When you feel like entertaining



Perfect Recipes for Having People Over

By Pam Anderson

Houghton Mifflin / 2005 / $35

Being too busy is no excuse for not entertaining, especially with recipes as simple as these Pam Anderson offers.

She advises cooks to start with the entree and everything else will fall into place. And there is no shame in a casual dinner of chili that starts with store-roasted chickens or with corn bread that uses canned creamed corn. The book's 200 recipes are organized by what Anderson calls "The Big Stuff" - the main courses - and "All the Rest." The main courses are organized by events - kitchen gatherings, outdoor affairs, formal dinners and breakfasts.

Each recipe comes with a guide on how and when to serve the dish; appropriate substitutions, shortcuts or variations; accompaniments; and notes on advance preparation and leftovers.

Although I focused on the casual dinner with Quick Red Chicken Chili, corn-bread muffins and chocolate brownies, the more sophisticated meals with beef tenderloin, butterflied Cornish hens and roasted pork loin stick to Anderson's formula of a short ingredients list, readily available items and simple preparations.

Dinner for Eight

By Denise Landis

St. Martin's Press / 2005 / $27.95

Dennis Landis, a food tester for The New York Times, offers 40 dinner-party menus, complete with appetizer, first course, main course, accompaniment and dessert.

The menus are organized by season and come with a timeline of what the host needs to do and when. An example of the fall menus: hummus on pita triangles, eggplant salad, bourbon-marinated roast pork, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie.

The ingredients necessary for most of the recipes are readily available and the dishes themselves require moderate ability in the kitchen.

Cooking for a Crowd

By Susan Wyler

Rodale / 2005 / $19.95

This is a revised and updated edition of a book published under the same title in 1988. Author Susan Wyler offers nearly three dozen menus for entertaining gatherings of 10 to 50 people.

The menus are organized around themes, such as Flavorful Dinner for Good Friends, Spanish Dinner, Tuscan Lunch, Backyard Barbecue and Christmas Dinner.

Some of the recipes from the original book are included, and others have been revised and simplified. Along with the recipes, each menu comes with a commentary on how to present the meal and a planner for advance preparations.

Simple Soirees

By Peggy Knickerbocker

Stewart Tabori & Chang / 2005 / $35

Food writer, world traveler and party hostess Peggy Knickerbocker invites you into her world of entertaining with 100 recipes arranged by seasonal menus.

Beautiful photographs of food and place settings entice cooks to try a romantic dinner with caviar and creme fraiche on cornmeal blini or a birthday lunch with a summer meringue.

Half the fun is in reading the titles of the occasions Knickerbocker is celebrating, such as Someone-Caught-a-Fish Dinner or A Post-Performance Party.

Despite the title, many of the recipes are not simple to make and call for gourmet items such as truffles and squash blossoms that are not easy to find.


Quick Red Chicken Chili

Serves 12

2 store-bought roast chickens, meat picked from bones and pulled into bite-size pieces, bones and skin reserved

2 quarts chicken broth

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 large onions, cut into medium dice

2/3 cup chili powder

1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin

1 1/2 tablespoons ground oregano

2 cans (28 ounces each) crushed tomatoes

2 cans (16 ounces each) pinto beans, drained and rinsed

6 medium garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

3 tablespoons cornmeal

Combine chicken bones and skin and chicken broth and 4 cups of water in a large pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Reduce heat to low, partially cover and simmer until bones release their flavor, about 30 minutes. Strain broth into a large bowl; discard bones and skin.

Heat oil in a large roasting pan over 2 burners on medium-high heat. Add onions and saute until soft, 4 to 5 minutes.

Add chili powder, cumin and oregano, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring until spices are fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.

Stir in chicken, tomatoes and broth and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, to blend flavors, 25 to 30 minutes. Stir in beans, garlic and chocolate and simmer to blend flavors, about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle cornmeal over chili, stir in and simmer to thicken chili, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Turn off heat, cover and let stand for 5 minutes.

Ladle into bowls and serve with accompaniments of your choice.

Per serving: 518 calories; 49 grams protein; 21 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 32 grams carbohydrate; 8 grams fiber; 113 milligrams cholesterol; 1,190 milligrams sodium

From "Perfect Recipes for Having People Over"

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