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Host a stunning no cook dinner party!
It's possible. Here's how.
How’s it going in your kitchen lately? Between weekly micro dinner parties, monthly meal prep classes, and a few *secret projects* in the works (pssst, if you’re in NYC and would like to be among the first in the know about a dinner-party related project, respond to this email and I’ll add you to the list!), mine is incredibly busy at the moment. I’m definitely not complaining—it’s been a joy! But now more than ever, I’m looking for and taking kitchen shortcuts where I can find them. So for last week’s dinner party for two, my friend Alyssa arrived to a beautiful meal (if I do say so myself) but I quickly informed her that I had…pretty much entirely skipped the cooking.
How, you ask? Let’s talk about Le Grand Aioli.
If you missed my little video montage briefly explaining it, Le Grand Aioli is a concept that originated in Provence, a region in France that boarders Italy and the Mediterranean sea. The meal is simple, but that’s what makes it genius: everyone gathers around a stunning spread of whatever was most freshly harvested, caught, or butchered. The centerpiece of the meal is, as its name would imply, a bracingly acidic, heavily garlic-ed aioli. My loose take on the dining concept involves little to no cooking, a bunch of store bought favorites, and of course, a whole lot of aioli.
Let me tell you how to execute this no-cook dinner party:
The Produce: skip the cooking by choosing veggies that are great served raw. I went with cucumber, radishes, and endive. Carrots, sugar snap peas, and celery would all also be great. Slice them into dip-able, bite-sized pieces and salt them (optional) and you’re set there.
The Proteins: I went with a very non-traditional, but very easy store-bought rotisserie chicken for my rendition of this meal. To keep the meal completely no-cook, you could also go for the tinned fish of your choice (I love oil-packed sardines for a meal like this) or if you have an appetite for a tiny bit of cooking, some eggs boiled to your desired temperature and sliced in half would be beautiful and delicious.
The Carbs: buy a baguette, slice it up, and call it a day. Potato or pita chips are definitely not traditional, but they would work too! Or if you’re feeling lightly ambitious like I was, buy some fingerling or baby gold potatoes, give them a rinse, then boil them for 15 minutes (or until fork-tender). Toss in olive oil and a little salt and that’s it!
The Bonus Items: you know that area of your grocery store where they sell all the fancy little jarred things? It’s usually near the cheese section of the market? Yes? Go nuts there! I served little cornichons and a small wedge of gruyere. Cheese, pickles, preserves, and olives of any kind would be a welcomed addition to this meal.
The Aioli: sure, you can make it from scratch, or you can lean on my cheater aioli recipe. I did!
The Other (Optional) Sauces: I picked up a container of my favorite store-bought pesto and used it two ways. First, I put out about half a cup as is. It’s that good. Second, I doubled my cheater aioli recipe and stirred a few tablespoons of pesto into half of it. And voila! You have three sauces (classic aioli, pesto aioli, and pesto) with almost no effort. I also set out some softened and heavily salted butter for my baguette and radishes and some grainy mustard because…why not?
The Easy Setup: my big tip here is to set everything out in a way that makes it look extremely abundant. And they way to achieve that effect is to crowd everything. Leave no negative space on your serving platters or plates. Squish your radishes next to your potatoes, next to your endive, next to your little bowl of aioli. Pile your chicken high on a plate that’s just a wee bit too small for it. Set your little cheese dish on the table touching the dish where you’ve placed your pickles. You catch my drift. It may seem counterintuitive, but squishing everything together makes the whole meal more visually pleasing and in my book, more appetizing as a result.
The Execution: this is the part where I get tell you that there is literally no execution beyond what I just described! Just sit down and enjoy the company of your guests while you make a meal of dipping everything in sight into some glorified mayo. Delicious, easy, fun, amazing, I hope you try it.
Have I convinced you? I hope so, because this meal gets you a lot of bang for your buck in the awe inspiring, crowd pleasing departments with very little time spent in the cooking and cleaning departments. If you do give this a try for your next gathering of any size, I’d love to see! Shoot me a picture here or tag me over on Instagram.
Okay, we’ve about covered it for this week. As always, I’m wishing you a lovely, well-fed week ahead.
With love and a tip of my chef’s hat,