Mondays are the best night for a dinner party (guests are available, you have the weekend to prep). But even the most well-prepared cook finds it hard to come home after work and pull dinner together when guests are arriving in less than an hour. What are the best ways to have friends over on nights when you're racing back home from the office? Reader Tania wrote us with this question, and we have some thoughts for her. We'd love to hear yours as well.
The Challenge: Dinner Party on a WeeknightTania says:
I really like this month's focus on entertaining. My question is: what are some good options for weeknight entertaining? Thursday and Friday nights tend to be best for our schedule but having people over would typically mean the guests would arrive less than an hour after we get home from work. I would love to hear about some easy, quick and/or make-ahead choices. We've done salads, pizzas, and tacos but would love some fresh ideas!This is a situation I've encountered many times! I love having people over for relaxed mid-week dinner parties. Folks in churches and community organizations with mid-week discussion and dinner groups also run into this.
A Few Practical Ideas for Weeknight Dinner PartiesSo, what are some practical solutions and meal ideas? Here are some favorite tips and resources.
- Do a hands-on meal
Ask your guests to get involved with the meal. Don't prep anything ahead of time — just have fixings for dinner salads, sushi, or pressed sandwiches available. Guests show up with the expectation that they'll help and even get to customize what they eat. I love doing this with pizza! Resources • Sushi to Sliders: 5 Hands-On Dinner Parties - A few ideas for this kind of party • A Weeknight Panini Potluck - A panini party!
- Go picnic-style, with sandwiches and salads This is a riff on the tip above, since you could have everyone make their own sandwich. But I love the idea of a cool, summery meal of make-ahead grain salads, pasta salads, and chicken salad on toasted bread. You could have literally everything ready the night before. Resources • Casual Entertaining: BLTs for Dinner • Picnic Salads & Beyond: 15 Recipes for Memorial Day
- Think small — really small You don't need a 4-course meal. Think pot of soup and bread, with storebought sorbet for dessert. Or a roast chicken with deli potato salad (good deli potato salad, mind you), and ask your friend to bring dessert. Resources • Small-Scale Entertaining: A Roast Chicken Dinner • Easy Entertaining with Ice Cream: 9 Ways to Dress up a Scoop
- And yes, think about make-ahead meals This is the predictable answer, of course — do a make-ahead meal! Need ideas? How about pulled pork or carnitas or short ribs. These meals actually improve when made a day ahead. Just add bread and a salad. Resources • Entertaining: Make-Ahead Tips for Dinner Parties • Just Add Salad: 5 Meals To Make Ahead and Reheat