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The Recipe That Will Save Your Dinner Party

May  5, 2015

In Cooking from Every Angle, we hear from our fearless leaders: Food52 co-founders Amanda & Merrill. 

Today: The back-pocket recipe you'll want on hand always, and especially in case of dinner party emergency. 

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I’ve long been preaching that one can never be too prepared for a dinner party. I write menus and grocery lists; my husband, Tad, makes a seating chart; I even set out all of my serving dishes and label them with sticky notes. Wait, I know what you’re thinking! I’m fun, I swear! And, seriously, there’s a difference between being an uptight host and a prepared host who can let loose once the guests arrive. I let my anxious freak flag fly in advance, and then shut it down when the doorbell rings. 

One of my die-hard strategies has been to serve a main course that can be prepared one or two days before the party and warmed to serve. In the cooler months, short ribs often find their way onto our dinner party menus. I did once have a snafu with short ribs, but thought I’d learned my lesson.

But then for another dinner party more recently, I made Mario Batali’s Beef in Barolo, using short ribs I’d ordered from a new source. The dish smelled delicious but the ribs took forever to soften. I gave them two extra hours, then decided it would be better not to overcook them. So I cooled them in their pot, put it in the fridge, and moved on to the rest of the party prep over the next two days.  

An hour before the party, I reheated the short ribs on the stove. Nervous, I asked Tad to taste them. He tends to like most things I make. “You can’t serve this,” he said bluntly. The beef was like shoe leather; the sauce had cooked down to a bitter concentrate. Tad had roasted potatoes. I had a brief moment of lunacy: Okay, we’re serving roasted potatoes for the main course.  

No, we were not.  

I never cook things last-minute for more than 6 people. We had 10 coming for dinner! Tad smartly exited the room while I gnashed my teeth. This is when it’s okay to open the wine a little early.  

I turned to a dish we often make on the weekends: flank steak with green sauce. Tad ran out to the butcher and picked up steaks while I cobbled together parsley, a few herbs, garlic, capers, and red pepper flakes and blended them up into a bright and tangy sauce. While our guests ate hors d’oeuvres, the steaks sat, seasoned, warming to room temperature. Then I broiled them, and because I’d already failed, I didn’t have any worry about overcooking the steak—how much worse could things get? 

The steak was delicious and our friends used the potatoes to lap up every last bit of green sauce. By force, I got over a dinner party fear, and learned a solid lesson for the future: Always have a back-pocket dish at the ready. Steak with green sauce will be mine for years to come. Not that I ever! Ever! Ever! Plan to mess up short ribs again.

Flank Steak with Green Sauce

Serves 8 to 10

2 1/2 pounds flank steak (might be one or two pieces)
2 cups packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 cup packed basil leaves
1 garlic clove
2 teaspoons capers
2 anchovy filets
Pinch Piment d'Espelette or red pepper flakes
1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
2 lemons, cut into wedges

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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Amanda Hesser

Written by: Amanda Hesser

Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.


robin L. January 11, 2018
Sub suggestion for anchovies, else just omit?
Amanda H. January 11, 2018
Yes, you can just omit.
Margotk February 4, 2016
Actually the short rib recipe that I used was one I make at least 4 times a year and have done so for the past 10 years. It wasn't the recipe - it was that the meat. It never got tender.
Amanda H. February 4, 2016
Hmm -- I really don't know. Were the short ribs covered in liquid for the full cooking time? It could be that the meat was very lean, but even then, they should have gotten tender if cooked long and slow.
Margotk January 31, 2016
I had the same problem with short ribs. It was awful. Any idea why?
Amanda H. February 4, 2016
Hi Margotk, which short ribs recipe are you referring to? Let me know.
DMStenlake January 31, 2016
Slow cooker = 8 hours? Pressure cooker = maybe 40 minutes! And fall off the bone meat! And you can sit back and sip some wine! My husband does the pressure cooking, as my childhood memories include that steam clattering weight and my mother yelling clear the kitchen!! I still stand back!
chris January 31, 2016
I'm still terrified of pressure cookers, courtesy of childhood memories, too. We have a sous vide appliance, which produces the consistently best meat and fish that I cook. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are a revelation. (Still working on the vegetables.)
DMStenlake January 31, 2016
I'm happy to know someone else has those terrifying memories. My much older 80 yr old cousin does too! Had to laugh.
Brenda P. May 26, 2015
I'm jealous that you have so many friends who eat red meat. We eat it all the time, including venison, but so many have stopped that I worry about it being the only protein choice at a party I'm throwing
Barb May 12, 2015
walkie74 May 7, 2015
My backup is fresh ramen in broth, cold or hot depending on the season. Set it out, let people choose their own toppings, and you're good!
Chelsea C. May 5, 2015
Jen B. May 5, 2015
My backup would either be spaghetti and meatballs (always have the ingredients on hand and a crowd pleaser) or my Lemon Roasted Chicken with Garlic and Franconia Potatoes
Two T. May 5, 2015
That short rib snafu with Dan Barber is hilarious (though I'm sure not for you in the moment). Could he actually have said no?! This steak looks delicious. It will be my first foray at it, but it's time!
chris May 5, 2015
Nicely written, very funny. I had the exact same short rib problem with that exact same recipe ... weird, I can't imagine what happened. Flank steak is getting very expensive, it's become too popular! My back-up is also a side of salmon in the freezer, with lemons.
Amanda H. May 5, 2015
Glad to know I'm not alone!
allie May 5, 2015
Amanda - when this happens to me, my backup is a huge piece of salmon roasted simply with some sauce (or some lemons)... reassuring that it happens to everyone.
Amanda H. May 5, 2015
That sounds great!