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Easy Entertaining: a Tip + a Party Trick

May 17, 2011

by Elizabeth & Emily

We  never take the term “party planning” lightly around these parts.  Clearly.  With Elizabeth in charge of the menu, you can imagine that the Ranch Bachelorette Bash à la Mason, Texas was nothing short of gourmet!  After long car trips and a day at the pool, you can imagine that we all worked up quite an appetite!

Waiting in fat kid anticipation for Pear, Arugula, and Taleggio pizza (topped with truffle oil, hello), we happily munched on Baked Brie, Sun Dried Tomato Walnut Pesto, Herbed Ricotta, and can’tstopeatingtheselittlewonders Parmesan and Thyme Crackers (recipe below).  Pretty fancy, right?  So how did we pull this off when getting to the nearest Central Market involved hanging a right at the fork, following the dirt road for 3.8 miles, and turning left at the white bridge to get to the main road before driving 90 miles back to Austin?  Simple!  Divide and Conquer.

Tip: Divide and Conquer

Aren’t girlfriends the best?  Especially when they lighten up your party planning load?  When a friend offers to contribute to a group dinner, there is certainly nothing wrong with accepting!  While “light bites” may be simple to make one at a time, they are often a time consuming venture, especially when you are also preparing an entire meal.  Enlist support from your friends, divide up responsibility (whether that be shopping, prep, or executing the actual recipe), and conquer that menu!  Lots of cooking tasks can be done by anyone, even those with little experience in the kitchen. Plus, everyone likes to congregate in the kitchen regardless, so you might as well put your guests to a little work! The result – a fabulous and tasty menu – will be worth the up-front organization. 

For our menu, pictured above, we divided tasks like this:

Champagne Cocktails – prepared by Morgan

Sun Dried Tomato Pesto and Herbed Ricotta – made in advance by Liz and brought to the Ranch

Baked Brie – put together by Elizabeth V.

Parmesan Thyme Crackers – made in advance by Emily and brought to the Ranch

Melon with Prosciutto – prepared by Liz, but super easy since it really only involves cutting up a melon.

Pizzas – Liz rolled them out and prepared toppings. Casey assembled the pepperoni pizzas, Liz assembled pear pizzas, and Emily dressed the pear pizzas with truffle oil and arugula post cooking.

Everyone else helped with setting the table, getting out crackers and serving pieces, and cutting up pizzas. Dinner for 8 made easy!

When Elizabeth described the menu to me, these crackers immediately came to mind since they are delicious enough to stand on their own, but also subtle enough in flavor to work as a vehicle for other light bite goodness.  They are certainly a new party trick for my entertaining repertoire!

Parmesan & Thyme Crackers
Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics

¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1¼ cups all-purpose flour

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter for 1 minute. With the mixer on low speed, add the Parmesan, thyme, salt, and pepper and combine. With the mixer still on low, add the flour and combine until the mixture is in large crumbles, about 1 minute. If the dough is too dry, add 1 teaspoon water.

Dump the dough onto a floured board, press it into a ball, and roll into a 9-inch log. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or for up to 4 days. Rather than shaping into a log, you can alternatively roll your dough out and use cookie cutters to make shaped crackers like I did.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350˙ and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the log into 3/8-inch-thick rounds with a small, sharp knife and place them on the baking sheet. Bake for 22 minutes, rotating the pan 180 degrees halfway through baking, until very lightly browned. Cool and serve at room temperature.

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