When you’re planning a main course for a dinner party, you have to be deliberate. A multi-course meal can be a delightfully indulgent experience for your party guests, but it is a culinary minefield. There’s nothing worse than a failed dinner party. For the inexperienced home chef, a dinner party can be a veritable comedy of errors, mistakes compounding one another until the exhausted host collapses while scraping the charred remains of the cake he forgot in the oven out of its pan.
Or hopefully not. In this article, we’ll talk to you about the most important part of your dinner party: the main course. Whether you choose a roast, a seafood dish, or an exotic Asian treat, your main course is sure to be a rewarding experience for all of your guests.
Common mistakes when planning the main course
One thing that many main course planners forget to do is to plan appropriately. The best way to do this is by first assembling all the information you can get. This means contacting your guests ahead of time to find out about allergies and other dietary restrictions that might be present at your dinner party. Nothing ruins a formal event like needing to break out the epi-pen!
Though depending on the company you keep, it may be impossible to accommodate everyone’s needs, it definitely pays to be thoughtful—and your guests will appreciate it. Depending on your guests, requirements for the meal can change each time, but a good rule of thumb is that having a vegetarian option is a good bet. People are usually very understanding, but depending on where you live, your Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu guests might also have dietary restrictions that are important to know about.
Another mistake dinner party newbies make is not focusing on things that can be prepared ahead of time. Trying to cook everything all at once, all while trying to entertain your guests and make sure everyone is comfortable can really be a hosting nightmare. Though this might mainly apply to first courses, preparing the main course ahead of time is a trick that can really pan out. Many stews and other slow-cooked dishes actually benefit from being cooked the day before and reheated, as the overnight time in the fridge seems to work to allow the flavors to mix and blend and equalize together into something that tastes much more put together than a dish coming out fresh off the stove.
Easy, but special - how to choose the right main course
The main course, as the centerpiece of the meal, has a lot riding on it. So it’s important to be strategic. Here, you want something that everyone can enjoy, that is impressive to your guests, and most importantly—that is delicious to eat. Definitely, don’t forget about that one.
Choosing an unusual or uncommon food item is a great way to add interest to your meal. Lots of people eat chicken every day, but how often do they sit down to a juicy plate of duck confit with shallots? Additionally, this confit duck is easily prepared ahead of time, saving you precious time to juggle appetizers or otherwise entertain your guests.
Another eye-catching ingredient is unusual seafood. Scallops are always a crowd pleaser, treading that crucial line between exotic and recognizable, and with great options for impressive presentation. This simple seared scallops with tomato sauce recipe is a tried and true crowd pleaser—and quick to boot.
Another tried-and-true way to impress dinner guests is to cook an unusual recipe from a faraway land—in this case, China. This easy vegetarian stir fry is a great way to impress the plant eaters among your guests while enjoying the bounty of spring—fresh, crisp vegetables combine in a stir fry to create a spring medley of flavors.
For another easy but exotic dish, look to South America. Brazilians have been cooking Moqueca de Camarao forever, and now it’s your turn. This delicious Brazilian shrimp and fish stew, spiced with chili and garlic and drenched in a piquant tomato sauce, is truly the epitome of fine South American dining. It’s strong, punchy flavors are sure to impress. Pair it with a robust red wine for even better results.
Maybe dinner parties aren’t so scary
With these recipes and tips under your belt, your next dinner party is bound to be a breeze. Even if you’re not planning a dinner and just looking for some good tips and inspiration for your next main course, it should be a much less intimidating prospect.
It’s important to consider the dietary needs of your guests when planning your main course, and indeed all other courses. Aside from that, it’s advisable to choose a meal that can be at least partially prepared ahead of time, and indeed some dishes are even better a day later. Another thing to consider is the power of exotic and uncommon ingredients to add a spark to your party. Finally, you need to make sure it tastes good! Enjoy the recipes and get cooking!