Sunday, May 1, 2011

Hosting a party, the HMHW way

So my husband turned another year older! I co-hosted a party to celebrate his breakin' out of his mom's uterus with another friend/ married couple, as J's bday is 2 days before The Hubs', so they wanted to have a joint bday/poker party.

I talked to J's wife, who is renown for her baking, and she offered to cook the sweets - so naturally, I offered to cook the savory. J then invited his family; not a big deal, except J has a huge family, which means the guest list nearly tripled! I now had to cook for a crowd nearing 30 (when the original guest list was around 10-15), which I've never done before. It also meant I had to change my plan of poker munchies (mainly apps) to something that would feed a crowd a good meal. OY.

Guess what? IT CAN BE DONE. In fact, not only can it be done, but it can be done to the point of overkill!

So first order was to change the menu. Luckily, my heritage has given me an affinity and comfort with Mexican food, and most people won't turn down a taco bar - plus it's easier to make a bunch of food that people can mix and match to their heart's desires than set plates, I figured. Not to mention taco fixings are relatively cheap. Once the bday boys approved, I started looking into how to accomplish this. 

The most helpful link I found was this one, which simplified the formula of how to account for how much to have of everything. I figured I didn't want to be a complete cheap jerk, so the bar consisted of refried beans, seasoned ground beef, and pork carnitas for the "fancy" filling. I also had nacho cheese, shredded cheese, salsa, guacamole, lettuce, and tomatoes for everyone to make their tacos as they saw fit. (Well, I say "tacos", but they were more soft tacos or burritos as the option; we also bought a mess of tortilla chips so people could make nachos if they wished.)

The day of, I made the carnitas in slow cookers (7 lbs. worth! OY). I drove to J's house 5+ hours ahead of the party to get the slow cookers cooking, then ran the rest of my errands and got ready for the party back at my place before heading back there 3 hours ahead of the party to get crackin' on the rest of the food. It got a little intense as the party start time grew close, as I was in the home stretch but not quite done with everything yet and started to freak. J's mom, bless her heart, actually stepped in and helped me finish, which I greatly appreciated. I'd say about the time everyone had arrived about 40 minutes into the party, I was done and everything was ready! I was quite proud of myself.

The spread!

Close-up of my toppings set-up: I love that sectioned platter, so classy IMHO
So for all the sturm und drang and stress, it went off fairly seamlessly (externally; internally, I was a basket case that took an hour to calm down OMG I was so stressed in that last hour). The carnitas were a big hit, and most of the guests dug in enthusiastically. I received lots of "it's great!"s from the guests.

Only bad things: 1. I severely underestimated people's love of guacamole and should've made more, and 2. I MADE WAY TOO MUCH FOOD. I figured people would KEEP eating, but everyone had one serving and stopped. We even had leftover carnitas - which everyone claimed was their favorite! Of course, it didn't help that some people ate before they came (?!?), and although most of the guest list showed up, I'd say only 2/3 of the people actually ate.

J and R declined most of the leftovers, of which there were a TON. For the rest of the weekend and the start of the week, The Hubs and I were eating nothing but Mexican food. After 3 days, we still had a TON of food leftover, specifically beans and taco meat, so I made a schnikey-load of burritos to freeze. I made 10 decent-sized burritos! (I used this link as a guideline for how to prep for freezing.) I love Mexican food, but I'm good for another couple weeks on eating anything other than the burritos, which'll be my lunch at work for the next week or two. Thank god I like my own cooking.

All in all, I was REALLY proud of putting this out. It made me confident that I could do a bigger-scale dinner party once we have a place that can accommodate a larger group! (We live in a one-bedroom apt.)

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