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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: How to have the fun of a steakhouse -- in your home, on a weeknight. Read on for the game plan.
Going to a steakhouse is a glorious exercise in excess, in indulgence. You eat too much. You drink too much. You spill things on the white tablecloth, and you're probably slightly hungover in the morning.
Going to a steakhouse is fun.
And so sometimes, I want to channel that feeling -- the let's-get-drunk-and-eat-fatty-things-and-have-a-great-time-doing-it feeling -- in my own home, at my own parties. I want my guests to eat and drink with abandon, to talk loudly, to not spill things but to feel like if they did, it wouldn't really matter.
But stressing about making the perfect steak -- the choosing of it, the paying for it, the cooking of it -- didn't seem fun to me. And because I want to have fun at my parties, too -- is that so much to ask? -- I decided to make a steakhouse dinner party, without the steak.
I decided, instead, that I would focus on all those sides that crowd the red wine-stained tablecloths, the ones you keep going back to when you can't eat your steak anymore. The wedge salad. The potatoes. The creamed spinach. The dishes that are icons in themselves -- and, as you'll see, lend themselves perfectly to a weeknight dinner party.
Two nights before: Make the dressing for your wedge salad.
The night before: It's time to do some cooking! Make the chocolate mousse, start to finish; it'll set up in the fridge overnight. Cook your spinach/milk/cheese mixture for your Spinach Gratin, and leave it, covered, in the fridge; all you'll need to do is top it with panko and bake it off before the party. Boil your potatoes for the Squashed Potatoes, and make your marinated mushrooms.
Right before your guests arrive: Crisp up your pancetta, and prep your garnishes for your wedge salad. Toast your panko for your Spinach Gratin. Take your mushrooms out of the fridge, and let them come to room temperature.
Before you sit down for your meal: Put your Spinach Gratin in the oven; it will emerge a half hour later, piping-hot. Sear your radicchio wedges, then garnish them. Serve them, plated, as first course. (Oh you fancy, huh?)
When your guests are finishing up their wedges: Head into the kitchen, and squash your potatoes! (Feel free to use the same pan as the radicchio, so you only have one pan to clean.) Take your Spinach Gratin out of the oven. Bring the spinach, mushrooms, and potatoes out to your guests.
When the food is all gone: Whip some cream, and dollop on top of your mousse. Feel sophisticated.