March 1, 2023
I recently hosted a Galentine’s dinner party for a special group of friends. 2023 is all about appreciating, finding and creating moments of beauty and joy, so what better way than to celebrate the ones who embody both?
As a host, I want to create a special, elevated experience for my guests, but with a level of informality that brings them into the fold of final meal prep. These days, many gather in the kitchen around the action either intentionally or because of the common design of open kitchens. And, guests are usually there before the food is completely ready; it’s unrealistic that you ask guests to arrive and sit down to eat right away. Usually there are some appetizers happening, so forego the idea of mysterious kitchen activities perfected behind closed doors.
That said, careful planning ensures the right level of preparations remain in the time between guests’ arrival and meal time. Below I’m sharing a menu, timeline and other tips that help ensure hosts create an elevated, yet informal gathering!
Appetizer: Charcuterie Tray. Some of my go-to’s include a couple cheeses (usually Manchego, an aged gouda, a truffled cheese, or St. Andre Triple Creme), prosciutto, sliced apple or pear, sugar snap peas or cucumber, grapes, roasted cashews, parmesan crisps, and water crackers. I also love 1-2 spreads (personal favorites are Dalmatia’s Green Olive Spread and Stonewall Kitchen’s Roasted Garlic Onion jam).
Entree: Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks. I purchased four huge lamb shanks for this red wine & minty lamb shanks recipe, and there was a ton left over. For a party of 8, three large shanks may be just fine! Skip the carrots in this dish since they’ll be served separately as a side.
One Starchy Side. The NYT’s potato celery root purée was a fun twist on potatoes, and I halved this recipe. This is a pretty straightforward mash. Highly recommend a ricer or food mill, though serving a rougher-texture mash (via electric beater) is fine too.
One Veggie Side. Thank God for Ina Garten and her orange-roasted rainbow carrots. This dish was so simple, unique and delicious, and received many compliments. Tip: Trader Joe’s has packages of mini rainbow carrots that are already peeled and trimmed. These make prep so easy!
One Light Side (for those avoiding the starch). I added a simple green salad and I found that one box of mixed greens was just enough for 8 ladies (and just enough to fill my salad bowl), but have an extra box on hand in case. This salad is dressed with good olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.
A Bread (optional). You can’t go wrong with a garlic cheese bread. Consider this one totally optional but it’s so yummy! Select a rustic style bread that can be sliced between 3/4-1″. Have parmesan (freshly grated is best), a half stick of butter and one head of garlic on hand, and see the schedule for instructions.
Here’s the schedule I used to ensure a smooth dinner party! I like to set the table and plan other ambience the day before because it’s something that doesn’t need to be done “fresh,” there’s less of a rush to it and it’s fun, and it gets me excited about the party. The day of the party will focus on things that need to be done “fresh.”
I also did some of these items throughout the week of the party.
When guests ask what they can bring or how they can help, let them. Guests are appreciative for the event and want to feel useful. Booze of their choice takes that planning aspect off the table, and one or two desserts are super helpful as well. If you have guests with dietary restrictions, I’ve also invited the addition of a small appetizer that would suit (noting what’s planned). This actually resulted in learning of a super delicious, easy appetizer that I couldn’t get enough of!
Since we were celebrating Galentine’s Day, and knowing my crew, I also invited my guests to bring a fun activity. Of course one of them showed up with a DIY photo booth and silly props!
Hopefully this provides some ideas on hosting a fun dinner party in the future. I’m already planning the next one!