Friday, June 21, 2013

Hosting Your Own Girls Night In Thai Cooking Dinner (Class): Timeline and Tips

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.
Events that are fun to be at have a few things in common: a stress free hostess, thoughtful details, and the right mix of outgoing individuals and introverts. Planning (before and during the event) is the the secret to a stress free hostess. And key to getting guests to mingle and relax is a theme that's emphasized with carefully chosen decor and party printables such as name tags and decor. There's something about planning and a theme that ties an event together, even a casual get together, and takes it to the next level and ensures everyone has fun.


Choosing a Mascot

With events at The Station, a mascot of sorts is developing: an elephant. For Gates' birthday, it was a Tuppertoy elephant. For last Tuesday's Girls Night In, it was an elephant candle holder.
The elephant candle holder wasn't chosen to be kitschy; its choice was intentional. The first dinner cubes and I served as a couple was a Thai dinner. As I'm known among my friends for my Thai cooking, the favor for my bridal shower was the elephant candle holder. Choosing the candle holder had dual significance: a special get together with my girlfriends before my wedding and a nod to our wedding where we served La Crema wines (our sponsor for the evening).

I photographed the elephant candle holder against a white background with a Thai ingredient, Kaffir Lime Leaves, that's found in most dishes. I then used these images on the name tags, goodie bag labels, and recipe cards. For consistency with the blog, I chose two of the fonts you see regularly: CK Ali's Hand Official and Big Noodle Titling.
How do you tie an event together?


Giving Guests Name Tags

You might be wondering why I printed name tags for a get together of my girlfriends. Here's why. I often assume my friends know one another. I've learned over the years that this isn't always the case. I've also discovered that some of my friends share my inability to remember names. My solution to the awkward "I'm horrible with names and faces, could you remind me of your name..." game is easy: Name tags. It's a little junior high, but takes the stress off you if you're still prepping in the kitchen or finishing up a dish when the doorbell rings.


Timeline for Preparing For and Hosting Your Thai Cooking Class

Depending on how many guests you're planning on having over, you'll want to have a Sous Chef helping you prepare. This is especially true if you're doing an afterwork event. If going it alone, choose Monday or Tuesday so that you have the weekend for prep. With ten guests, a Sous Chef was key to the success of the event. My Sous Chef Annie was familiar with my kitchen and has exemplary knife skills (for Mother's Day, she made us the most phenomenal Chicken Vindaloo in our kitchen). She came over the night before the event and the afternoon before the event to help with prep.

Two to Three Days Before Your Thai Cooking Class

  1. Two to three days before your event, pick up non-perishable items and vegetables that will keep.
  2. (Optional) Two days or nights before your event, prepare homemade stocks and any soup that will be served cold, such as the Chilled Carrot Ginger Soup.
  3. Two nights before your event, prepare hearty vegetables, such as onions, bell peppers, and carrots. Put in airtight containers and label what dish they're for. Sometimes I tape a copy of the recipe with the step number highlighted to the top of the container. Make sure the ink is waterproof as condensation can cause inkjet printer ink to run sometimes.
  4. Two nights before your event, if serving Vietnamese Spring Rolls, make your rice vermicelli. Store cooked noodles in water until you're ready to use.
  5. The night before your event, prepare less hearty vegetables, such as green onions, mushrooms, cucumbers, eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, and lettuce. Put in airtight containers and label what dish they're for.
Tip 2: Label Ingredients

The Night Before Your Thai Cooking Class

  1. The night before your event, make any appetizers or dishes that will be served cold, for example, Vietnamese Spring Rolls, and store in airtight containers to keep fresh and preserve flavors.
  2. Chill white wines.
  3. Either the night before your event or the morning of your event, purchase any seafood you plan on serving as well as temperamental vegetables (those that oxidize or bruise easily such as Thai Basil).
Tip 1: Before Guests Arrive Prep All Ingredients

A Couple of Hours Before Your Thai Cooking Class

  1. An hour or more before dinner is to be served, put on any soup bases, such as Tom Yum, or curries, such as the Thai Basil Eggplant Curry with Chicken, that need to simmer for flavors to develop.
  2. An hour or more before dinner is to be served, prepare any meat or seafood that will be served. Use different cutting boards for seafood and prepare after you've finished working with vegetables, chicken, and/or beef.
  3. Half an hour before guests arrive, get ready. If you have long hair, be sure it is pulled back.
  4. Twenty minutes before guests arrive, remove white wines from the refrigerator and add red wines to the refrigerator.
  5. Fifteen to twenty minutes before guests arrive, plate any passed appetizer or family-style dish that will be served cold. Be sure that the serving plate or bowl that you choose fits in your refrigerator.
  6. Five minutes before guests arrive, plate any soup that will be served cold, such as the Chilled Carrot Ginger Soup.
  7. Pour wine for guests to enjoy and serve chilled soup.


During Your Thai Cooking Class

Once your guests arrive, you'll want to guide them in the preparation of the meal. Let guests get to know one another while setting up stations. Put ingredients next to where you'll be using them. If your event is on a weekend afternoon, as you set up the stations, you can explain the various Thai ingredients your guests might not be familiar with: lemongrass, galanga, etc. When cooking, start with dishes that need time to slow cook, soups and curries. Add hearty ingredients to soup base (galanga, lemongrass, chicken) and curry (bell peppers, chicken) and let simmer while your friends prepare stir fries such as Pad Plik King. While guests are eating you can go into more details about Thai culture and the style of cooking.
If you find this amount of organization a little stifling and want a more freestyle event, you can have your guests wield knives. Set up a few stations with a couple of examples, julienned carrot, sliced mushroom, and let them finish up. Be sure to have compost bowls nearby as well as a dish for finished ingredients. For the health and comfort of your guests, prepare ingredients that are allergens ahead of time or clearly separate and keep separate from other stations and cut last. For example, bell peppers, eggplant, and shrimp.
What are your tips for making an event look effortless?
Bon Appetit!
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My Girls Night In Thai Cooking Class and the posts leading up to it about the ingredients, 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 Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life. Most images taken by Jessica Palopoli for The Road to the Good Life. Images in the bottom two collages and image of the bottle of La Crema with a single glass in the first collage taken by me for The Road to the Good Life.