Skip the elaborate soiree next weekend, and try recruiting friends to form a supper club that meets during the week. Schedule it around a book or knitting club, game night or pick a favorite TV show or sporting event to watch…or just make it a low-key chance to hang out together on an otherwise dull Tuesday night.
First, decide on club rules. Hosting should rotate, but what that means is up to your members. For instance, you may decide that the host takes care of the main course, but the rest of the meal goes potluck. If so, the host tells the other members what the entrée will be and how many people are coming. Then he or she assigns each of them hors d'oeuvres, salad, drinks (wine, beer and/or nonalcoholic beverages) or dessert.
Or, if you want to make things even easier, members can help the host put together a one-dish dinner by providing ingredients to build on whatever the host brings to the table. For example, the host might prep turkey for fajitas, but ask guests to come with toppings like sour cream or fixings to make salsa or guacamole. Other similar menus: build-your-own pizzas, the ultimate salad bar, fondue night.
Finally, you might have each host handle the whole meal when it's his or her turn. If you stick to main dishes that require just one pan, like the Calphalon Unison Nonstick Soup Pot for a hearty, creamy garlic soup, whipping up (and cleaning up) dinner solo stays simple. The pot's even pretty enough that you can take it straight to the table for serving. Add a salad starter and ice cream for dessert and even cooking for a crowd is a piece of cake.
Keep your supper club going smoothly with these tips:
- Ask members to share any dietary restrictions, so if someone is a vegetarian or lactose-intolerant, say, others know to serve a bacon topping on the side or buy lactose-free ice cream for dessert.
- If your club is potluck, keep in mind that many dishes will need to be rewarmed, so make sure the oven is free when guests arrive. If you have a countertop convection oven or hot plate, even better; put them to work keeping dishes warm.
- Provide inexpensive disposable storage containers so guests can take leftovers home.
Do-Ahead Supper Club Cheat Sheet
The key to being prepared is, well, to prepare—especially when you're expecting people over after work. Here's what to do when to ensure you enjoy the evening as much as your guests will.
Four days ahead:
- Call anyone who hasn't RSVPed yet to confirm if they're coming. That should be enough time to furnish a final headcount to anyone who's bringing food.
- Choose your music; if you want to get fancy, you can even create a playlist.
- Decide what you're going to wear, including shoes and accessories.
Three days ahead:
- Shop for ingredients.
- Set out guest-worthy serving bowls or platters to show off each dish.
- Get out games if you plan to include them. If it's a new game, read through the instructions thoroughly now—not when everyone sits down to play.
Two days ahead:
- Clean the house.
- Set up any extra tables and chairs.
- Set out candles, flowers or a centerpiece.
One day ahead:
- Like marinating the steak and slicing the veggies for the grilled sirloin. If you know you won't have a lot of time at home before guests arrive the next night, stick with soup so all you have to do is reheat it tomorrow.
- Run the dishwasher so it's empty for quick cleanup after the party.
- Take out the trash and recycling.
The day of the party:
- If necessary, buy any last-minute ingredients that are best as fresh as possible, such as the seafood for fish tacos. If you know you'll be pressed for time, ask guests to pick up those ingredients and bring them as their contribution.
- Finish cooking.
- Clean the kitchen.
- Get dressed and have fun!