We partnered with Miele to show you how to plan and execute a Genius night in for six to eight friends. Follow along as we prepare a three-course menu on a Miele range and share tips for perfect ambiance. Here's to an evening that's a little less kitchen-heavy and a little more wine-and-dine.
Today: Start with appetizers, the guest list, lighting, and music.
Arriving at a dinner party that’s well-planned, buzzy, and casual all at once should feel warm. There should be a little something finishing up on the stove and some glasses of wine immediately available—and there should be the feeling that a host is never not mingling, even when the kitchen is a football field away from the dining room. (The latter doesn't really happen in New York, so, lucky for us, guests are usually getting a first-hand experience of our balancing acts.)
While it’s entirely possible to pull off an intimate gathering on the night-of that feels effortless, we imagine you'd prefer to spend less time panicking about whether the main course will be overcooked and if there are enough pre-dinner snacks to go around (not to mention cocktails).
So we've put together a three-dish menu that you can prepare—stress-free—over the course of three days, plus some tips to make the night of your get-together a breeze. If you take it one stride at a time, using a couple of evenings prior to focus on prep, you’ll get to show up to your own party and, well, party.
Here's the first course and things to consider ahead of time; follow along over the next two days for more menu items and tips.
On the first day, prepare Roy Finamore's Broccoli Cooked Forever—a mishmash of broccoli, olive oil, anchovy, pepper, and garlic cooked low and slow. It's basically broccoli confit, and it's amazing alone or on top of things like bread or pasta. To save it for your party, just refrigerate. It'll keep for three to five days.
While the broccoli is cooking (you'll have time—it'll be a couple of hours), take a few minutes to decide how you want the evening to feel.
Sometimes the crowd you've invited can inform how the night will go. If they're adventurous, they'll probably be up for parlor games or bringing a surprise wine to pair with each course. If first-time introductions are needed, have a small chunk of time at the beginning set aside for cocktails. If they're old friends, stock up on amaro and expect a late one.
Music is a good mood-setter—does your evening have a quiet and low-key vibe, ready to be filled with folksy tunes? Is it upbeat with world music, or lots of jazz and blues? We like to pick out a few playlists from Spotify (here's one our editors compiled!) that may suit the evening, but if you're working with records, be sure to pre-select a group that will be easily swapped out.
If you've got outdoor space to entertain in, use it! Consider the logistics (and weather) and if it makes sense, you can toss up some string lights, pick out a few pillar candles, and you'll need hardly anything else for a welcoming glow. Keeping it indoors? If you can, remember to draw down the lights or use lamp light to give guests the feeling that it's not just Tuesday night at home.
By the time you're ready to scoop your broccoli out of the pot (the trick is to get it into the container, and not eat it all at once), you'll have the foundation of your evening set. And tomorrow, we'll talk about the second dish and tabletop recommendations.
Top photo by Mark Weinberg; others by James Ransom
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