Guest Post: Entertaining Made Easy with Mussels for Many
<Note from Christine: When I was pregnant with Baby M, I sent out a request to some fellow bloggers for guest posts sharing strategies for getting dinner on the table. Last week we read about The Mrs and her awesome strategy: Let the husband cook! This week Jane from Adventures in Dinner shares her strategies for continuing to entertain even when life is NUTS.
Many people might think, “Why bother? Just stop having people over for dinner until things settle down!” But if you’re like Jane (or like me, for that matter) that solution does not exist. The idea of not having people over sounds just as ludicrous as deciding to stay home all the time because navigating the world accompanied by kids is just too hard.
We have people over for dinner all the time because we love cooking for others, sharing with others, laughing comfortably around the table with others. That isn’t going to stop so we need to embrace it and find strategies to make it easy. Jane has done this here with a simple meal and a set of guidelines to keep you sane.>
I was so thrilled when Christine asked me to guest post about my favourite strategy for getting dinner on the table because:
- she’s awesome
- she always makes me think
- since my wee one was born our lives have considerably changed
- she’s awesome
My husband and I have been a couple for 12 years now and have always entertained a lot. We even had our wedding in our backyard and I made the food for it. There wasn’t really a weekend that went by without at least one set of company for a meal-usually two or three.
Then…we found out we were going to have an unexpected, insanely wanted kiddo and she would be arriving January 2010. Everything changed but it was still great and we slowly got back into the entertaining groove.
Then…my dear mother-in-law passed away unexpectedly and we decided to become a multi-generational family by having my father-in-law move in.
Quite a change from two people and a large cat.
But still great.
After a few bumps I realized that the thing I was missing was having our house be a drop-in place and the spot where we could easily entertain. So I guess that’s what my strategy for getting dinner on the table is about. How do you happily entertain with:
- a full-time job (I’m a teacher)
- a toddler
- an 89 year old
- a house under major renovations
- a mother with Alzheimer’s who is often there for a week or so at a time
Here is my fail-proof strategy to do so:
- Invite only people that enjoy your company and won’t be looking for dust tumbleweeds-those are the only people who should be allowed in your house anyway.
- Invite the little ones too. Chaos is chaos after all. Who wants to spend 45.00 on a babysitter? If you really want to be a star, get a sitter for you all to share, make the kiddos some snacks and turn them loose in the family room.
- Take offers to bring something: a salad, an appetizer-potluck is not a dirty word.
- Spritz the house and set the table the night before.
- Have your dishwasher empty at the start of the night. At the end of the night, turn it on and go to bed.
- Use your slow cooker. This always works and you only have one pot to clean. I’ve got a tonne of slow cooker recipe that I use all the time (curry, cacciatore…). If you can’t use the slow cooker for some reason, no worries. I have a great alternative! See recipe for Mussels Meuniere below.
- Enjoy yourself. Just have a good time. Not everything will be perfect. It doesn’t have to be! It’s just dinner but it’s dinner with people you care about.
Here’s one of my favourite menus to fall back on:
Pretty plate laden with paper thin slices of prosciutto and a large piece of parmesan. Add a little bowl of syrupy, rich balsamic. Let everyone break off chunks of the cheese to dip in the balsamic.
Main course: Mussels Meuniere
Ask the ‘fish guy’ to give you enough mussels to fill your guests as a main course. It usually looks like about 3 cups of uncooked mussells/person. Give them a wash under the cold water tap, pull off any of the bits that look like seaweed (the beards) and discard any that don’t close when they are tapped. This is a dinner party and not ‘how to get rid of unwanted people in your life and make it look like an accident’.
Have a french stick at the ready to dip into the delicious sauce and serve with a nice big green salad that your dear friend has brought with her/him..
Saute, until transclucent, one chopped onion in 1 tbsp. of oil. Add in 1 large clove of minced garlic and a splash of pernod. Add your mussels and stir for 30 seconds. Add 2 cups of white wine and 1 cup of chicken stock. Top with a tight fitting lid and let cook on high for 4 minutes. Open the loveliness up and get a free facial. Top with pepper, a dollop of butter and a big handful of chopped parsley. Squeeze lemon wedges over the top and place on the middle of the table to let each person grab as they would like. Make sure there are a few ‘shell discard’ bowls on the table.
20 second souffles are my new favourite go-to dessert but no one is upset with a big platter of dark chocolate, fruit and a nice port.
Jane is a mom, wife, sister, daughter, teacher, reader, cook, enthusiastic environmentalist, recovering overspender, proud Canadian and fantastic writer and recipe developer. Do head over to her blog, Adventures in Dinner, to see what she’s been cooking up lately.