I really like to invite people to eat, but I never manage to get in shape or choose my menus with enough intelligence not to get stuck in the kitchen most of the night. This is probably one of the reasons the potlucks were invented to ease the burden of the unfortunate guest. Another solution: put your friends to work in your kitchen!
I mean that in the best way, of course. I do not expect you to give them a knife and say "chop" or "clean these dishes" (although if it works for you and your friends, can I be your friend too?). No, I want you to let your friends participate in the customization of their meal. Not only does this relieve some of the responsibility, but it also allows you to adapt different diets and tastes. Plus, it's fun, friendly and serves as an icebreaker or group activity that will not let anyone feel left out.
Here are some ideas from our archive that you can use as a basis for your next diner (or breakfast, lunch or brunch):
Tacos This is one of the easiest DIY ways, as there is no cooking to do after everyone has a meal. For vegetarians, you can not do much better than these smoked and spicy lentil tacos. For meat eaters, think of pulled pork in the form of Pernil Asado or grated chicken, which can even use a store-bought roasting bird. As for toppings, choose a mix of different flavors and textures. Try to include something creamy (sour cream), something crisp (jicama spears, pickled onions), something delicate (salsa – green, red or both), something spicy ( also salsa, marinated jalapeños), something cheese (queso fresco, any shredded variety you like) and something fresh (coriander, lettuce). And there is no police tortillas here: take corn or flour, or both. Whatever your preference.
Pizza. This is perhaps the first thing you thought about when I talked about a DIY. The words "pizza" and "party" go together. It's certainly a great way to go, but it can be a little more difficult logistically, especially if you can only bake one pizza at a time. So be sure to have plenty of other nibbling to reassure people or offer a creative way to make the waiting work work. As long as the public is at the rendezvous and each person only eats their own pizza, try a little competition in the manner of an Iron Chef. Give each guest a chance to make a pie, then let the group sample and crown a winner. Try our recipe for the easiest pizza you'll make, which is aptly named. You probably will not need my help to prepare some toppings, but I'm still in favor of including less expected cheeses (Brie, Gorgonzola, Jack Pepper) with the usual suspects (mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano, goat). Collect meat (pepperoni, prosciutto, sausage), vegetables (onions, mushrooms, peppers), green vegetables (arugula, basil) and exciting additions (hot honey, banana peppers). Completed.
Omelets. The omelet station was one of the most popular places in the dining room of my college. Go to the hotel's buffet breakfast and you will probably witness the same phenomenon. This strategy works best with a small crowd, unless you want to get stuck in front of the stove for a long time. But if you can get two skills simultaneously and / or recruit a willing kitchen partner, bring it along. Start with a basic recipe – this Corn and smoked mozzarella omelette is a good way to play. Put a diced array of vegetables, herbs, cheeses and meats. A green salad will complete the meal and give your guests something to eat while cooking eggs (a basket of muffins is always popular).
Chili. This one requires a little more work in advance, but still allows a lot of customization. I like the idea of Cathy Barrow, a collaborator of the Food section. Everyone is in Chile because chili alone is vegan and gluten free. The meatballs that accompany them can be added by anyone who wants them. Spread a variety of other fillings, including coriander, chopped green onions, sour cream, marinated or sliced jalapeños and hot sauce. Something crisp would also be welcome, including tortilla chips or even fritos. Crunchy bread to soak could also work.
Waffles. You can start making waffles even before your friends arrive (keep them warm on a rack in a low-temperature oven). These Whole grain buckwheat waffles have been approved by Ellie Krieger, which means they are pretty healthy, which means you can have fun with what you put them on. I'm thinking of fresh fruit, fruit compote, maple syrup, lightly sweet whipped cream, chocolate chips, finely chopped walnuts, muesli and chocolate or caramel sauce if you're feeling very indulgent.
More from Voraciously:
These fluffy and mellow scones are so British
A friendly reminder that you can turn baked potatoes into an excellent dinner
14 essential cooking gifts for those who love to cook