Monday Night Dinner Party

Monday night is usually reserved for getting caught up on reading, attempting the Sunday crossword or simply taking a deep breath from weekend activities. (Oh right; there's televised football, too.)

But tonight, I'm breaking all of my rules and hosting a dinner party. There will be eight this evening at casa Kim and already the preparations have begun. Dinner is a mostly Indian affair, at the request of the guests of honor, who also happen to be from Bangalore and Bombay. My friends for several years, they are about to leave the D.C. area and relocate to New Zealand at the end of the month.

Tonight's feast is my send-off, my farewell to Ravi and his wife, Sangeeta. After reading about my favorite cilantro-based chicken curry from Madhur Jaffrey, Ravi asked if we could dine on curry for our last supper. How could I refuse?

I'm rarely nervous cooking for a crowd, but other than pakoras (fried veggie fritters) for an impromptu cocktail party, I've never prepared Indian food exclusively for Indian palates.

In addition to the pressure to perform, I am under the gun to come up with appropriate curry complements, other than rice and naan. (I've asked Ravi to procure, despite my promises to make him naan. Oh well.) Yesterday, as I scribbled notes for the grocery store (which of course, I inevitably left at home), I pondered over chickpeas, one of my all-time faves, no matter how they're prepared. A good cooking pal reminded me that the curry, which is saucy and wet, would need something "dry" -- without a gravy -- to offer balance to the plate.

As I type, dried chickpeas are cooking in a water infused with a hunk of ginger, some garlic cloves and a star anise pod, simmering away until al dente. Later this afternoon, I'll take the chickpeas to another level, cooking them in oil with grated onions, more ginger, chopped chiles and a masala that I'll mix on the fly. For stock, I'll use the reserved chickpea water from the morning and allow it to reduce until I've got a melody of flavor, heat and aroma.

Dessert will be ice cream (another request), and to give it a little Indian spritz, I infused the hot cream with cardamom pods. The vanilla custard has been chilling since last night and will soon get its churn in the ice cream maker. I am thinking of adding some chunks of dark chocolate for an extra dimension.

Wine is already in the house, and the few bottles of Riesling (which go well with spicy food) chilling in the fridge.

A dishwasher-less house makes dinner parties particularly challenging when it's time to clean up, particularly on a school night. I've decided to give myself a little break and bought a package of disposable plates, made of bamboo, which also happen to be biodegradable.

Before I sign off and don my apron, I wonder if any of you have done an early work-week supper party and have entertaining tips to share. Bring them on, in the comments area below! And of course, a full, post-prandial report in tomorrow's blog. Til then.

By Kim ODonnel |  October 16, 2006; 11:45 AM ET Entertaining
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Hmmm, what are the plates made of bamboo like to use and where did you get them? Any recommendations for a small ice cream maker (making about a pint at a time)? Thank you!

Posted by: Meg | October 16, 2006 2:05 PM

Weeknight dinner parties can actually be less stressful, because - if you work outside the home - you really *have* to prepare much of the meal in advance. A Monday night is best of all, because you've had all of Sunday to get ready. Set the table before you head out the door on Monday morning, and for gosh sakes give yourself an hour before your guests arrive!

Posted by: KiKi | October 16, 2006 3:23 PM

Kim, can you share the chickpea recipe with us? I've made indian-spiced chickpeas and chole many times, but not heard of adding aromatics to the water you boil the dry beans in. Sounds interesting.

Posted by: Yum | October 16, 2006 4:29 PM

I concur with Yum's comment...i have made chole many times aand would love to hear about the two step process.

Posted by: Komal | October 16, 2006 5:50 PM

That was a great meal. You sure fed the Indians well. We loved the food, wine and company.
Thank you Kim for inviting us and going through all the trouble. I would love to have the recipe for the ice-cream.

Posted by: your guests from Oakton | October 17, 2006 9:08 AM

Lemony Chicken Curry With Coriander
From Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking

Well, what happenend to the onions? how can you make curry w/o onions? it will never taste good! recipe looks fine but please add onions.

Posted by: TM | October 17, 2006 1:57 PM

Places to get compostable plates/cups etc

Dont know where you get the bamboo variety though

Posted by: nala paka | October 17, 2006 3:34 PM

Made the curry last night. Yummy, yummy, yummy! Even better for lunch today. One thing, the curry felt a bit gritty on the molars - any thoughts on what I did wrong? Could I have mis-measured the spices?

Posted by: NOLA Girl | October 18, 2006 2:55 PM

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