Recipes for Success

You may consider me a bit backward, but only recently I came to the conclusion that a recipe can be a marvelous tool when entertaining. By learning to cook while taking a series of culinary technique courses, I got away from following recipes. That’s fine when it’s just me and my husband, but I don’t have sufficient confidence to rely on my culinary skill when feeding outsiders.

In one of the anthologies of her Gourmet magazine columns, Laurie Colwin, a favorite food writer of mine, recommended choosing a company meal and serving it to your friends until they cry “uncle.” A home cook, not a trained chef, Colwin understood that practicing a dish until it becomes second nature can knock out a major fear factor in feeding guests: Concern about the outcome.

It would be a shame in this age of seasonal bounty to limit oneself to one recipe, and sometimes your company dish won’t work for some reason-because guests are allergic to the ingredients, for instance. I recall how embarrassed I was one night when I realized that one of my few company favorites ,cioppino, was a crazy choice for my visiting cousins from San Francisco, where the dish was invented.

However, I do advocate having a few well-practiced company recipes in your apron pocket. I, for one, intend to build a collection and then practice, practice, practice.

Do you have any favorite company dishes? If so, please share them with us.

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