Now that Food52's Editorial Assistant Brette Warshaw has stocked her First Kitchen, she's ready to throw parties in it: no-stress weeknight parties for anyone, anytime, and (almost) every kitchen. You're invited.
Today: A game plan for a Tiki party -- on a Wednesday in February.
How do you get a group of work-worn, dark-eye-circled, backpacked-and-hunched-over people over to your apartment on a bitter, cold Wednesday night?
You could tell them, with a wink, to wear flip flops and sunglasses. (That didn't work -- there was a MILFs and pool boys party around the corner last week. I'm still in college.) You could tell them that they'll be eating with their hands. (But to be honest, they'd do that home alone anyway.)
Or you can tell them you'll feed them piña coladas and pineapple upside-down cake. They'll come running.
Buoyed by sugar and alcohol, the middle-of-February Tiki Party was on.
The night before: Pineapple time. I sliced the pineapple for the piña coladas. I made Mom's Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, which freed up my oven for the party. And I was able to scrub my kitchen free of sticky pineapple juice well before I expected company.
As soon as I got home from class: Instead of cooking one whole, big, takes-an-hour-to-cook fish, I decided to serve one small fish per guest. This would shorten my cooking time -- to around 25 minutes! -- and would make the party feel more refined, more personal. Some rubbing, some mandoline-ing, and the fish were ready for their packets; I stuck them all, sealed and ready, in the fridge.
Next: To go with the fish, I cleaned some baby potatoes. These would be boiled and dressed with parsley, garlic, cider vinegar, olive oil, salt, and lots of black pepper.
A half hour before my guests arrived: Onto the water chestnuts. I readied a batch -- "readying" equaling painting bacon with mustard and brown sugar and rolling water chestnuts in it -- and put them on a baking sheet.
Fifteen minutes before my guests arrived: Water chestnuts in the oven. Bacon smell everywhere.
Party time: Water chestnuts, out of the oven. See your friends' eyes grow wide, see them grab, see them fight -- and then force them to make a new batch for themselves. Turn on the blender; serve them piña coladas.
While your friends are bacon-wrapping and chutney-dipping: Focus on the main event. Throw the fish in the oven once your last batch of water chestnuts are out. According to Mark Bittman, they'll be ready eight minutes after they start sizzling; hang out by your oven with a piña colada and your ears peeled.
Once the fish are in: Boil your potatoes. Ready your dressing.
Five minutes into the fish-sizzle: Seat your guests at the table. Dump the potatoes into a bowl; toss them with your garlic, parsley, vinegar, and olive oil. Pull your packets out of the oven, and put one in front of each guest. No silverware allowed.
When the bones are picked clean, and everyone is beachy and sticky and happy, whip out the pineapple upside-down cake and some vanilla ice cream. And embrace the fact that you just threw a weeknight party -- and you have one bowl to clean.
Looking for another tropical, tiki, middle-of-winter recipe? Lime n' the Coconut Cheesecakes are the answer.