Trying to coordinate dishes to be ready at the same time has always been one of the most stressful things about cooking (well, for me at least). When I’m cooking for my family, it doesn’t bother me so much. But when we have guests over, I really stress about it.
If I have the time, my favorite thing to make for guests is some kind of slow-cooked roast meat or chicken. It takes time to cook, but is well worth it. Aside from the time factor, slow-cooked roasts are actually ideal for entertaining – all the work goes in at the beginning and then you just leave it in the oven for a few hours, checking its progress every once in a while, leaving you time to get ready and look presentable.
The real headache is not the main course, but timing all the other dishes around it. My various mishaps have included: serving undercooked baked potatoes which needed more time to bake than I had expected (or maybe my roast cooked faster than I expected); buttered broccoli which came to the table cold because it had to wait while my roast took longer to cook than I expected; and a case of spilling half my rice directly into the sink while trying to drain it because there was just too much going on at the same time in my hot kitchen (luckily I bought extra bread!).
The strategy I’ve come up with to minimize my dinner party anxiety, is to serve my slow-roast with a variety of salads as the side dishes rather than hot side dishes. The beauty of this is that I can prepare everything in advance and simply keep it in the refrigerator until 15 minutes before I am ready to serve (15 minutes allows it to come to a comfortable temperature).
One of the salads which I recently made that goes really well with roasted meat or chicken is ‘Green Bean and Toasted Almond Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette’. It’s very easy to make (only 5 ingredients go into it) and brings a beautiful burst of evergreen to your table. Just make sure you dress it no more than 20 minutes before serving, otherwise the lemon vinaigrette starts to slightly discolor the green beans (as you can see from my photo above – my green beans had been sitting in the dressing for about 8 hours. I kept leftovers for an additional 24 hours and the color didn’t get any worse in that time).
Do you also get stressed about timing your dishes to be ready at the same time? Any tips you can share?
GREEN BEANS AND TOASTED ALMOND SALAD WITH LEMON VINAIGRETTE
(Serves 8 as a side dish)
800 g / 1.8 lbs uncooked green beans
100 g / 4 oz / 1 cup whole almonds, with or without almond skin
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 tsp sea salt
- Bring a large pot of water to the boil.
- Prepare your green beans by washing them and trimming off the two ends. Leave the green beans long.
- When your water has started boiling, add 1-2 Tbsp of salt to it. Drop in your green beans and simmer them for about 4 minutes until they are just tender but still have some bite.
- Drain the green beans and allow them to cool by spreading them on a platter. If you will not be serving straightaway, refrigerate.
- To toast your almonds, roughly chop them into halves and thirds. Put them in a frying pan on low-medium heat (I used a cast iron pan) and dry-toast them, shaking and moving them frequently to allow for even toasting. When they start to turn a medium-brown, remove them from the pan and allow them to cool on a plate.
- Prepare the lemon vinaigrette by combining 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 4 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon and 3/4 tsp sea salt in a jar. Whisk (or if the jar has a lid, shake it well). Set aside. It is very important that you dress the salad no more than 20 minutes before serving because the lemon may start to discolor the green beans.
- To serve the salad, toss your green beans in the lemon vinaigrette. If you have refrigerated your green beans, you should remove them from the refrigerator 15 minutes before you plan to dress them so that they come to room temperature. A large bowl will allow for good movement while tossing. Pour the green beans and any dressing which has fallen to the bottom of the bowl into your serving dish. Sprinkle the toasted almonds on top and serve straightaway.