The phone rings. Your significant other calls to say he's coming home AND he has invited his friend/sibling/co-worker to dinner. They'll be at your place in 30 minutes. What do you do? Once in a while, my husband will spring guests on me at the last minute and I always worry about what I can make to serve them.
Happily, I was invited to attend Electrolux's Party Ready Boot Camp with the incredibly charming and down-to-earth Kelly Ripa and the award-winning chef and restaurateur Tom Colicchio here in NYC. The event was part of a campaign by Electrolux to support The Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. In addition to trying lots of great tasting food, I learned a lot of entertaining tips (that will help de-stress me the next time my husband brings home unexpected guests!).
Upon walking into the beautiful white studio space, we were all offered a light, crisp mocktail. A few moments later, we were sitting down with multiple glasses of wine, which highlighted Tom's first party tip: “Just like Kelly, I love to entertain at home,” notes Colicchio. “The secret to being ready when friends and family drop in is to keep the right staples on hand. I always have several bottles of my favorite wine chilling in the fridge and a host of go-to edibles in my pantry so I can pull together a quick bite or even a light meal at a moment’s notice.”
|Add your own sausage joke here.|
What are Chef Tom Colicchio's go-to edibles? In addition to cheeses, meats, and preserves (that can easily make a cheese plate), he always has roasted chicken (made or store-bought), pickles, fresh vegetables, anchovies, and olives at home. It was a relief to hear a chef say it's alright to have (good quality) pre-made goods on hand to serve to unexpected guests. (Places like the Italian store in Chelsea Market and Eataly in NYC have a great selection of canned or jarred goods)
Pasta can be a quick-fix meal that uses anything you have on hand. Chef Colicchio made an easy Pappardelle dish with Broccoli Rabe. Seasoned with freshly-ground pepper, grated Parmesan cheese, and salted with anchovies, this was a nice quick and tasty one-pot dish.
Dress up a prepared/store-bought dish like Roasted Chicken. You can add a homemade twist to a roasted chicken with an easy side or relish. Chef Colicchio made a red pepper relish that could be used for fish or other meats. It was a simple sweet sauce made with high quality canned roasted red peppers, sugar, sherry vinegar, and raisins. You could also add herbs (thyme), onion, shallots, garlic, or pine nuts to amp the flavor of the relish.
Mascarpone cheese makes an easy dessert...especially served with fresh orange segments and homemade candied orange peels.
Both Tom and Kelly genuinely enjoyed the question and answer session with us. I asked what their favorite party ready vegetarian dish would be:
Tom: "I never start composing a dish based on meat. It always starts with vegetables because they add flavor."
Kelly: "I make something that our mutual friend Andy (Bravo TV's Andy Cohen) enjoys. I roast corn on the grill and cut the kernels into a bowl. I add tomatoes from the garden, some fresh basil, chopped onions, avocado, and some lime juice. Anything with fresh vegetables taste good. It's so easy to be vegetarian in the summer."
|Want that fridge! And that Alaia dress!!|
|Our prom photo with less corsages but better food|
My participation in the ‘Are You Party Ready’ Campaign was sponsored by Electrolux who provided me with transportation arrangements to and from yesterday's event on a very rainy NYC day. They also provided me with a gift bag including one of Tom Colicchio's (signed) cookbooks (saving us from waiting in line like the last time we got a signed Tom Colicchio cookbook).
What are your quick party tips?