SPONSORED POST: This is a paid post. The Road to The Good Life chose to work with La Crema Winery for their dedication to handcrafted wines at reasonable prices. All opinions presented are my own.
Ever notice how parties always seem to end up in the kitchen? So, why fight it? If you have girlfriends who like to cook, invite them into your kitchen and start the party there.
Two of my favorite appetizers that lend themselves well to an effortless Girls Night In and accommodate a variety of allergies are Vietnamese Spring Rolls and Tom Yum Soup. The key to this effortless Girls Night is the flexibility of both appetizers. All ingredients can be prepared the night before, or earlier in the day. Store each separately in air tight containers in your refrigerator to preserve the flavors. If you're running short on time, set up chopping stations and have your girlfriends help wash and slice the ingredients.
About ten minutes before your guests arrive (or when all guests have arrived) you'll want to arrange your ingredients. For your spring rolls, set up an assembly line. To avoid bottlenecks so that two people can be making their food at the same time it's helpful if the ingredients can be accessed from both sides (you'll want two pans of warm water). I've placed the ingredients down the center of my dining room table as well as on a coffee table before when my kitchen was too small.
You'll want to start the base for your soup earlier in the day. If you're hosting a Girls Night after work, I recommend just tossing the stock, lemongrass, galangal, Kaffir lime leaves, Tom Yum chili paste, fish sauce, and onions into a slow cooker and set it on low. Depending on the allergies of my guests, I then place two small or medium pots on the stove. If I have vegetarians over, I add some of the base to a smaller slow cooker and use that for the tofu version. For the other proteins, guests are able to ladle their stock and then grab their choice of finishing ingredients: protein (tofu, chicken, or shrimp), mushrooms, and tomatoes. (For guests who are allergic to tomatoes, have them make their soup before you begin cooking versions with tomatoes. That way you don't have to wash your pot in between.) I'll usually finish the shrimp in the slow cooker after portions for the tofu and chicken have been taken out as it cooks pretty quickly and you want more control over the chicken. No one wants to eat raw chicken.
Vietnamese Spring Rolls
Ingredients (Serves 10 to 12)
- 1 package Rice Vermicelli noodles
- 1 package 12" Spring roll wrappers
- 1 small head Red Leaf lettuce, julienne
- 2 to 4 medium Carrots, julienne
- 1 Cucumber, julienne
- 10 oz Mushrooms, sliced and sauteed
- 3/4 lb cooked Shrimp, if large sliced in half lengthwise
- Pan of warm water large enough to hold Spring roll wrapper
- Cook vermicelli noodles according to the directions on the package. If preparing ahead of time, leave noodles sitting in cool water.
- Pour warm water into a pan or baking dish that is large enough to hold your Spring roll wrapper. For 12" Spring roll wrappers, I fill my wok with warm water.
- Place your sheet of rice paper into the warm water.
- Let paper sit in water for about 5-10 seconds or until soft.
- Make sure the paper is softening evenly.
- When soft, gently lift your paper and shake off the excess water.
- Lay paper on paper towel (or lint-free cloth) to absorb water.
- Place the vermicelli, 1 to 2 oz lettuce, 2 cucumber strips, and 2 carrot strips about a third down from top of circle.
- Fold the top of the paper down so that the filling is covered.
- Tuck sliced mushroom or two halves of cooked Shrimp on under the bundle.
- Roll so that mushroom or shrimp is covered.
- Roll the sides of the paper in towards the middle.
- Finish rolling up the roll.
- To serve, either cut in half diagonally or serve whole.
Vegetarian Dipping Sauce
- 1/2 cup Black Soy Sauce
- 1 cup Water
- 1/4 cup Rice Vinegar
- 2 Tbsp Sweet Chili Sauce
Tom Yum Soup
Ingredients (Serves 6 to 8)
- 2 quarts Vegetable or Chicken Stock
- 2 stalks Lemongrass, 1” pieces
- 4-5 slices Galangal
- 8-10 Kaffir Lime Leaves
- 2-4 Tbsp Tom Yum Chili Paste
- 1/3 cup Fish Sauce
- 2 medium Onions, sliced about 1 cup
- 10 oz Mushrooms, sliced
- 16-24 pieces Shrimp, 3 pieces a person
- 2 medium Tomatoes, sliced
- 2-3 Tbsp Lime Juice
- Bring chicken stock with lemongrass, galangal, and Kaffir lime leaves to a boil.
- Add Tom Yum chili paste, and fish sauce.
- Bring back to a boil.
- Add onions.
- When onions are almost tender, add mushrooms.
- When onions and mushrooms are tender, add shrimp and tomatoes.
- When shrimp are cooked (pink), soup is ready to serve.
Tips for Accommodating Allergies or Dietary Restrictions
With allergies, especially shellfish, it's important to think about food handling, both yours before your guests arrive and your guests' handling of ingredients and utensils when they arrive. Tuesday when I had a few of my girlfriends over, I made the Vietnamese Spring Rolls ahead of time. As one of the girls was allergic to shellfish, I made all of the Baby Bella Mushroom Spring Rolls before I opened or touched the shrimp.
With the Tom Yum soup, I had a second smaller crock pot ready that I was going to use to warm a second portion that would be finished with chicken. If you have vegetarians, you can use the second crock pot for a tofu version of the soup. By starting the broth in the larger crock pot and transferring some before the allergens are added, you cut down on prep time. At the Thai restaurant I worked at we had a large stock pot of the Tom Yum broth. As tickets would come in, broth would be added to a clean pot and the finishing ingredients, mushrooms, tomatoes, and protein cooked to order. This was key to the chicken and the shrimp never being overcooked.
How do you keep Girls' Nights fun and low-key?
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My Girls Night In Thai Cooking Class and the posts leading up to it about the ingredients, the the planning, and execution tips are all sponsored by La Crema Wines, as part of their Make Any Moment a Great Moment campaign. La Crema Wines are my go to choice for celebrations big or small; I know I can always count on La Crema, which is why I served their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir at our 10/10/10 wedding. Ever since 2000 when I helped a chef open a Thai restaurant and ghost wrote a Thai cookbook as part of his branding, I've been serving Pinot Gris with my Thai food. I'm excited that La Crema has added Pinot Gris to their line up this year. All opinions presented in this series are my own.
Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.