Tis the season for holiday get-togethers, dinner parties and all manner of entertaining. For some, this marks the most wonderful time of the year. For others, it causes nothing but stress and anxiety. For those of you who fall into the latter category I want to chat with you for a minute.
I get that entertaining can be stressful. Even if you’re someone who loves a dinner party, planning and executing all of the details for a party can be overwhelming. If that’s you, might I suggest looking at the whole idea of “entertaining” in a new light? What if it was less about putting on a song-and-dance for your guests and more about sharing some quality times with people you enjoy? What if throwing a holiday party was less about spending hours in the kitchen and more about celebrating the end of one year and the beginning of the next?
If you like that idea, here’s how I suggest throwing a no-stress dinner party that that will be fun, tasty and memorable.
- Keep the guest list small. Eight people is perfect. Ten is the max. This enables you to actually talk to all of your guests at the dinner table. I don’t like parties where I find myself sitting on my couch after everyone went home realizing I didn’t even talk to half the guests. Keeping the numbers small also keeps the cooking easy.
- Speaking of cooking, just because you want an easy party doesn’t mean the food has to suffer. I love doing a one-pot meal for dinner parties. This One-Pot Chicken Dinner with Potatoes, Artichokes and Olives is always a hit. It’s just the right balance of rich and bright flavors. Best of all, it comes together in one big pot with about 30 minutes of hands-on time and then simmers away while you can get the rest of the meal together. For which I suggest a big salad and a loaf of bread served with good butter and cheese.
- Ask your guests to help. Ask some to bring the wine. Ask others to bring their favorite dessert (I like to suggest pints of really good ice cream from my favorite local shop.) Making the meal a team effort can decrease your stress and is just another way to bring everyone together.
- Keep the table casual. Dinner plates, forks and knives piled at one end of the table. Fabric napkins in a stack. Instead of flowers, I like a pile of seasonal citrus this time of year on the table.
- Set up a self-serve beverage area with all-purpose glasses, some bottles of bubbly water, and maybe a pitcher of this cocktail that you’ve made ahead. Your guests can add their wine and everyone can help themselves.
- Get snacks from the store to start the meal off. A platter of manchego cheese, pitted dates, prosciutto and marcona almonds is almost always the right way to start a meal.
And remember to breathe. It’s just dinner. With people who love you. The best way to set a fun and joyful tone to a party is to be having fun yourself. I hope this easy recipe will help you on your way to a fun and stress-free party!
- 1 tablespoon olive oil or coconut oil
- 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, patted dry
- salt and pepper
- 1 bulb fennel bulb, sliced 1/2-inch thick
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup white wine
- 12 small boiling potatoes (or fingerlings or red potatoes), halved
- 15 oz jar artichoke hearts, quartered (long-stemmed if you can find them)
- 1 cup pitted olives (I like a mix of the buttery Castelvetranos and the tart Nicoise -- but any will do)
- 1 lemon
- 1 cup chicken stock
- chopped parsley, to finish
- Place large, wide Dutch oven pot over medium-high heat.
- Add the oil. Swirl around the pan.
- Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.
- Add chicken to the pan. Allow to brown on one side (this is best done by allowing the chicken to sit in one place, undisturbed, for about 5 minutes). Turn and allow the other side to brown.
- Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside in a bowl.
- Increase the heat to high.
- Add the sliced fennel. Cook for 3-5 minutes until it starts to soften.
- Add the garlic. Cook for 1 minute until fragrant.
- Add the wine and allow to boil, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Boil for 5 minutes, until reduced by half.
- Add the chicken back to the pan.
- Nestle with potatoes, artichoke hearts and olives around and over the chicken.
- Slice HALF of the lemon into thin slices. Add the slices to the pan.
- Squeeze the juice of the other half of the lemon onto the top of the chicken.
- Add the chicken stock.
- Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low. Cover and cook gently for 40 minutes.
- Taste the pan juices and adjust with a bit of salt and pepper as needed.
- Top with parsley just before serving.
- FOR PITTING OLIVES: Place the olive on a cutting board and use the palm of your hand to tap the side of a chef's knife down onto the olive, smashing the flesh and exposing the pit. Pull out the pit and discard.