Hosting dinner parties for friends and loved ones is nothing new. In fact, it’s my most favorite thing to do. However, when cooking for a crowd, things can easily go awry without the proper planning. Prep is your best friend. If you have not acquainted yourself with this stress-saving amigo,  I suggest you shake hands now and get your meal under control.

I like to choose meals that can involve prep work 24-48 hours prior to the event. Not only to save time, but also to intensify flavors.  Which is exactly what was needed when tackling my main course – Momofuku inspired short ribs. I say inspired only because David Chang throws an intimidating disclaimer in his book suggesting the need for a vacuum-sealing machine and a fabricated water circulator. So basically a big “ah, good luck there buddy” to the home cook.  I’m a firm believer that techniques suggested in recipes aren’t necessarily law. You can get a similar flavor and tenderness by using a Dutch oven and appliances available in every kitchen: your oven & stove top.

Brine for pickling carrots and mustard seeds were created the evening before and soaked over night. Additionally the marinade and dashi for the meat and daikon was prepared and cooled for the following day. Done and done! 3 hours of work out of the way. Seeing items checked off my list has me ready for tomorrow where I will braise the day away. Oh sweet relief!

With all my pre-made bits ready to go, it’s time to start on Prep-athon Part II four hours before guests arrive. Short Ribs are browned, extra marinade is added and the bubbling aroma of fruit and usukuchi are placed in the oven for 1½ hours. The extra downtime allows me to make final touches on my table centerpiece and begin infusing the gin with shishito peppers for our cocktail. While I personally like most things hotter than Haiti, your guests might have a more sensitive pallet. Infusing your liquor for 4 – 6 hours rather than overnight will give just the right flavor without attacking their tongues with heat.  Delish!

An hour before guest touch down I continue to channel my OCPD (obsessive compulsive prep disorder) and get the second course sashimi chopped and marinated. I also start peeling, chopping and braising the daikon in dashifor the main dish. The house smells divine and I’ve even got some time to put on a party dress.  Woop!

I created a menu that had a cohesive flavor theme and introduced some favorite Asian-inspired dishes to my friends. The cocktail is a nod to a recent visit at Test Kitchen LA, where a Library Bar Mixologist swooned us with yet another use of our beloved shishito pepper. No seriously, we have a problem. Our buddies at Silverlake Wine did an excellent job pairing wine for our other 2 courses. I admit; I was impressed specifically with the Austrian White, which highlighted the seaweed flavors in the tartare just as promised.  Well played.

 

Hello Shishito Gimlet and hello my good friends. Who doesn’t like being greeted with a fresh cocktail? Pass out the libations and turn on the music. There’s a dinner party happening tonight!

The great thing about blistered Shishito Peppers is that they are incredibly easy to make, delicious, and ready to serve before the first cocktail has gone dry. Balancing chef with hostess duty is a tricky tango. These bad boys are a crowd pleaser and you don’t have to slip into the kitchen for too long to make.

Win. Win.

Tartare Duo cups were assembled 20 minutes prior to guest arrival and placed in the fridge. Yet another timesaving super-move allowing you to enjoy your own party.

While the crew is finishing the last of the second course, Short Ribs are plated and garnished with braised scallions. It was unanimous – these were the most intensely flavored short ribs any of us have had. Take that Chez Chang! Kudos to him for the unique combination of pickled vegetables and sweet meat.

I am officially off duty and ready for another glass of wine.

Even though this dinner party went without a snag, they can still feel like a spinning plate routine. Without listing the menu ahead of time, prioritizing shopping and prep work you will be passed out on the floor before the first plate is set on the table. Whether it be an exotic luxurious dinner party or a Cinco de Mayo BBQ – foresight is your savoir. With that super power in my pocket…who’s coming over tomorrow?

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