Last Sunday I had a party to celebrate my dad's ninetieth birthday. Trying to comprehend ninety alone is quite a feat, but so was planning and executing a party. I made it simple: twenty guests, buffet style, tried-and-true recipes that are known crowd pleasers. Easy, right? Well, yes, fairly easy, but no matter how many parties I give (and it has been an amount quite considerable), I am always struck (more accurately, struck down) by how much work it is.
I am a planner. I make lists. I make schedules. I prepare make-ahead dishes the day before. I fold napkins in advance. I set the tables the day prior. But time after time I still end up facing massive cleanup and borderline collapse.
There are rewards, though, and lots of them. Lively conversation and raucous laughter, serving dishes scraped clean, small and perhaps picky children telling me how delicious the food is, and a guest of honor who is overwhelmed and pleased. Success!
The exhaustion is always well worth it, as is the exasperation, the anguish, and the lumps and bumps taken during the process. It appears the industrial-sized bag of Oreos that beaned me when they fell from the top shelf of the pantry onto my head did not concuss me. It looks like the wine that I poured on myself while making the Sangria did permanently stain a favorite, old shirt, but think of the fancy dust rags I now have - beaded! The smell of beef is no longer evident in the garage from my spilling meat juices onto the floor both putting the meat into and taking it out of the fridge. Good news, indeed.
Here is my menu with links to the recipes, where available.
Brown Sugar Smokies (Courtesy of my daughter-in-law)
Party Potatoes (recipe below)
Cole Slaw (from the deli)
Deviled Eggs (Courtesy of my aunt)
Cake (Courtesy of our friend, Lennie)
It takes a village.
Party Potatoes (or Company Potatoes, or Potato Casserole, depending upon the region from which you hail) has been around since the seventies. My mother gave me this recipe. I still have the original, written on the back of an envelope in pencil that has seriously faded. I thought everyone had this, but as I got requests after the party, I thought I would share it here. It is largely a bunch of prepackaged stuff dumped into a bowl and topped with cornflakes, but, boy is it good.
If you are preparing for a party (or recuperating from having given one), keep these recipes in mind, and treat yourself as well as your guests by making it simple and casual (and keep the Sangria close at hand!).
These white trays (with matching mugs and flatware) were purchased by my mother, queen of parties, back in the seventies. Oh, the parties they have seen! If you ever see something similar, buy them! They are perfect for casual buffets with sections for holding flatware, a notched section for holding a cup, and lots of separated space for food. I am proud to be their new owner.
Party Potato Casserole
1 (10.75-ounce) can Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 (8 ounce) container sour cream
6 T. butter, melted
1 (32-ounce) package frozen hash-brown potatoes
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (8-ounce) package shredded Cheddar cheese
Ground black pepper
1/2 cup crushed corn flakes
2 T. butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Mix soup, sour cream, butter, potatoes, onion, cheese, and black pepper (to taste), and turn into a 3-quart shallow baking dish. Toss together the 2 Tablespoons of melted butter and the corn flakes. Sprinkle corn flakes over potato mixture. Bake for 45 minutes or until hot.
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