‘Tis the season for entertaining with tailgate parties, bonfires, and having people over for dinner. Backyard summer barbecues are giving way to indoor bowls of chili by the fireplace, whole roasted chicken for dinner and the smell of baking cookies, brownies, and homemade bread. Comfort food abounds when the weather turns cool, and we’ve got some great ways to feed and entertain your guests when they come to call this fall. You don’t have to be Martha Stewart (but we love her recipes!) to be a good hostess, so don’t wear yourself out trying to be perfect. Your guests are there to spend time with you, not to critique the placement of your tableware or the color of your hand towels. Unfussy food is just as enjoyable as a perfectly executed gourmet dish, and much more attainable.
For your table, windowsill, or front porch display, try using mini pumpkins as candle holders for a unique look. Simply cut a round hole in the top of the pumpkin, scrape out the insides and discard them, and place a tealight or votive candle in the pumpkin for a truly glowing display. You can add medium and large pumpkins with bigger candles for a graduated design that’s sure to please your holiday crowd. Add in some bright green apples for a fresh pop of seasonal color that will complement the earthy pumpkin tones. Use a pumpkin as a tabletop centerpiece by scraping it out and using it as a vase for fall flowers and foliage.
When you’re serving guests, presentation is half the fun. Use a personalized natural wood serving tray to add a touch of class to simple appetizers and snacks, or as a drink serving tray. Nice wooden monogrammed cutting boards can double as serving vessels for cheese and crackers or hors d’ouvres. Dress up your wine bottles with their own designer wine bottle bags, both eye catching and a conversation starter.
For an easy dinner meal that would make even Martha proud, roast chicken with seasonal vegetables is a traditional crowd pleaser that’s not difficult to prepare or serve. Add a fresh green salad, some homemade crusty bread, and a good glass of wine for a dinner party you won’t spend hours slaving over. Try this delicious recipe from our friends at nytimes.com:
1 (3 1/2- to 4-pound) whole chicken
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup olive oil
1 ½ tablespoons fennel seeds, crushed in a mortar and pestle or spice mill, or chopped with a knife
1 bunch fresh oregano
1 ½ pounds small vine-ripened tomatoes (about 6), halved lengthwise
2 heads of garlic, halved crosswise (it’s fine to leave the skin on)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or white wine vinegar
4 to 6 (1-inch-thick) slices of good bread, such as country loaf or sourdough, toasted (optional)
Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Drizzle it with the olive oil and sprinkle with the fennel seeds. Stuff the cavity with half the oregano and place in a large baking dish.
Scatter the tomatoes, garlic, butter and remaining oregano around the chicken. Roast until the chicken is golden brown and completely cooked through, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Add the vinegar to the tomatoes and let the chicken rest in the baking dish for 10 minutes.
Place toast, if using, on serving platter and spoon the tomatoes over or around the toast.
Carve the chicken and place on top of the toast to catch the juices.