When that happens, what I like to do instead is to throw a 'drinks & dessert' mini-evening event. It's a little simpler to prepare, it doesn't mean you have to carve hours out of your week, and you can really focus on getting together with friends for good conversation -- the most important part.
Here are some tips for making your mini-event count.
Pop the Prosecco
As the title suggests, my vote is for popping some prosecco or other suitable sparkling wine, like Cava, to kick off the evening. A sparkling wine can clear palates for those guests who have come from another meal, but it's also refreshing for those who haven't eaten much. And who doesn't like bubbles with friends?
Recently I enjoyed sampling the Mionetto Prosecco Brut, a very dry sparkler that is great to pair with dessert; the flavor has light hints of berries and fruit, which will enhance any dessert dishes with berries or fruit. And the bottle is gorgeous! Just make sure that you get this wine in the fridge to be well-chilled for when your guests arrive.
Whip Up Dessert
While you can do dips or canapes when friends come over, serving homemade dessert is really special. While cakes are definitely a great idea (even better, cakes with sparkling wine in them), I was recently craving a nice custard. Actually, I was wanting some pots de creme, but this creme custard is tasty and a little easier to make. Note: you do need to make this at least 2 hours in advance so it can set properly.
Vanilla Bean Creme Custard
For the Custard
- 2 2/3 cups (1 pint) whole milk
- 1 1/2 whole vanilla beans (I use Rodelle)
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 whole vanilla bean, scraped
Scrape the inside of the 1 1/2 vanilla beans. Place inside a saucepan with 2 cups of whole milk, sugar, and the whole vanilla bean pods (that you just scraped). Bring to a boil, stirring very frequently to avoid scalding.
While milk is boiling, in a small bowl combine remaining 2/3 cup milk, egg yolks, and cornstarch. Stir together until fully incorporated.
Once milk has boiled, reduce heat to low and remove vanilla bean pods. Slowly add in yolk/cornstarch mixture, whisking vigorously until mixture begins to thicken, approximately 3 minutes.
Pour mixture into glass bowl and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
When ready to serve, whisk heavy cream, sugar, and 1/2 of scraped vanilla bean pod in a cold metal bowl until stiff, approximately 2 minutes. Fold whipped cream into your custard mixture and serve immediately topped with edible flowers or blueberries. I served mine in vintage teacups for a fun conversation piece!
That's it. Chill the wine, whip the custard, and then spend the rest of your efforts enjoying the company of those important folks in your life.