A Stress-Free Dinner Party Menu, Care of Alison Roman
Throw it all together in under two hours.
Published Oct 22, 2019 12:00 AM
Alison Roman isn’t a fan of the word entertaining. She’d rather ditch the pressed linens, elaborate menus, and precise floral arrangements in favor a more authentic (and less anxiety-inducing!) experience. Who has time for those painstaking details, anyway? “Having people over is just a more relaxed way of framing things,” she says. “That verbiage switch is enough to make people feel more confident. It can be fancy food if you want, but it can also be chips and dip.”
The timing of her new cookbook, Nothing Fancy (available today), is fitting. The last few months of the year might be filled with dinner parties, but it’s also the season we’re most time-poor. In the name of getting a few things off our plates (without taking away any of the fun), we asked Roman to craft the perfect low-stress, high-impact menu for impromptu get-togethers.
“This is not about living an aspirational life; it’s about living an attainable one,” she writes in the book. “You know, the one that comes with not really having enough time to braise a whole pot of short ribs before people arrive (but you try anyway), accidentally burnt cakes (just cut those parts off), and not enough chairs to seat everyone at once (sit on the floor?).” These three dishes will make your next evening with friends, minor hiccups and all, a breeze.
Vinegared Apples With Persimmon and White Cheddar
Serves 4 to 6.
I love crunchy fruit in salads, which is why I suggest you seek out slightly underripe Fuyu persimmons here. If you can’t find them, feel free to substitute Asian pears or more regular apples (a mix of all three would not be bad either). You want the fruit to be fairly acidic and salty; the honey is there to compensate for any lack of naturally occurring sweetness, so adjust with more as needed.
Fresh horseradish is one of my favorite niche ingredients that I don’t love to call for because I know it can be challenging to find, but I have noticed it popping up at grocery stores, so I’m just going to live my truth and call for it. If you can’t find it, prepared horseradish will do the trick—just expect a tangier salad (not the worst thing).
2 large, firm, tart apples, such as Pink Lady, Honeycrisp, or Gold Rush, cored and thinly sliced 2 Fuyu persimmons or Asian pears, thinly sliced 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar, plus more for seasoning 2 tsp honey, plus more for seasoning Flaky sea salt Coarsely ground black pepper 1 knob of fresh horseradish, for grating, or 1 tsp prepared horseradish 11⁄2 to 2 oz sharp white Cheddar or Gouda Olive oil, for drizzling
Arrange the apples and persimmons on a large serving plate. Drizzle with the vinegar and honey (if using prepared horseradish, mix with vinegar and honey first so that you can evenly distribute), and sprinkle with flaky salt and pepper. Give everything a subtle toss, being gentle to avoid breakage. Season with more salt, pepper, honey, and vinegar as needed.
Using a peeler, shave a bit of horseradish onto the fruit, followed by a crumbling of the cheese. Drizzle all over with olive oil before serving.
Salmon With Soy and Citrusy Charred Scallions
Serves 4 to 8.
I used to be “not that into salmon” because my experience had only involved well-done salmon. You know the kind: firm, dry, flaky, and so pale you can barely tell it’s pink. Then I discovered the slow-roast, the oil-poach, and the only-grill-on-one-side techniques, all of which yield an extremely tender, almost creamy textured salmon whose color is an actual representation of the name itself. That is the salmon that has made me a person who not just tolerates the fish but craves and makes it for herself. What a world!
This particular salmon is slow roasted until just cooked through, then doused in a citrusy, soy sauce–y, oniony mixture that is part sauce, part dressing. From there, you can do whatever you want, but I love the idea of serving it with a giant bowl of warm rice and salmon roe (salmon with salmon eggs is so good).
2 bunches scallions or spring onions, white and green parts, trimmed 2 to 3 lbs skin-on salmon fillet 1⁄4 cup plus 3 tbsp olive oil, divided Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 1⁄4 cup low-sodium soy sauce 1 tbsp finely grated lemon or lime zest plus 1⁄4 cup fresh lemon or lime juice (from about 2 lemons or 4 limes) 2 tbsp fresh orange juice (from about 1 orange) Crushed red pepper flakes
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Thinly slice 4 scallions and place in a medium bowl; set aside. Place the salmon skin side down in a large baking dish and drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and lots of pepper. Place in the oven and roast until the center begins to turn from deep sunset orange to salmon-y pink, but still remains pretty medium-rare toward the top, 10 to 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat in a medium cast-iron skillet. Add the remaining scallions and season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing occasionally, until deeply charred in spots, 4 to 6 minutes.
Transfer the scallions to a cutting board and coarsely chop. Add to the bowl with raw scallions, along with the soy sauce, lemon zest and juice, orange juice, and remaining 1⁄4 cup olive oil; season with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes.
Using a large spatula, transfer the salmon to a large serving platter, leaving any skin behind. Spoon a bit of the charred scallion mixture over, serving any extra alongside.
Garlicky Broccoli and Greens With Hazelnut and Coriander
Serves 4 to 6.
If you haven’t had grilled broccoli, dare I say you haven’t lived? The stalk, which is painfully underused, is so insanely good when charred over actual flames that you may never eat it any other way. (Unless you’re blanching it. What can I say? Either light it on fire or dunk it in boiling water—I live in a world of extremes.) This is probably one of the best vegetable dishes to eat at room temperature, so if you’re stressed about getting everything ready at the same time, make this and feel relaxed knowing it will only get better as it sits.
2 garlic cloves, finely grated 1⁄2 cup toasted hazelnuts, finely chopped 1 tbsp coriander seeds, finely chopped 1⁄4 cup plus 3 tbsp olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 2 to 3 large heads of broccoli, quartered lengthwise, about 11⁄2 lbs 1 large or 2 small bunches lacinato or curly kale 1 lemon, halved crosswise Flaky sea salt
Combine the garlic, hazelnuts, coriander seeds, and 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Heat a grill on high (alternatively, preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit).
Toss the broccoli and kale on a rimmed baking sheet with the remaining 1⁄4 cup olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill, turning or tossing occasionally, until the stalks, florets, and leaves are lightly charred, anywhere from 2 to 8 minutes on the grill. (Alternatively, roast on a rimmed baking sheet until lightly charred and crisped, 15 to 20 minutes.)
Whether you’re grilling or roasting, once the broccoli and greens are charred and tender (the leaves and stalks will cook at different rates, so keep an eye on them), add them to the bowl with the garlic and hazelnuts, tossing to coat.
Once all the goods are in there, transfer the ingredients to a large serving plate, platter, or bowl. Top with a good squeeze of lemon, a sprinkle of flaky salt, and a drizzle of olive oil.
Do as Alison Roman does, and all that will be left to do is chill some wine and wait for friends to arrive.
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