We've written about serving dinner party food in tiny, individual dishes, and now we're hitting the other end of the spectrum: family-style entertaining. There are many advantages to piling food onto platters and into big bowls. Let us share a few...
Your table looks bountiful — and it's bound to make people hungry. There's just something about a big plate of chicken with vegetables nestled around it, or salad mounded up in a bowl. It looks inviting.
It saves you time. You can dump everything from the roasting pan (or slow cooker, or sauté pan) onto a platter and go. You can serve it straight from your colorful dutch oven! No fussing over individual plates, trying to evenly portion out six servings of asparagus.
Passing platters encourages friendly conversation. It just does. Eating feels communal and familial, which is how dinner should be. And trust us, when someone says, "Hey, can you pass me the potatoes again? Those are good!" it will warm your heart.
Your guests get to eat what they want. If someone doesn't like couscous, she can pass, or take a small amount, rather than eating around a pre-portioned serving already on the plate. Also, guests can help themselves to seconds without your having to get up and go back to the kitchen.
You can show off less fancy food. The best family-style dishes, in our opinion, tend to be big bowls of pasta, roast chickens or chicken breasts, or braises from a slow cooker. These are rustic meals that often involve less expensive ingredients, but when served in a big heap, look majestic. Simple salads also look great in a big bowl. Lately, we can't get enough of this Orange, Olive, and Fennel Salad.
There are so many recipes in our archives that lend themselves to family-style eating.
Here are a few to get you browsing:
For the adventurous, serve a truly communal meal right ON the table with Jamie Oliver's Proper Polenta.
Related: Open Door Family Dinners
(Image: Food on the Table, available at Art.com; Faith Hopler)