No Fuss Dinner Party

Dinner parties don't have to be daunting and you don't have to spend all day in the kitchen. Here are some fancy-looking dishes that are a cinch to make.

Crab Salad Napoleans 

12 ounces fresh pasta sheets or premade lasagna noodles
1 cup mayonnaise, plus extra for pasta sheets
1 bunch fresh chives, chopped (about 1/2 cup), reserving 1/4 cup for garnish
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for garnish
1 pound lump crab meat (about 3 cups)
1 cup frozen peas, thawed (about 6 ounces)
1 lemon, zested, for garnish

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes. Drain pasta and cool under cold running water. Cut each sheet into 4-inch squares. Each Napoleon will require 3 (4-inch) squares.

In a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, 1/4 cup of the chives, lemon juice, pepper, crab, and peas, and toss to combine.

To assemble the Napoleons, begin with 1 sheet of pasta on a plate. Spread a small spoonful of prepared mayonnaise on the pasta sheet. Top with 1/4 cup of the crab salad and gently spread the salad out to the edges of the pasta. Top with another sheet of pasta. Spread another spoonful of the prepared mayonnaise mixture on the pasta sheet. Top with another 1/4 cup of the crab salad and gently spread the salad out to the edges of the pasta sheet. Top with a final pasta sheet. Top with a small dollop of the crab salad. Sprinkle the top with a pinch of lemon zest, a pinch of chives, and a grind of black pepper.

(I made the pasta from scratch which is also an easy recipe of flour, egg yolks, salt, olive oil and water but you can definitely take a short cut with store-bought dried pasta. Recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis)

Crab salad is a perfect way to start off the meal and pairs perfectly with a unoaked Chardonnay. I served Stone Tower Winery's 2013 Chardonnay

Roasted Chicken

1 (10 to 14 pound) roasting chicken
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh thyme, plus 20 sprigs
1 lemon, halved
1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted
1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
4 carrots cut into 2-inch chunks
1 bulb of fennel, tops removed, and cut into wedges
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pin feathers and pat the outside dry. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, both halves of lemon, and all the garlic. Brush the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle again with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Place the onions, carrots, and fennel in a roasting pan. Toss with salt, pepper, 20 sprigs of thyme, and olive oil. Spread around the bottom of the roasting pan and place the chicken on top.

Roast the chicken for 3 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. Remove the chicken and vegetables to a platter and cover with aluminum foil for about 20 minutes. Slice the chicken onto a platter and serve it with the vegetables. Recipe courtesy of Ina Garten

This roasted chicken was tender, juicy and the only work I had to do was the prep! It was a show stopper when we placed it on the table and no one has to know how simple it was.

I served Mira Winery Pinot Noir and Fox Run Dry Reisling with the chicken.

Sides can be just as simple as roasted brussel sprouts with olive oil, garlic, S&P, scalloped potatoes, a simple salad, sauteed spinach.

Probably my favorite part of any dinner party is the place setting.


Fun placemats that I found at Marshall's are complimented with China plates; a large dinner plate, a salad plate and I used the bread plate for the crab appetizer.

A white wine glass, red wine glass and a stemless wine glass for the always needed water.

I love my plain white napkins because they will compliment any place setting and added some color with some trimmings from the Christmas tree.

Flowers add some color but using mason jars ensures that the flowers don't get in the way of the conversation. 

Make sure to keep the wine and water on the table so you don't have to leave the party for refills.