Instead of spending all night in the kitchen, keep it simple and use the time you gain to dazzle your guests with that sparkling wit of yours.
Let me tell you something: attempting to make a risotto for the first time while simultaneously trying to greet guests, make awkward small talk and get them settled with a drink in their hand is almost certainly going to end in disaster. Getting out of your comfort zone in an effort to impress your guests is the biggest mistake amateur entertainers make. Most of the time people will just be grateful you have invited them over, and the best way to impress them is by keeping it simple and cutting corners when you can so you have more time to spend dazzling them with your wit.
There is no reason why you need to be hand-whisking mayo, or sous-viding your chicken before you barbecue, unless of course you’re into that sort of thing. Keep in mind that it’s summer, it’s hot, the mood is easy and breezy and your menu should follow suit. Pre-roasted chickens, store-bought dips and smoked sides of salmon are some of your best buddies when it comes to fuss-free entertaining. And there is nothing that can’t be jazzed up with a decent dose of seasoning, herbs, nuts, lemon and good olive oil.
Roast chickens can be shredded and tossed with cooked pasta, loads of lemon, rocket, parmesan and olive oil for the simplest pasta salad to feed a crowd; or mixed with mayo and diced crunchy vegetables for little sandwiches or sliders (recipe follows); or folded through a simple spicy sauce for a taco filling. And although a side of smoked salmon will set you back a good chunk of your weekly wage, it is one of the most impressive things you can present. Bosh it on a platter surrounded by slices of sourdough, herbed yoghurt, lemon wedges and some pink pickle and people will lose their shit.
While I would never condone using store-bought hummus or dips in a professional setting, there’s no shame in peeling off the lid of a Lisa’s or two in the privacy of your own home, and instead focusing your energy on presenting it so they look like you’ve been roasting beets and soaking chickpeas for days. Don’t just offer them up in their tragic plastic pottles, take a little pride in the process and decant them in to a small shallow bowl, drizzle with your finest olive oil, a sprinkle of sumac or paprika, garnish with chopped herbs, toasted nuts, seeds or crumbled feta and suddenly you’ve taken those low-brow dips to high-class mezze.
It is my experience that by the time dessert rolls around, people have smashed one too many chardonnays to care. So either skip it altogether or keep it simple and summery with ice cream served in cones, or slices of store-bought ginger bread topped with whipped cream, fresh berries and shavings of good dark chocolate.
SHREDDED CHICKEN SLIDERS
These chicken salad sliders use store-bought mayo and pre-roasted chicken and come together in no time at all. They are an impressive little snack that will have your guests saying, “What did you put in those chicken sandwiches?”
- 1 whole roast chicken, meat removed from the bone and shredded*
- 1 fennel, finely diced, leafy tops roughly chopped*
- 2 sticks of celery, finely diced
- handful of Italian flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
- ½ cup of mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- generous pinch of chilli flakes
- salt and pepper
- ½ an iceberg lettuce, shredded
- 20 slider buns
*Please keep your chicken carcass and your fennel trimmings to make yourself a stock. They will both keep just fine in your freezer until soup season rolls back around.
In a big bowl, mix together all of the ingredients excluding the iceberg lettuce and slider buns until well combined. You may need to add a little more mayo to bring it all together, depending on the size of your chicken.
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Check the seasoning — it should be very lemony and a little spicy.
Toast your slider buns and dollop a scoop of chicken salad on the bottom half of the buns. Top with shredded iceberg and slider bun tops.
For more ingenious summer entertaining tips, check out the rest of the Backyard Bash 101 series
The Spinoff’s food content is brought to you by Freedom Farms. They believe talking about food is nearly as much fun as eating it, and they’re excited to facilitate some good conversations around food provenance in Aotearoa New Zealand.