There are so many things to look forward to as we get closer to a time in which people will be able to congregate together again. In fact, depending on where you live, that time may be coming sooner than you think! A lot of people are passing these days in part with anticipation, planning some kind of celebration for when their quarantine ends.
A celebration can take many forms, of course. But for a lot of people, it will probably come in the form of a dinner party. With as much time as you’ve probably spent away from your loved ones, you’ll want your party to go as smoothly as possible — and you’ll want it to be as impressive as possible. After all, this isn’t just any old dinner party.
There are some things you’ll want to make sure of before you begin arranging your party. Although knowing what kind of food to cook for a dinner party is obviously the key part of the event, there are other factors to consider as well. The number of people you’ll want to invite will definitely need to be taken into consideration, as it will guide the type of decor you choose. While some dinner parties are small and can simply be held indoors, a bigger celebration may need to be relocated outside. Furthermore, these gatherings might require certain additions, like table and chair rentals.
The bigger the party, the bigger the mess, of course. Before throwing a grand dinner party, you’ll want to make sure that all your kitchen appliances are in proper working condition. If you’ve been putting off a new dishwasher installation, for example, you need to have that taken care of before sending out the invites! The amount of preparation and cleanup that goes into a dinner party is one reason why a lot of hosts choose to hire help ahead of time. This could include hiring a cleaning crew to help take care of the mess afterward or perhaps hiring a catering company or restaurant that will have the food ready. Remember that the average American kitchen just has 25 square feet of counter space. Certainly, a larger dinner party will probably not be something that you can handle entirely on your own.
Nonetheless, as mentioned earlier, the food is the most important part. With that being said, let’s look into some ideas of what food to cook for a dinner party.
1. Hawaiian Food
While Hawaiian food might not immediately come to mind as a dinner party selection the way certain more classic cuisines would, it’s still a great option for people who want to host a party under the stars. It’s an option with a bit of tropical flair but that will still be accessible for picky eaters.
A Hawaiian menu comes with an automatic theme. When serving this particular option, what can you do but offer a backyard Hawaiian luau? A luau is perfect for hot weather, and you can decorate with bright colors, tiki torches, and tons of bright floral arrangements. Your guests will have an easy dress code to follow as well: perhaps some Hawaiian shirts for men and grass skirts for women. And of course, you’ll want to offer everyone a flowered lei upon arrival.
Of course, if you’re not familiar with Hawaiian menus, you might be wondering what it offers when it comes to food to cook for a dinner party. The most famous luau meal is, of course, the kalua pig. Now, a traditional kalua pig isn’t necessarily something that most of us can make casually. Its preparation involves digging a pit in the backyard in order to roast the pig whole; while some might be amazed by the sight of the roast pig, others could be turned off by it. With that being said, if you like the idea of a traditional kalua pig, it can potentially be prepared by a restaurant depending on where you live — but it won’t come cheap. An easier, more palatable, and certainly less expensive option would be simple roast pork, which you can prepare or have prepared with Hawaiian spices in order to evoke the flavors of a kalua pig.
If pork is entirely off the menu, you can also look to other main courses as well as sides, like grilled fish salad, Lomi Lomi salmon, Aloha sweet potatoes, or Chicken Long Rice soup. Poke, marinated raw fish served over rice or seaweed, is another Hawaiian classic that has recently been gaining popularity in the U.S. and would be an amazing feature of your party.
Of course, you would definitely want to kick the party off with a Polynesian pupu platter, which would usually be served with classic appetizers like Rumaki. This would usually be made up of marinated chicken livers with bacon and water chestnuts. More modern cooks have often substituted in white meat for the chicken livers, creating a flavorful appetizer. Ono ribs and Shrimp Ono Nui are also popular mainstays of a pupu platter. Those who have outdoor kitchens are well-suited for a luau, as many of the foods served in Hawaii were meant to be made outdoors.
Savory foods aren’t the only draws of a Hawaiian menu. After all, when looking into food to cook for a dinner party, you can’t forget drinks and desserts! Hawaiian cocktails are always crowd-pleasers, so serve up some Mai Tais and Blue Hawaiians. For dessert, the big features should be coconut and pineapple. You can either serve them up sliced and sweetened in a simple display, or perhaps offer coconut cake or pineapple butterscotch squares. Either way, Hawaiian foods give you options!
2. Italian Food
Returning to something a bit more classic, you really can’t go wrong with serving traditional Italian foods at a dinner party. Most Americans have grown eating some kinds of Italian “transplant” recipes, though many aren’t that authentic. By bringing back more traditional recipes for your dinner party, you’ll be offering your guests something familiar and new at the same time. For that matter, Italy is much more culturally diverse than a lot of Americans realize, with the country being broken up into multiple regions that serve a variety of different foods. Therefore, you really won’t run out of ideas for food to cook for a dinner party when perusing Italian menus.
Italian meals are usually meant to be multi-course, which makes it easier to organize a dinner party menu. You’ll begin with an antipasti, which offers appetizers that are fairly simple. Think cured meats and cheeses or perhaps the classic bruschetta, which would feature garlic-toasted bread topped with tomato, basil, and mozzarella. Fried baby artichoke hearts could also be optional if you’d like to add more to the menu. Following this would be the “primi” course, which would usually be pasta. Most of us have had Italian pasta at one point or the other, and primi pastas usually aren’t that heavy — as more is to come! Cacio and pepe is easy to make, but if you’d like something a little more complex think of bucatini all’Amatriciana, which would usually include a spicy sauce that features pork cheek meat. The next course would be the secondi, a meat or fish, followed by the contorni, a side that’s usually a straightforward vegetable dish. Veal scallopini is a popular red meat dish among Italians and features a tasty lemon sauce. If you’re thinking of chicken, pollo e peperoni doesn’t feature what we think of when you say “pepperoni;” rather, it’s chicken served with tomatoes and red peppers (and it’s delicious!). Remember that if you’re serving meat, you’ll accompany it with red wine, while fish will be accompanied by white wine. After all, when planning Italian food to cook for a dinner party, you can’t forget the wine!
Italians don’t overindulge when it comes to desserts, so the “dolci” course normally isn’t heavy. You could serve biscotti, but these shortbread-like cookies are usually meant for breakfast — even though Americans eat them at any point in the day. Crostata is quite popular. It’s actually a pie, with a shortbread-like crust similar to the makeup of biscotti, and a jam-like filling. Tiramisu is also hugely popular, as the dessert can also be infused with alcohol. Speaking of, no Italian meal is complete without a digestivo after dessert. This could be coffee or could come in the form of grappa or limoncello. It’s up to you! The great thing about serving Italian food is that you probably can choose from a number of local restaurants to consult with for your menu. Will it offer a particularly surprising menu? Maybe not, but there’s a reason why everyone keeps returning to Italian food!
3. Japanese Food
In a lot of ways, Japanese food is the opposite of Italian food. But when you’re seeking food to cook for a dinner party that is both flavorful and visually pleasing, you should look no further than Japanese food! A lot of Japanese meals are meant to fresh and served as quickly as possible, which is why you’ll probably want to work with professional caterers or a restaurant. Furthermore, it often has a specific preparation style that can’t easily be replicated in large quantities at home. However, Japanese meals are very much worth the extra effort.
Perhaps one of the most iconic types of Japanese food is, of course, sushi. But at the same time, sushi doesn’t always come to mind when people try to think of food to cook for a dinner party. This could simply be because it isn’t actually cooked! When serving raw fish, you need to be extremely careful. This is why a lot of Japanese restaurants and caterers have taken to offer sushi bars for dinner parties. At a sushi bar, the food can be served right therefore and made fresh for the guests, while at the same time maintaining the integrity of the fish. Sushi comes in a variety of different forms. It can feature a number of different types of fish, as well as shrimp and crab, though salmon and tuna remain some of the most popular types of sushi-grade fish. Vegetarian sushi is also available and sushi can actually be made without any raw fish at all. Cooked components are a popular option for certain kinds of sushi.
Sushi isn’t the only type of Japanese food that can be made fresh at a dinner party. And if seafood isn’t really your style, you don’t have to stick to meals that source their ingredients from the fish market. You can also have a hibachi station set up at your party, with chefs showing off their skills and making your guests fresh hibachi-style meals. You may also want to consider offer miso soup to get your guests warmed up, as well as soba noodles or gyoza dumplings. Perhaps one of the most deceptively simple Japanese meals is ramen. Ramen can be made with or without meat and is quite filling. It’s also much more complex than a lot of Americans think. Serve traditional ramen at your dinner party and your guests will never be able to have the instant ramen again!
Clearly, you’ll have to put some thought into choosing food to cook for a dinner party. But it goes beyond just selecting the style of meal you’re thinking of. You also have to check in with your guests and accommodate their dietary restrictions if you’re thinking of throwing a large dinner party. A guest won’t have any fun if they can’t eat anything at your dinner party due to a food allergy. Similarly, you should check to see if your guests are vegan or vegetarian, or perhaps have cut gluten out of their diets.
When choosing the type of food to cook for a dinner party, you’ll obviously want to please a lot of people. Yet, you should also keep in mind that it’s ultimately your party. Make sure that you’re also pleasing your own palate and making a menu that you’re comfortable with. Chances are that if you love your menu, everyone else will love it as well.
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