could bring out THREE dim sum appetizers, maybe one or two that had been prepped in advance and frozen. Or one tricky memorable dumpling and the rest prepped in advance. Some dishes, like marinated things and soups and some casseroles, actually benefit from advance prep.

The key here is to simplify, simplify, simplify. You don't need five amazing dishes, just ONE. You have to balance your love of the process of making the dishes and orchestrating the whole thing, (and the acclaim that comes with it) with your desire to languish at the table. You know, yin and yang. Your meals may be too yang. One could languish over an ordered pizza or Chinese takeout, and one could marvel over a gourmet meal where they only saw glimpses of the chef, but to find the balance you may need to elicit some help and then relinquish some control by cutting some corners and truly delegating. I often tell my students, "the perfect is the enemy of the good." I see this with them all the time. They conceive of a elaborate amazing project and then they crash and burn trying to execute it. Then what they deliver is not good because they are stressed and the parts are all rough because they have been rushed. I am often guilty of this myself.

And stop your overactive mind when it comes to menu planning. Having that one truly delicious thing will make the strongest food memory. With five things the whole thing might become a blur. Plus, simple food is a whole other way to experience pleasure. One of the best Christmas parties I went to just had a great gourmet cheese and cracker spread, a nice punch in a fancy bowl, and some wonderful thick nicely decorated cutout cookies. That was it, but not having too much allowed me to really appreciate the beauty of each thing. A whole plate of many cookie types and a plethora of mediocre cheeses and crackers and dips would not have had the same effect, and the decorations on the one type of cookie and the beauty of the punch bowl and flavors of the three cheeses and high end crackers were much more appreciated when they weren't vying for attention with too many other highly stylized foods.

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Feathers11

Sleevendog, where did you get the seeds to start? And what is the growing medium?

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John Liu

She'd love that! I'll go down and set up a little LED growlight for her.

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sleevendog (5a NY 6aNYC NL CA)

Macros love cooler temps . Portland should be perfect. My temps downstairs are 62-68 year round.

I have a shelf in my pantry with this Ikea strip.


Have not used it yet this winter but worked great the past few years. Grey days I tossed my trays under these. Cheap and super cheap to run. Super night light. A salad forest is very zen in all this cold.

A seed has its embryo and a surrounding 'food bank' for germination once it is awakened via water. Not until its second set of true leaves does it need food via good soil or our added nutrients. LED is perfect for the early stages of germination. (not for growing to full fruit like a tomato).

I grow larger to macro, not tiny micro. Better flavor and fuller leaf true shape. Much more like baby greens. I use clean coconut coir medium.


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Feathers11

Thank you for the information, Sleevendog.

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John Liu

Oof, I am a day behind schedule. My dad was visiting, my son was dancing (professionally, sort of: he's an "apprentice" with a company but actually getting paid a little bit), and other things got in the way of prepping.

So I am frantically defrosting ducks, soaking lotus leaves, and marinating pork belly.

Lpink, your words are wise. But to some extent I can't help myself!

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l pinkmountain

I know John, and I rarely even follow my own advice . . . I love hearing about your dinner parties, come what may!

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John Liu


Duck hanging, drying with fan, coated with honey-wine-vinegar mixture.

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John Liu


Going to make a seaweed salad with deep fried brussel sprout, beet. Supposed to have long stuff for long life. So there will be long noodles and long string beans as well.

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John Liu


Also thinking about some spare rib nibbles.

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plllog

Looks delicious. Well, except the duck torture, but I'm sure it'll look lovely by dinnertime. :)

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John Liu

Reminds me of Alice In Wonderland:

“ She generally gave herself very good advice (though she very seldom followed it), and sometimes she scolded herself so severely as to bring tears into her eyes; and once she remembered trying to box her own ears for having cheated herself in a game of croquet she was playing against herself, for this curious child was very fond of pretending to be two people. "But it's no use now," thought poor Alice, "to pretend to be two people! Why, there's hardly enough of me left to make one respectable person!" “

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John Liu

This dinner is getting out of control. We have 25 coming, as DD and DS invited friends. We can't easily seat that many, so we've given up on a proper table setting sort of dinner. We are going to serve food buffet style and let people take plates and sit wherever, at either dining table, couch, armchairs, family room, eat standing up. So my vow to remain seated throughout dinner is looking postponed or at least modified.

I'm slightly concerned we won't have enough food.

DD made and steamed the lo mai gai tonight. We will re-steam them for the meal. Her theory is this will allow the rice to absorb more lotus leaf flavor.

My tea eggs are simmering. I followed a recipe I found here on gardenweb. Apparently I posted it in 2010!

Filling for shao mai and jelly for xiao long bao are done and waiting in the fridge for tomorrow. DD is probably not making bao, but she is making fried dumplings aka gyoza.

Spareribs have been pressure cooked, they will marinate in black bean sauce overnight and then be stirfried or maybe deepfried. Pork belly has been marinating in beet juice and red miso, getting ready to be roasted with honey, sugar and salt.

DD is making daikon cakes. She says I've had these before but I don't recall.

I've given up on my seaweed salad idea. I don't have the right kind of kombu. It tastes like, well, if you chowed down on a clump of seaweed at the beach. I don't expect to have time tomorrow to run around and find the right kind of seaweed.

Instead, we will get our long life from long beans and long noodles. The beans will be dry cooked with garlic and red pepper flakes. The noodles will be dressed with sesame oil etc.

My stock for the egg drop tastes like dishwater, eww. I added most of a chicken and will keep simmering.

A friend is going to bring some fish for steaming. His sister owns the best Chinese seafood store in town, so this might be pretty good.

As for the duck, they continue to hang and dry. Tomorrow morning I'm going at them with the air compressor and a needle!

DD, our friend Zach (5th year architecture student and DD's former roommate, living with us for his last year of college) have been cooking, listening to jazz, and inventing drinks with a bottle of vodka and various juices found in the fridge. Yikes. It's only Monday.

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Islay Corbel

It sounds chaotic but fun!

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l pinkmountain

My advice, hire someone to clean up afterwards so you can visit with guests that whole time. You need to find a neighborhood high school kid who is looking to pick up a few bucks here and there. Does your son know someone like that? My aunt and uncle used to throw parties and hire a friend's kids to serve and bar tend.

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sleevendog (5a NY 6aNYC NL CA)

Jealous. My kind of party. Chaos Muppets.

I'm making spring rolls, miso-ish type soup, and dumplings.

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John Liu

Ducks were brought into the garage, inflated with needle and air compressor - so much easier than the traditional bicycle pump - and are hanging awaiting roasting. The inflation, besides making them deliciously plump like a starlet's lips after dermal filler, separates the skin from the flesh, allowing the skin to roast crisp and dry with the fat rendering off.

We are breaking out the paper plates. Giving up on any attempt at elegance. This will simply be a festive feed.

It feels festive today. We have snow in Portland - not much, but enough to lift spirits and signal the new year.

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Jakkom Katsu

>>turnip cakes.. - oooh, is that the lo bak ko? If it is, fried or steamed?

Sounds like a wild crazy delicious time!

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John Liu

I dunno because DD is making them. Daikon radish, rice flour, baked in mini cupcake tray, then fried. We don't have rice flour so she is using some weird gluten free flour, which may have been a mistake, that stuff is nasty.

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John Liu


The char sui pork was indeed red.

The duck was very tasty but crispness was lacking, because I basted the skin with honey. I had to press a guest into service with a torch to crisp the skin.

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John Liu


The initial rush for food. We had about 20 adults, 4-5 kids, and a dog.

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John Liu

So the menu changed. We had:

- Roast duck, finished a la propane torch

- Spare ribs in black bean sauce, the usual pressure cook-refrigerate-deep fry-stir fry process

- Steamed cod with ginger, scallions and sake, there were NO live fish to be had as seemingly everyone was celebrating Chinese New Year, even my friend whose sister owns a seafood store had to buy packaged fillets at Costco - but they steamed very nicely, on a bed of lotus leaves with ginger, scallions, soy sauce and ShaoXing wine.

- Baked bao with pork filling, DD made these

- Deep fried veggie dumplings, DD's and DS' work

- Shao mai with pork and shrimp, also DD's doing - you get the picture, I managed to not do a lot of the cooking!

- Red rice with beets, someone brought

- Long beans, stir fried with sesame, rice wine and red pepper, it is a long food = long life thing

- Long noodles, served cold with a sesame-vinegar-soy-sake dressing, more symobolic longevity

- Tofu with snow peas, DD made

- Char sui pork, very red indeed

- Lo mai gai, sticky rice with Chinese sausage, chicken and shrimp, steamed in lotus leaves, rested overnight, then re-steamed, which didn't actually add much extra lotus leaf flavor

- Daikon cakes, baked then fried, DD made these with the nasty gluten-free flour and she whined about it a lot

- Gai lan, or Chinese broccoli, we needed token veggies

- Chinese tea eggs, which turned out much worse than previous attempts, they always taste the same but I didn't get as much of the pretty marble veining

We did not have:

- Egg drop soup, my stock was too cloudy and I didn't have time to clarify it, so I had a hissy fit and abandoned the effort - if the stock isn't clear, the egg drop doesn't look good

- Soup dumplings, we had everything made but DS took so long to pleat the fried dumplings that I didn't have time to make the soup dumplings (we only have one station for dumpling assembly), so I will make these during the week

- Seaweed salad, it was going to be gross so I pitched it.

And a friend of DS came and made us all espresso and lattes. He is on indefinite hiatus from college, working as a barista, and is going to give me lessons in latte art.

No, I didn't sit down much, so the evening was in that sense a failure. But everyone had a good time so it's not all bad!

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John Liu


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Islay Corbel

It looked wonderful . I'm sure that getting to be "sitting" host will take time.....step by step......back to the table.

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writersblock (9b/10a)

It looks fantastic, John! I'm sure everyone had a wonderful time, even if you didn't get to sit down much.

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party_music50

John Liu, it looks wonderful!!! and it's great that you have so many friends to enjoy it. I hope you were able to get away from the kitchen long enough to actually eat this time. lol! I suspect that this is how it will always be with you and everyone loves you for it. :)

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l pinkmountain

A MA ZING!

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John Liu

I need to do something with two duck carcasses. There is the 1933 Marx brothers movie "Duck Soup". Apparently that term is, or was, slang:

"duck soup. An easily accomplished task or assignment, a cinch to succeed, as in Fixing this car is going to be duck soup . This expression gained currency as the title of a hilarious popular movie by the Marx Brothers (1933). The original allusion has been lost."

This suggests that making duck soup should be a cinch. So I am off to find recipes. Only the ones marked "easy".

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sleevendog (5a NY 6aNYC NL CA)

I only do duck once a year...we like all the goodies they provide. Always two on the wood fired rotis.

I rip off the skin and crack up the carcas in fist sized bony bits. Lay the bones on top of a big chunked/sliced Spanish onion, celery, a full head garlic cloves. In my turkey roaster...in the oven 325-350 to roast for an hour or so. (add a half left-over rich beer or water/stock if dry-ish.). Then into a simmering stock pot. Any veg in the crisper additions. The usual carrot, parsnip, celeriac, leek tops, ...I don't do the long boiled stocks most do. Just a low simmer for 2-3 hours for chicken/duck. Duck skin I simmer back burner for an hour or so until it looks yummy/rendered.

Freeze in pints-/1/2 pints for future duck stock broth...pho/noodle bowl/stew/bone broth miso...

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plllog

It all looks fab! Did you at least get to talk to someone?

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John Liu

Yes, more than usual! It helped that food was buffet service - no courses - and we used paper plates. Also I wasn't making gelato during dinner. All in all, I was content.

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