When it comes to entertaining, I am a worrywart. I worry about making everything come out at the same time and about being so haggard from cooking that I can't enjoy my company. So I like to think of myself as a choreographer rather than a cook. Sometimes that means buying charcuterie for appetizers and—for the hard-core cooking—enlisting assistance.
If my daughters are in town, they enjoy being in the kitchen and I am eager to have their help. After all, Eliza can cut potatoes with the speed of a competitor on The Great Food Truck Race. Sabrina designs tapas menus and spins around the kitchen in the rickrack-trimmed apron that was my mom's, working her gourmet magic and assigning easy jobs to me, her sous chef. And whenever Emily comes home, she organizes something fun for a friendly group, like one of our favorite meals—hobogies—which she learned how to make while leading backpacking trips at the Hulbert Outdoor Center.
One reason I love planning hobogies for company is that the limited advance preparation required meshes perfectly with my obsession to economize on time. All I need to do is buy a bunch of veggies, make rice and put out knives and cutting boards. It's not until guests arrive that the chopping begins.
After I pour everyone a glass of wine, the communal slicing creates a warm togetherness, the kind of conviviality I imagine at a quilting bee. Against a backdrop of chopping sounds—tomatoes, onions, broccoli, a rainbow of peppers—conversation flows easily. We catch up on one another's lives, discuss the latest political scandal and talk about books we've read, movies we've seen.
Here are the hobogie instructions:
- For each person, use a two-foot long sheet of foil, doubled. (A more environmentally-friendly approach is to make everyone's portions in one large casserole dish.)
- Next put a generous amount of cooked rice on the bottom of the foil.
- Then pile on a whole bunch of diced or cubed vegetables such as tomatoes, carrots, onions, celery, squash, peppers, and broccoli. (Provide a separate bowl for each)
- Top it off with any kind of canned or cooked beans and corn kernels (I use frozen).
- Pour generous amounts of olive oil as well as balsamic or other vinegar over the whole concoction. You may also want to add soy sauce.
- Fold over the long edge of the foil, making sure the food is very well sealed inside. Each person should twist the ends into a fun shape, which for example can make the hobogie look like a dachshund body with a swan head and a double tail.
- The foil "fantasy animal forms" help you identify your unique design after the hobogies cook on a hot grill or bake at 400 or 425 degrees for approximately a half hour.
While the hobogies cook, I set the table. And when the meal is over, another time-saving feature of hobogies is that there is hardly any mess to clean up!
Caveat: you may know folks who don't buy into the charm of collective cooking. It's best to check in advance or save this activity for family or close friends.
What do you do to lighten the workload when entertaining? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!
Check out my other food and entertaining-related articles:
- USE THIS PRE-PARTY CHECKLIST TO BE MORE ORGANIZED AND LESS STRESSED
- CREATE THIS FABULOUS FAMILY COOKBOOK & ENJOY THESE SIMPLE RECIPES
- A QUICK, EASY, DELICIOUS, ONE-DISH, LOW-CAL MEAL WITH COUNTLESS VARIATIONS
- YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE JEWISH TO MAKE GREAT CHICKEN SOUP
- DELIGHT YOUR GUESTS WITH MY MOM'S PARTY GAMES
- EASY, ECONOMICAL, CROWD-PLEASING PASTA