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Food52's Managing Editor Brette Warshaw is throwing no-stress weeknight parties for anyone, anytime, and (almost) every kitchen. You're invited.
Today: Throw the most zen party you could ever imagine -- or throw a hibachi party. When it comes to bánh mì, it's a win-win.
Picture this. You are lying on your couch. You are on your second glass of wine. Maybe you're wrapped in a cashmere blanket; maybe your feet are propped up. There is champagne chilling in a bucket closeby; the smell of caramelized pork dances through the air. Enya is playing softly. You are about to host a tableful of guests, and everything is finished, checked off, ready: the salads in their bowls, the bread sliced, the candles lit, the main course finished. You could lay on this couch all night and the party would unfold effortlessly. You are in control. You are the ultimate host.
Now, picture this. Your guests arrive, and you're pumped up. You have a drink, maybe two. Your heart is racing -- not in panic, but excitement. When it's time for dinner, you usher your guests into the kitchen -- and suddenly, you're a hibachi chef! You're at Beni Hana! You throw the marinated, thinly-sliced pork onto a hot cast iron, and it smokes! It sputters! You throw things! People catch stuff in their mouths! And then, in two minutes or so, it's all over, and you have hot pork to pile into your bánh mì, and everyone is slightly smoky and smells good and you feel like a champ.
With this menu, you can have either. Which one would you choose?
The weekend before your party: Mix up those pickles for your Bánh Mì -- they'll keep for a few days in the fridge.
The night before your party: Make the Spicy Cucumber Salad, and blanch your Chinese broccoli. Whizz together your homemade coconut milk (or don't!).
When you get home from work: Finish up your Chinese Broccoli Salad.
Before your guests arrive: Pretty-up your sandwich fixings: get the pickles and mayonnaise into cute bowls, the lettuce and pâté on a platter. Slice up your baguette. Cook up your pork, clear out the smoke, and leave it in the oven at the lowest setting -- OR...
When you're almost ready to eat dinner: Gather up your friends and head into the kitchen -- it's time for the show! Get that pork on that cast-iron skillet and get smokin' (don't worry -- it only takes 2 minutes for the slices to cook). Toss an errant piece into a bystander's mouth! Build an onion volcano! And then head into the kitchen with your pile of meat, and eat like the civilized people that you are.
When the sandwiches are gone: Being civilized is boring, isn't it? Head back into the kitchen, warm up your coconut milk, and put bananas in it. Let them cook for ten minutes -- and then ladle it all into bowls. Set out bowls with toppings. People will be confused, and then delighted.
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Have a ball (jar).