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Party time? Keep it stylishly simple

  • Special to the Washington Post
  • Published Tuesday, May 14, 2013, at 10:14 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, May 14, 2013, at 10:25 p.m.

5 rules for hosting

1. Invite a guest who intimidates you. You’ll feel a little charge all night that will keep you on your toes.

2. Pick a main dish and don’t be afraid to repeat it. Be known for it. That is how you develop your style. Make that dish your signature.

3. We are over wine. We don’t want to see it anymore. Cocktails all the way. We encourage our guests to bring their liquor drink to the table, and we discourage them from switching to wine.

4. Turn the lights down. We would rather sit in a cave with headlamps on than under klieg-type lights at your dining room table.

5. Go barefoot. Try it once, and get back to us if you don’t agree.

PINEAPPLE RICKEY

Start with fruit that’s already peeled and cored, in the refrigerated section of the produce department. The puree used here is delicious but temperamental. Do not make it too far in advance. It can oxidize and turn brown unless it is stored with as little air as possible.

Make ahead: Refrigerate for a day or two, or freeze for longer storage, in a zip-top bag with as much air pressed out as possible.

Adapted from Lee Manigault and Suzanne Pollak of Charleston, S.C.

Makes 6 servings.

1/2 peeled, cored fresh pineapple (about 12 ounces)

1/2 cup peeled, chopped fresh ginger root

Leaves from 8 sprigs mint, plus small sprigs for garnish

Ice

8 ounces light rum

Soda water

Cut the pineapple into chunks and place in a blender along with the ginger and mint. (You might need to do this in batches.) Puree for several minutes, until entirely smooth. The yield is about 1 1/4 cups.

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the rum and 3/4 cup of the pineapple-mint puree. Shake well, then strain into ice-filled highball glasses. Top with soda water and stir.

Garnish with the mint sprigs.

Per serving: 140 calories, 0 g protein, 7 g carbohydrates, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 5 g sugar

THE WICHITA EAGLE — May 15, 2013

SPICY RUBY SLAW

The key to success here is shaving the cabbage as thinly as you can and adding as much ginger as you can handle.

Make ahead: The slaw needs to sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour before serving.

Adapted from Lee Manigault and Suzanne Pollak of Charleston, S.C.

Makes 6 cups (6 servings).

1/2 head red cabbage (about 12 ounces)

6 scallions, white and light-green parts, cut crosswise into thin slices

2 tablespoons peeled minced or grated ginger root

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon plain rice wine vinegar

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Core the cabbage, then finely shred it, placing it in a large mixing bowl. The yield is about 8 cups. Add the scallions, ginger, oil, soy sauce and vinegar to the bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss well; let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour before serving.

Per serving: 70 calories, 1 g protein, 7 g carbohydrates, 5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 105 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugar

THE WICHITA EAGLE — May 15, 2013

THE ONLY RIBS YOU NEED TO KNOW

The title may sound hyperbolic, but it’s not. These ribs are delicious hot, cold, at room temperature or any way you can get your hands on them.

Make ahead: The ribs can be boiled, sauced and refrigerated several hours in advance. Bring to room temperature before roasting.

Adapted from Lee Manigault and Suzanne Pollak of Charleston, S.C.

Makes 6 servings.

3 racks (7 to 8 pounds total) baby back pork ribs, preferably at room temperature

16 ounces light brown sugar

20 ounces (2 1/2 cups) Dijon-style mustard

1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce

3/4 cup bourbon

Bring one large (at least 12-cup) pot of water to a brisk boil over high heat.

Add the racks of ribs to the boiling water; you might need to cut the racks in half to make them fit in the pot. Once the water returns to a boil, cook for about 15 minutes; the meat will not be cooked through.

Use tongs to transfer the racks to a cutting board. Let them rest for 5 to 10 minutes, then use a large, sharp knife to cut between the bones, separating the individual ribs.

While the ribs are resting, make the sauce: Wipe out the pot you used to boil the ribs, then add the sugar, mustard, soy sauce and bourbon. Place over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Cook for 5 minutes to thicken the sauce. Remove from the heat. Return the ribs to the pot and toss to coat evenly.

At this point, the ribs can be cooled and refrigerated for several hours.

Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 400 degrees.

Line 2 baking sheets with aluminum foil or parchment paper.

Divide the ribs between the baking sheets; if there’s any sauce left in the pot, use it for basting. Roast for about 10 minutes, then rotate the baking sheets top to bottom and front to back. Baste with any remaining sauce or with sauce that has pooled on the baking sheet. Roast until the ribs are crisped on the edges and well browned, 8 to 10 minutes.

Transfer to a platter. Serve warm, at room temperature or cold.

Per serving (with half the sauce): 1220 calories, 64 g protein, 47 g carbohydrates, 78 g fat, 29 g saturated fat, 310 mg cholesterol, 1660 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 36 g sugar

THE WICHITA EAGLE — May 15, 2013

Soon the flurry of graduations, baby showers and weddings will signal the start of the entertaining season. The weather improves, and we are drawn to gathering on patios and porches.

For many of us, though, entertaining is a hornet’s nest. Normally competent people, wondering what to serve and where to seat the guests, fall to pieces.

It’s time to seek inspiration and encouragement, and for that we need merely to look south — to a place known for its effortless hospitality.

At 6 o’clock in Charleston, S.C., they say, one need only pour a cocktail and go for a walk to find a gathering. The city needs no excuse for a party, and two women in particular are well known for their contributions to the entertaining arts.

At their Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits, Suzanne Pollak and Lee Manigault — they call themselves “the Deans” — offer classes replete with their own blend of acerbic, hilarious and completely practical advice for hosting a cocktail party, business lunch, bridal shower or dinner party.

For instance, the Deans have no problem with wearing jeans to greet dinner guests. “Put a drink in their hands, introduce everyone, then go up and change!” Maybe they prefer to make an entrance (something that’s admittedly easier to do when you have a grand staircase).

With great charm and grace, the two women blithely hand down advice, referring to themselves only in the third person; each statement is a proclamation. The Deans say, “Never stop the party to do the dishes.” (It kills the atmosphere.) Invite seven people to a dinner party. (It livens things up.) Not six. (Three couples are so boring.) Not eight. (It’s impossible to have one conversation.) The Deans are utterly certain about absolutely everything. (When asked their ages for this article, they replied, “The Deans are old enough to know it’s rude to ask a lady her age.”)

Spend any time at all with the Deans and you get the sense they could pull together a cocktail party for 50 people in 45 minutes. Asked to impart some advice to those of us less blessed with the entertaining gene, Manigault had plenty. “Our main ethos: We love to use nice china, sure, but if it’s going to keep you from having people over, use a paper plate,” she said. “Just have people over.”

“The point is to get together, not to show off your china,” Pollak says. “We have all been there with the chipped plates, and those are some of the best times. Reflect your personality, not a magazine.”

When their students gather, they have one frequent lament: “My house isn’t put together.” The Deans proclaim that no one is paying attention. “The guests are much more worried about themselves,” says Manigault, with a throaty laugh.

They insist that entertaining should be relaxed. Enough with the contrived centerpieces. Instead, select herbs from the farmers market or leaves and flowers from your yard and plop them in unconventional vessels such as pitchers, julep cups and other precious containers.

Place cards? Absolutely. Manigault’s daughters decorate them for her. And what about the guests who discreetly swap place cards? The Deans have no patience for that behavior. “The worst manners in the world,” says Pollak.

They encourage inviting guests across all age ranges and professions and mixing up single and married people; it energizes the party.

Have at least one person you can’t wait to see.

“If it’s all hosting for payback, it’s just not fun,” says Manigault. The Deans say that entertaining should be worry-free. “Find cool people doing cool things, and you’re guaranteed a great time,” Pollak says.

The Deans freely admit that they’re bossy. They worry that the next generation wants to entertain but has no idea how. “Yearning for cocktails, dressing up like ‘Mad Men’ characters, yet missing the road map,” says Pollak.

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