I love throwing parties. They’re a great chance to catch up with friends, show off some of my new favorite recipes, and enjoy a cocktail or two. However, the problem I’ve always run into is that I end up spending too much time during the party cooking, and not nearly enough time hanging out with my guests.
To avoid the trap of the kitchen, I’ve come up with a few key rules:
(1) Stick to foods that can be made well in advance, and don’t HAVE to be piping hot to be enjoyed. Also, limit dishes that require cooking on the stove top. The oven and a crock pot can be your best friend because you can just turn them on, set a timer, and let it go.
(2) Surprise your guests by showing off cold items that you’ve made yourself – things like pickles, cocktails, sauces, etc… These are great because you can make them well in advance, still show your guests you care (not just serving store bought food) but they don’t involve a lot of ‘day-of’ work.
(3) Some people show up early, some people show up late, so stop trying to time each dish perfectly. If I am throwing a party that starts at 5:00pm then I put the food out at 5:15ish and allow everyone to eat at their own pace. If that means some things are gone or not has hot when a new person arrives at 7:30, then so be it.
(4) Have a large bucket or cooler on hand. It’s always easier to have a place for drinks that isn’t the fridge. Whether you are providing all of the beverages, or guests are bringing beer/wine keeping the beverage area separate from the kitchen will make your life A LOT easier. Plus, often times the fridge is already full or close to full with food for the party, so cramming in additional drinks is precarious at best.
With those basic rules in mind, we threw a great party this weekend. Anchored by some glorious pulled pork. My approach to pulled pork is based on a recipe my father gave me. The night before I dry rub whole bone-in pork shoulders with a rub that is paprika based, with some brown sugar, salt, crushed rosemary, black pepper, and garlic powder thrown in for good measure. Then, the day I plan to serve the pork I wake up extra early and place the shoulders in a large roasting pan and into the oven set to 250 degrees. From there it typically takes about 8-10 hours (depending on the size of the shoulders) for the pork to reach the desired temperature (typically around 190 degrees). I let the pork rest for about 45mins and then pull it and put it into a crockpot to keep it warm. Once it’s in the crock pot I add a few tablespoons of apple side vinegar because I think it adds a nice little kick.
In addition to the pork shoulder, we also had a whole bunch of sides, including: pickled jalapenos (these go great on a pulled pork sandwich); homemade dill pickles; pasta salad; coleslaw; cucumber salad; bean dip, and homemade lemonade (with vodka for the adults).
The party was perfect, and I got to enjoy the entire evening with my friends because almost every item – from the pork, to the pickles, and salads, to the spiked lemonade was made hours in advance.