To make a party stress free, get rid of the idea that you have to make everything from scratch. Who has time for that? Pick a couple of signature dishes to make, and pick up the rest at local markets. If I’m throwing a weeknight soiree, for example, I probably don’t have time to bake. But I can pick up mini cupcakes at Kittie’s Cakes in German Village and still look like a hero. A big bowl of cheddar or caramel corn from Pam’s Popcorn and some store-bought chips and guacamole, and I’m ready to go.
For homemade dishes, pick a selection of make-ahead and last minute foods. I can throw a pot of slow-cooker meatballs on in the morning, and they’re ready at party time with no additional work (I don’t really use a recipe, just frozen meatballs mixed with a combo of ketchup, apple cider vinegar, soy sauce and brown sugar). For a last minute dish, roasted shrimp has always been my go to. Throw the shrimp in the oven when your guests start to arrive, and they’ll be ready in less than 10 minutes. Best of all, they’re just as good at room temperature as hot. But don’t forget food safety: Perishable food shouldn’t sit out longer than 2 hours.
Finally, tackling the clean-up of a party can be the difference between a touchdown and a penalty. Who wants a big mess to clean up after everyone leaves? Make sure your dishwasher is empty before guests arrive. I’ll even run it if it’s partially full just to make sure I have its full capacity for party dishes. Then just put the plates and glasses in as people are done with them.
Another trick: Use your garbage disposal. It’s quite possibly the most under-utilized appliance in the home. New generations of garbage disposals are quiet and efficient. And using them means you don’t have to empty the trash as much plus you’re not left with smelly garbage before the trash collector comes.
Here’s my recipe for Roasted Shrimp, but like most of my recipes, it’s just a jumping off point. Vary the seasoning to fit your tastes.
ROASTED ORANGE-GARLIC SHRIMP
Makes 6 appetizer servings
1 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined with tails left on
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Arrange shrimp in a single layer on a baking sheet.
Grate the zest from an orange onto a cutting board. Place the garlic on the board and minced with the zest using a sharp knife. Scrape mixture into a small bowl.
Cut the orange in half. Squeeze half of the orange into bowl with the garlic mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in olive oil.
Pour orange mixture over shrimp. Toss to coat.
Roast until shrimp turn pink and are opaque, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove shrimp from oven. Squeeze remaining orange over. Transfer shrimp to a platter and serve.