Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Summertime Dinner Party, No Ovens Required

It's summer! You've got a deck that was made for entertaining, right? But maybe it's so hot that you can't fathom turning on the stove. Maybe you kind of already blew your budget for the week. And maybe you're kind of over your standard BBQ fare. Never fear though, I've got your back. Here's the menu:

Cocktail Hour
New-School French Onion Dip with chips and crudites (from Food52)

First Course
Pan-Roasted Radish and Anchovy Crostini (from Melissa Clark/NYT)

Main Course
Fish Cakes and Tartare-Style Sauce (from BBC Good Food)
Broccoli Slaw (from Smitten Kitchen)
Israeli Couscous

Ice Cream!

The beauty of this menu is that it the work happens either way in advance or right before you serve. Here's how that might shake out:
Prep the onion dip and chop crudites. This can be done in two parts, but caramelizing the onions should happen a few hours before the party starts.
Prep the fish cakes and tartar sauce. The fishcake mix and the sauce can go into the fridge into you're ready to fry.
Prep the broccoli slaw. This can be completed 100% and tossed in the fridge until it's time to eat.

Once the onions have cooled, it takes 5 minutes to prep the dip, but this can be easily waiting for your guests. This is your chance to sit down and enjoy a drink (I like to ask guests to bring a signature cocktail). The first course takes 10-15 minutes to put together, so as the dip bowl is getting empty, excuse yourself to the kitchen (don't forget the bread needs toasting). Once you've served the Crostini, you can comfortably relax with your guests until you're ready to eat the main course (which will take about 20 minutes to plate, so your call). Start the couscous first, then get the oil heating to fry the fishcakes. Depending on how many you made and how big your frying pan is, you may need to do two batches. The couscous should be done just as the fishcakes are done.

Some Recipe Notes
-French Onion Dip - once the onions have cooled, consider chopping them up a bit, otherwise the strings can be a bit unwieldy when it comes to chip dipping
-Crostini - if you only plan to make 8 crostini, consider halving the amount of butter and oil for the sauce, otherwise you'll end up with more then you can manage - the recipe as it is yields about a baguettes worth of sauce, so consider increasing your radish quantities accordingly
-Fish Cakes - we cooked the fish on the grill, which is just to say that I don't think it matters HOW you cook your fish (or if you cook it in milk) -  we used a cookie cutter to shape the cakes to a uniform size, which makes cooking them a lot easier - we use vegetable oil for frying, but you may have a preferred oil, just don't use olive oil as it will be too heavy
-Tartar sauce - consider doubling the recipe, we had 9 fish cakes and really only enough sauce for 6
-Broccoli slaw - as long as your broccoli is bite sized, it doesn't matter how it's chopped - this recipe yields more than you realize, so for four people the recipe as written is plenty
-Israeli couscous - look, you don't need to serve Israeli couscous per say, but I do think it's really important to provide a carb or starch if you're drinking a lot
-Ice Cream - I'd just march everyone to the local ice cream parlour or frozen yogurt-erie, it was a lot of food, so you'll probably need a walk