Recently, the Dean sat down with StyleBlueprint to offer a few tips and guidelines for hosting a truly memorable dinner party: whom to invite, what to wear, how to make it special, and more. You can read the article here (and feel free to tell us about your favorite parties below!)
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It's inappropriate to talk about current politics at any dinner party, ever, or even worse, to assume that everyone you know thinks like you do. Almost always the topic (along with sex and religion, categorically) leads to disaster, outrage, gnashing of teeth. We entertain our friends and go to parties to relax and enjoy ourselves, not to get blood boiling.
When you are at a party and the talk goes to politics, even when everyone agrees with each other, turn to your neighbor and begin another subject or else take a break. Find the powder room, find seconds, find another bottle of wine. There are finer things to discuss during social situations.
The Dean is obsessed with the killer Gambas al Ajillo her host made in Merviel, France. The classically simple Catalan recipe is the perfect treatment for the #1 ingredient in Lowcountry cooking: SHRIMP. We suggest you use the peels to make a fantastic starter soup, perfect for appetizing your dinner party guests when you are still at the stove...
- Remove heads and shells, leaving tails on, of 3 lbs. shrimp. Put the peeled shrimp in one bowl, the heads and shells in another. Toss peeled shrimp in 2-3 teaspoons of coarse salt and refrigerate for 20 minutes. (This step makes the shrimp tastier, crustier when cooked, and removes any water shrimp might be holding.)
- In the meantime, prepare a stock using the heads/shells and equal parts water and white wine to barely cover the shells. Add a little salt and simmer until all "shrimpiness" is released from the shells. In 15-20 minutes the liquid will taste like fish stock. Strain. To finish, measure six demitasse cups of strained stock back into the pot. Taste, and a stronger flavor is needed, boil the strained liquid for a few minutes to concentrate the flavor. Add a tablespoon of heavy cream, or more to taste. The goal is to add body and creaminess but not too much, or the cream will take center stage. Finally add a capful, or two, of Pernod.* Grind a few black peppercorns and your miniature cup of sensational soup is ready to go. Guests can sip while watching you stand in front of the stove sautéing your shrimp...
- Slice large garlic cloves very thin.** Slice cloves longways because you want as much garlic surface as possible in the oil for release the most flavor. Pour 1/4 inch of Spanish olive oil to cover bottom of a large sauté pan. (The oil and garlic is a fantastic sauce for dipping bread into, but in this case more is not more. If an abundance of oil is used to make 'extra sauce' the shrimp flavor will be masked). Over medium high heat, add the sliced garlic and a sprinkle of espelette (or a whole red hot pepper) until garlic is lightly browned, about one minute. Add all the shrimp and stir until just pink, two to three minutes depending on size of shrimp.
Serve immediately with a loaf of crusty bread and plenty more white wine! There is not an easier or more delicious dinner party to be had, on either continent.
*TIP: When adding cream and Pernod, remember you can always add more but cannot take out.
**Another TIP: Try to find large fresh garlic bulbs, some of our papery ones are basically tasteless.
From the moment the Dean woke up on Tuesday morning, she could tell something was different. There was fresh energy, a new crispness in the air. It didn’t take her long to put two and two together... Southern Charm’s 'Cooking with Cameran' segment aired the night before and the Academy hotline was positively abuzz.
What this show made the Dean realize is that the Academy is not helping nearly as many people as we should be. So we used the May-mester to create our new curricula and wrote an e-book for your very own minute-by-minute party plan. Yes, you can throw the celebration of a lifetime at the drop of a hat! And for those lucky enough to be invited to said celebration-of-lifetime at the last minute, our two cents on receiving an invitation at the last minute:
The last minute party requires a two-way avenue of communication. If you wake up Saturday morning and are lucky enough to have a text inviting you for drinks or dinner that night be sure to answer promptly. The inviter has put himself out there and given himself a short time frame. This is a numbers game and size matters. Your host won’t cook for two people what he would for twelve, so answer quickly so he can get his game plan ready. Everyone hates turning down invitations but the last minute invite is guilt-free because it is highly conceivable that you would have already had plans. Your response is essential.
Southern Charm Season 3 premieres tonight!
On next week's episode, the Academy's very own Dean lends a hand to the fabulous Cameran Eubanks, a Mama Hen on the show, with her first ever at-home dinner party. Check out our guide, Cliff Notes to Cameran's Southern Charm Dinner Party, available to download directly from our site. Maybe your style matches hers, or maybe not…
Entertaining at home is all about attitude, all yours. It’s not about rules, copycatting, or tremendous pressure. There is no one way to give a dinner party. The way to give unforgettable parties is to develop your own personal style and use it 100%.
Are you a Nervous Nelly? Too many children to contend with, or hours slaving away at work? You need a plan that is streamlined and a menu to match. There is nothing wrong with ordering your city’s finest pizza, or serving grilled cheese sandwiches with craft beer, or even champagne; this shows spunk and creativity.
Even foodies who love cooking, grilling, smoking, or pickling, might still need a guide to entertaining, lighting, setting the table, centerpiece arrangements, timing, organization. One thing is certain: nobody comes to a dinner party at anyone’s house, even the White House, for the food. It’s all about the company and connections.
The Academy’s expertise is developing a plan that works for your life and style so you can give the best party on your block. And of course we are also geniuses with making a timeline that is positively foolproof. Purchase the Cliff Notes (for less than $3!) and relax at every one of your future dinner parties, just like Cameran and the Southern Charm crew.