The perfect party … is there such a thing? Probably not, but like most hostesses, I will still try! Combine a delicious menu with the right number of people and the most relaxed atmosphere and you come pretty close. I actually think if you’re trying to achieve absolute perfection that might get in the way of a good time, however, if your real goal is to be with people you enjoy and you care for them, the other things ultimately will fall into place.
But let’s not fool ourselves, you still gotta have a plan.
On this fall evening l decided to invite a small group of ladies to my house for a low key get-together. Some knew each other well, some not, but all knew of each other. The plan? Appetizers and wine, conversation and French music, candles and flower arranging, then dessert and rosé. I hesitate to say it was perfect, but it was pretty darn close.
I kept it simple and that made it all the more enjoyable.
ON THE MENU
Crostini with flank steak and pesto
Ricotta corncakes with sour cream and salsa
Cheese and meat tray with crackers
Red and white wine
Strawberry cake (provided by Amy Cakes, Norman)
Flowers … and more flowers (provided by Lori Wright at Wright’s Flower Market, Norman)
PARTY PLANNING TIMELINE
The night before:
• Arrange flowers for around the house (this is something I love to do and think it always helps with the atmosphere)
• Organize additional flowers by type and place in glass vases for the guests to cut for their small take-home flower arrangement
Make the pesto
¼ c pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
1 c fresh spinach
1 c fresh basil
½ c fresh parsley
½ t salt
½ c olive oil
¾ c freshly grated parmesan cheese
3 T butter
• Roast pine nuts for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Watch carefully to prevent burning. In a food processor with steel blade, puree nuts, garlic, spinach, basil, parsley and salt. Add olive oil and blend. Add cheese and butter and pulse briefly. Do not overblend. Refrigerate.
MORNING OF THE PARTY:
Pick up the cake
Marinate flank steak
½ c soy sauce
¼ t garlic powder
2 T brown sugar
2 T lemon juice
2 T salad oil
1 T minced onion
¼ t pepper
• Whisk all ingredients together, pour over flank steak, cover and refrigerate
THREE HOURS BEFORE PARTY TIME:
Grill flank steak then wrap it in foil and put in oven on very low to keep warm
TWO HOURS BEFORE:
Make Ricotta Corncake batter (it needs to stand for 1 hour)
½ c cornmeal
½ c flour
2 c ricotta cheese
1 c finely chopped green onions
2 T sugar
1 ½ t salt
½ t pepper
2 c frozen corn kernels, thawed
3 large eggs
• Combine flour and cornmeal in small bowl. Mix cheese, onions, sugar, salt and pepper in large bowl. Combine corn and eggs in food processor, blend to coarse puree. Stir puree into cheese mixture, then add in flour/cornmeal mixture. Important: let stand one hour.
NINETY MINUTES BEFORE:
• Cut baguette into thin slices. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place the baguette slices on a baking sheet and brush both sides of the bread with the oil. Bake until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes per side.
• Get yourself ready (of course this is important, and if you need more time factor it in)
THIRTY MINUTES BEFORE:
Fry corncakes (wear an apron as the oil can splatter!)
• Heat ½ c vegetable oil in large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Drop 1 T batter for each corncake. Brown on both sides and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
• Note: These can be made ahead: just fry, cover and refrigerate, then place cakes in a single layer on a baking sheet and warm at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.
• Plate the food, light candles and the fireplace, put on music and pour yourself a glass of wine!
The best thing you can do when hosting a party is to relax. If you are enjoying the time, your guests will as well. Eat in a living room or around the house somewhere else to keep up the relaxed atmosphere. After a while, gather at the dining room table where the flower arranging can begin. I provided small vases and a pair of floral shears for each guest, and we clipped blooms and worked on the arrangements together. In the end, each one was unique and beautiful and made the perfect take-home party favor. After the flower arranging session we returned to the fireside for dessert and rosé and the music changed to a little more of the upbeat type, but exactly what it was is a secret that must be kept. At the end of the evening the conversation turned to when we were all going to do this again. I’m taking that as a confirmation of a successful party and definitely one that I plan on duplicating!