Giving a dinner party is incredibly stressful for me, which is why I never give them. I use the excuse that my apartment is just too small and no one over 5’5” would be comfortable but really, it’s because I can’t handle the pressure of carrying everyone’s good time on my shoulders. What if people are bored? What if they don’t get along? What if someone I didn’t invite finds out I didn’t invite them and then I have to make something up...”I’m so sorry but I thought that was the night you said you had tickets to name of impossible to get tickets for show goes here!” When really I’d want to say; “I don't like you enough to feed you." It’s awful but true. So, that rules out entertaining chez moi.
On the other hand, being a guest at a dinner party comes with its own set of problems. First, if you’re single you are expected to be the entertainment. “Oh, we’re so boring. All we do is hang out with our gifted and talented kids…it’s such a treat to see you!! We miss you!!! Tell us one of your great dating stories! Come on, one of the really disastrous ones. You are SO funny!” I guess this is what they mean by singing for your supper.
And then there’s the food. I don’t eat garlic, pieces of red meat or chicken where you can see the bone. I know, I’m already starting from a precarious place. That’s why I always offer to bring dessert-at least I know they’ll be something for my stomach to look forward to. I was once invited to a party where, with much production and fan fare, the host brought out a big cast iron pot, lifted the lid, releasing a nauseating wave of garlic, and announced “beef stew!” He then heaped a huge pile of plain penne on our plates and allotted each guest one small cube of meat, a few mushy carrots and two pearl onions. (Have you ever tried to stab a pearl onion with a fork? Don't bother.) And then everyone had to oooh and aaaah over this paltry presentation. Thank goodness I’d made a flourless chocolate cake so I wouldn’t go hungry. The pressure to respond when there isn’t a good thing to respond to is just the worst. It's just asking too much of me. Whenever I watch the Food Network I feel so sorry for the ‘guests’ who have to regale the TV chef with “Oh Giada, what’s this I taste in your ravioli? It’s wonderful!” You know that poor person has been on the set eating cold pasta for five hours-take after take. It doesn't seem worth it.
My dessert offer was politely refused when I was invited to dinner at the house of newly married friends. After mixed greens with goat cheese, walnuts and pomegranate seeds, vegetarian chili and a crusty loaf the hostess came out with a pie plate and announced, “it’s homemade!” I took one bite of this chocolate chip studded pie and knew. This was the whole of a Pillsbury Slice n’ Bake Chocolate Chip Cookie log smushed into a store bought pie crust. Ok, officially it was made at home but it was not homemade. Kind of like the ‘All Baking Done on Premises’ sign at the diner-which really means someone dumped the industrial sized fake blueberry muffin mix into a pan and put it in the oven. What a crappy way to end a great meal.
There is just no reason to stop short at dessert. If you are being brave enough to entertain do it from soup to nuts! Or pie. This Frozen Key Lime Pie is so easy it’s almost embarrassing to call it homemade. I put my trust in Ina Garten and the Barefoot Contessa does not let you down. If you are thinking, “but I don’t really like lime,” don’t think that. You’re thinking of the green flavor in a roll of Lifesavers. They are awful and I’ve always wondered who picked the fruit that makes up those five flavors in the first place. Never mind that. Just make this pie and either bring it to the next dinner party you are invited to or serve it yourself. If I know it's on the menu, I promise to oooh and aaaah.
Notes: The only tweaks I’ve made below are to leave off the lime wedges she uses as decoration-seems like a waste since you’re not going to eat them. Also, I find it annoying that the wax sleeves of graham crackers contain 9 crackers, not 10. I didn’t feel like opening a new pack just so they could get stale so I just used 9 and it was fine. Yes, this pie contains raw egg yolks. None of the many people I have served this to have gotten sick. But, per Ina, "if you have concerns about raw eggs, combine the yolks with 1/2 cup of the lime juice used in the recipe in a double boiler. Whisk constantly over medium heat until the mixture reaches 140 degrees. Use in place of the raw egg yolks, remembering to add the remaining 1/4 cup of lime juice to the filling mixture along with the condensed milk and zest."
Basically Barefoot Contessa Frozen Key Lime Pie
1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs (9 crackers)
¼ cup sugar
6 Tablespoons butter, melted
6 egg yolks
¼ cup sugar
1 14oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2 Tablespoons lime zest
¾ cup lime juice from 4-5 regular limes or 8-10 key limes
1 cup cold heavy cream
¼ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla
Set oven to 350
Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter in a bowl. Press into a 9” pie pan, making sure sides and bottom are even thickness.
Bake 10 minutes. Let cool completely.
Beat egg yolks and sugar on high speed with paddle attachment for 5 minutes until thick.
With mixer on medium add condensed milk, lime zest and lime juice.
Pour into baked shell and freeze for two hours.
Beat heavy cream on high with whisk till soft peaks form. Add sugar and vanilla, beat till firm. Take pie out of freezer briefly, spoon or pipe onto pie and freeze several hours or overnight.