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Liveblogging The Kitchn Cure Fall 2013

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Day 10 Task: Plan a dinner party

Here we are, at the end of The Kitchn Cure. So, let's party! I love hosting dinner parties. Planning them? Not my strong point. My invitations usually arrive via text, often within an hour of when I expect you to be at my house ready to eat. And I'll probably send out another text when you're on your way asking you to pick up some essential ingredient I've forgotten, like a chicken. But we have fun! Also, we live near several excellent local pizza places, so if I don't get it together, no one will starve. But I'm excited about having a real dinner party, more planned, but still me.

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Remember that book I found? It's a menu index, kind of a neat reference, where you can write down which recipes are found in which books. No more, "Was that peanut brittle in Joy of Cooking or Maida Heatter? Or was it from my neighbor?" There is also a section for recording entertaining and menus. Last week, I recorded my first dinner party, a casual one, so I'm on my way!

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Pad Thai is a dinner party favorite of mine. I use the recipe from Mai Pham's Best of Vietnamese and Thai Cooking, often putting my own spin on it, by using duck confit instead of shrimp. My dirty secret? I don't make the duck confit. I buy it. This time, I'm doing it myself. Wish me luck!

My appetizer will be simple, tiny roasted baby potatoes and crispy roasted okra, if I can still find it in the market. If I can't find okra, I'll probably go with asparagus. I like putting out appetizers in the kitchen, so I can chat with guests while I put the finishing touches on my meal. This time? I'm going to get it done ahead of time and serve the first course in the pool room or the living room.

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For dessert, I'll go straight to the source, Maida Heatter, and I'm determined to try something new. I like the idea of peanut brittle, because I can make it ahead of time, allowing room for error.

I'll probably serve cheese and nuts after the meal, in hopes that people will stick around and play a few games of pool.

Who are these people? I rent a small corner of someone else's office, a place for me to work occasionally and store work-related papers. I adore my office mates and don't get to go there often enough to see them. We're still working on a date, but I'm hoping for a Monday night, so I can do some things over the weekend to prepare. (Also, our house cleaner comes on Mondays, so we'll be looking spiffy!)

Here's my schedule, assuming this happens on a Monday:

Immediately: Get in touch with all my favorite local meat people and find out where and how to get the duck.

Saturday before: Make sure I get everything I can for our party at Soda City, including flowers.

One or two days before: Tackle that duck confit.

One day before: Peanut brittle time! I might make this a separate, impromptu party and invite a friend or two to help. We'll make enough for everyone.

Monday morning: Make the noodles for pad Thai and chop what can be chopped. Create a mise en place. That works really well for my pad Thai.

Monday at lunch: Head to Gourmet Shop for wine recommendations and cheese. They know me. If I'm running late, I can call ahead. I'm always running late.

After school: Head to the grocery store for anything I still need, including the baby potatoes and okra or asparagus. I can take a kid or two and treat them to an after school snack, bribery to behave that night. (Sort of kidding. In general, I love the way my children behave around guests.) Make sure wine is chilled and water bottles are filled.

Two hours before: Set the table and check glassware. Make sure the kids are doing their homework. Drive the younger two kids to piano. Remind my husband to pick them up and take the middle kid to choir practice. He has a ride home, thank goodness.

45 minutes before: Make pad Thai. Make one of the kids take the dog for a walk so he's good and tired.

30 minutes before: Roast the veggies for appetizers, so they'll have a little time to cool. Probably decide that ice cream would be good with the peanut brittle and send my husband to go get it.

15 minutes before: Take a shower. Make kids take showers, so we don't have to hound them during dinner. Remind them to put on more than boxer shorts afterward, even though they won't be leaving the house.

5 minutes before: Make husband take shower. Set out appetizers. Assign one of the kids to keep the dog from eating the appetizers.

Just before I open the door: Pour myself a glass of bubbly and get ready to have a great night!

This party is more planned for us than usual, but it still feels true to my normal style. I can't wait!

How much do you plan your dinner parties? I'm looking forward to this one, but do you think I cheated by deciding to serve a one dish main course?

Have you finished The Kitchn Cure or do you still have a few tasks to go? Just do it! I had no idea how much I would enjoy it, and how the Cure would spill over into other areas of my life. My car is a lot cleaner, and I'm even thinking about tackling my closet!

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(Images: Anne Postic)

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