You guys, dinner parties are the shit. You eat, you drink, you talk, you blast music, you bother the neighbours, you stay up too late, you meet new people, you reconnect with old friends. You build bonds that are not easily forged out in the public sphere. With the onset of holiday season, there are innumerable opportunities to socialize with your fellow man and woman. It’s a great time of year to commemorate, celebrate and inebriate. But why leave it up to someone else to decide how and when to party? You’ve got taste, you’ve got style. (Or maybe you don’t. Just fake it till you make it.) All it takes is a bit of planning, a bit of thought, a bit of bossing up. So let’s put our big boy pants on, grab the bull by the horns and host a dinner party, shall we?
First of all, you gotta set this thing up at least a week in advance. Planning ahead, a tough concept, right? Everyone’s schedules are just as hectic as yours, so don’t start telling me how superbusy you are. Just send out the invite and get your guests locked in: some close friends and new acquaintances, plus a few people you don’t even know. Go for an assortment of couples and singles, plus an oddball or two in the mix. Eight to twelve folks is a good size to deal with. You’ll want some great music, too. Think jazz, dub, afrobeat, rare instrumentals, reggae, blues, etc. Nothing too hip or of the moment – stick to the classics. And yeah, buy some candles and clean your house, for heaven sakes.
As for the meal, you want it large and in charge. At least a week ahead, ring up your butcher and introduce yourself (they will think they should know you, which they damn well should). Ask them for a whole beef tenderloin to be picked up on the day of your party. A little bit of human interaction goes a long way when it comes to getting your hands on the best shit. Tenderloin is the centerpiece of our meal simply because it is one of the most lavish cuts of beef known to humanity. It’s not cheap by any measure, but since when is cheap the right move when it comes to hosting people at your home? It’s also easy as hell to prepare.
Saturdays work best for this kind of party. On the morning of – make sure you get a good sleep, you need to be on your game today – get up, get some high test coffee into your system and hop into your whip. Put those windows down, turn up some rap. It’s a beautiful day. Or maybe it’s disgusting out, how am I supposed to know? Cruise over to your butcher and walk in like you own the place. When they bag up the order, don’t let them portion it for you, you’re roasting it whole. Get some bacon while you’re at it. Lay out your cash and bounce.
Next up: the grocer. Go someplace where they have good produce. We’re cooking some simple stuff here, so the ingredients have to be top notch. This time, I went with the following items because they were fresh and seasonal in my corner of the world:
- Yukon gold potatoes
- Heirloom carrots
- Winter squash (didn’t end up cooking it, long story)
- Chives, rosemary
- Butter, cream, sour cream, prepared horseradish
If you wanna go to some highfalutin farmers market, be my guest. I didn’t have the time. Now that you have all your ingredients, it’s time to go eat some ramen. How else are you going to sustain yourself? Cooking hungry is a death wish. Stop by the liquor store on your way home and stock up on some luxurious red wines, beer and whatever else you desire. It should be about 3 o’clock by this point, high time to start prepping for your party. When you get home, immediately put on some OG Detroit techno and pour yourself a drink. I don’t know about you guys, but hanging out in the kitchen, doing prep work and listening to music on blast is the best part for me.
Start your cooking operation by washing all your produce. We’re going to simply roast the veg at 350 degrees. Do some basic trimming, peeling and chopping, but don’t go too crazy. This is rustic stuff. Toss everything in a light coating of olive oil, arrange on a baking sheet and generously season with salt and pepper. The carrots, parsnips and squash take the longest so do those first (20-30 minutes). Throw in some rosemary sprigs for aroma and good juju. Wrap a full head of garlic in aluminum foil and place in the oven with the veg.
While that’s going, put a big stockpot of heavily salted water on to boil for the potatoes. Cut your potatoes into uniform sizes (~2” cubes) and boil them for about 15 minutes. Take one of the cubes out and eat it. Is it soft enough? If all is well, take the water off the boil and leave as is. Pour yourself another drink, do a few dishes. Make a super simple horseradish sour cream sauce to go with the beef (2 parts sour cream to 1 part prepared horseradish, juice of half a lemon and some diced chives stirred up in a bowl). As you get closer to showtime, you can go ahead and roast off the zucchini, broccolini and Brussels sprouts in a similar fashion to the first round, about 10 or 12 minutes.
When your guests arrive, take your beef tenderloin out of the fridge, unwrap and place on a baking sheet. Think about it like opening a bottle of wine: let it breathe, be patient. When you’re almost ready to start cooking it, take some paper towels and pat the meat dry. This is important because you don’t want any moisture getting in the way of achieving a nice crust on the beef. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Did I mention we’re not messing around here? Take some olive oil and apply liberally to the beef using your hands. Have you ever been lucky enough to apply sunscreen to a beautiful woman? Same idea. Once the loin is oiled up, shower it in salt and fresh cracked pepper on all sides, rubbing it into the flesh. Guess what? It’s ready to cook. Do a lap of the room and make sure your guests are drinking and conversing. Introduce people, tell them you’re glad they came.
When dinnertime is imminent, slide that bad boy into the oven and shut the door. You’ll want to keep your eye on it, but be sure to roast it for about 18-20 minutes. While its cooking, add a half cup of butter, the roasted garlic and a pint of cream (or more) to your potatoes and mash them up so they are ready to go. After your timer goes off, pull the loin out and stick an instant read thermometer into the thickest part of the meat. You want it to be 135 degrees fahrenheit, which means the middle is rare / medium rare and the ends are medium (i.e., something for everyone). If it’s not there, put it back into the oven. When you’re happy with it, place it on the counter with a tent of aluminum foil over top and let it rest for about 10 minutes before carving. Again, the resting is extremely important. Put the whole thing on a wood cutting board, garnish with some parsley or whatever herbs you have on hand and place it at the center of the table. This is your crowning achievement of the evening.
This moment is why you’ve been working all day. Raise your glass, thank your guests for coming and slice the beef into medallions using a sharp knife (preferably with an ornate, bone handle). This is all part of the presentation, and part of the badassery. Put all the sides in bowls and platters on the table, family style. Serve your guests when you can, or let them serve themselves. Make sure the music is going, the drinks are pouring, friendships are being forged. Most of all, put some thought and pride into the whole thing – make it special! Your friends and family are worth it.