Tuesday, January 17, 2012

what's for dinner, sarah schiear?

People, I found someone who likes to throw dinner parties as much as me. Or possibly more! Sarah Schiear, food editor and author of food blog 20something cupcakes, is a dinner party machine. Food Network, give this woman her own show! Whether she's hosting a cocktail party, a boozy brunch or a fancy dinner for two, she's an expert at crafting delicious menus (and cocktails, lots of cocktails). I'll let her explain in her own words...

1. Name, occupation, and city
Sarah Schiear. By day, editor at Mr. Food. By night, author of 20something cupcakes. Fort Lauderdale, Florida. 

2. When was the last time you threw a dinner party, and who was invited?
The last dinner party I threw was in early November; it was something of late brunch that went into the night. We had a couple of friends over because I had just discovered a fabulous new fresh seafood market, and I had a burning desire to make ceviche. This is how menus are usually born for me — I get an idea in my head, and the rest follows. I made a glorious ceviche by Rick Bayless, from whom I also discovered the most wonderful idea for a champagne margarita. I wanted to make huevos rancheros, as I knew a few guests to absolutely adore them, but I also knew I didn't want to be standing over the stove frying eggs up to order. My solution? A huevos rancheros bake in the oven. I added the eggs at the end and cooked them just enough to achieve those delightfully runny yolks, and topped it all off with a quick avocado salsa. It was delicious.
3. What is the best menu you've ever made for company?
This is hard to answer because I have so many favorite menus; in fact, developing the menu is probably what I love most about entertaining. I've posted several menus on my blog, but this one never made it... It was a totally relaxed summer lunch, almost like an indoor picnic. We started off with a frozen drink made with rum, coconut, and lime — one that I recreated vacationing on St. John. Next was a make-your-own BLT station, with tons of roasted thick-sliced bacon, fresh breads, beautiful sliced heirloom tomatoes and all types of greens, an assortment of cheeses and meats, and three homemade mayos: chipotle, basil, and cilantro-lime. It's probably the least amount of work I've ever done, and it's living proof that even though I love planning elaborate meals, complicated isn't always better. People brought fried chicken and chips and baked beans, and we all went back and forth between our apartment and rooftop pool all day. It was everything I love about summer: impromptu, laid-back — the epitome of easy-breezy fun.

4. What's your preference: wine, beer, cocktails?
Love starting the night with a specialty cocktail — margaritas and sangria top the list. I've become famous among those who know me for coming up with a different type of sangria for every meal or occasion. Wine or beer with dinner.

5. What's your favorite dinner party soundtrack?

Classic rock, or a mellow electronic indie pop mix I have on Pandora. I love house music, but that's usually a little much — though we have been known to break out into a dance party after too much wine.

6. Some friends are coming over for a last-minute dinner. What do you make?

I'd run to the store for a chicken to roast. Thomas Keller's recipe produces the most heavenly roasted chicken I've ever had, and it's ridiculously easy. I always keep a few cheeses in the fridge, so I'd pull out a couple of those, and we'd enjoy them with a juicy pinot noir while the chicken roasted. I might make a quick pasta like this one, because I love the idea of a meal of roasted chicken and a big bowl of pasta — rustic, homey, and simple. A simple green salad is almost always on the menu. And for dessert, I might pick up some coffee or espresso ice cream.

7. Do you usually cook everything yourself, or do you have help?
If I have it my way, I'm doing it all myself. So much time and thought goes into the menu that I'm a little apprehensive about someone bringing something random into the mix. (Please, don't bring chips and salsa to lasagna night.) [Ed: I so feel you on this.] I'm trying to be more relaxed about it, but what can I say? I'm a control freak. I like to be finished with everything by the time guests arrive — which I'm getting better and better at. But, if there are still a few tasks left, like chopping herbs or plating appetizers, I'm happy to delegate. And I must add that even though I do all of the cooking, my boyfriend Daniel washes every single dish, pot, pan — everything — I touch. Which for me, is a dream come true.

Do you ever buy store-bought food, or is everything on your table made from scratch?
I prefer to make most things from scratch. The way I look at it is, if you're going to the trouble to make a homemade pie, why use store-bought dough? It's easy enough to make and tastes so much better. And for me, the process of making it myself is part of what's so fulfilling. There are, however, some things that totally make sense to buy. I'll use frozen puff pastry because it's not so easy, and I'm not so sure I can do it any better. Also, when you've got a lot going on: I love Ina Garten's approach to cocktail parties where she'll offer a mix of homemade hors d'oeuvres with store-bought and assembled snacks like nuts or cheeses and prosciutto-wrapped melon.

9. What do you like to serve for dessert?
I love entertaining because it offers me an excuse to make over-the-top cakes and pies that I wouldn't (or shouldn't, at least) want to make for just Daniel and me. I love serving homemade ice cream in a flavor you can't buy at the store; for instance, a fresh corn ice cream to serve after tacos. I love cobblers and galettes made with seasonal fruits, and anything espresso-flavored, anytime of year. I've also recently become obsessed with these Fleur de Sel Caramels because they are just so easy, and everyone goes crazy for them. They're a great way to end a meal when everyone's too stuffed for a big, rich dessert — perfect with a cup of coffee or espresso.

10. If you could invite anyone over for dinner (living or dead), who would it be?
Right now, it's Alex Guarnaschelli. There's something about her that makes me feel like we're already friends, and I'm quite sure we would be if we had the chance to meet. The way she talks about food instantly makes me want to cook it, and her passion is just written all over her face — which I can very much relate to.


Julie said...

A BLT station is such a fun idea for a summer party! This blogger is new to me - excited to check out her site. Thanks!

Mike said...

Love her, but the last dinner party she threw was in November; no way she likes to throw 'em as much as you!!

Casey@Good. Food. Stories. said...

Yes! THAT's why I micromanage all my parties. Someone always brings the damn chips and salsa to lasagna night, as it were.

Daniel said...

Having grown up in South Florida, it's heart-warming to see that Mr. Food has taken the leap into the digital age. Ooh, it's so good!

Martha said...

Make your own BLT Station? Why is this not a feature at all weddings and bar/bat mitzvahs from here on in?


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