I like having people over for dinner. But I am not particularly experienced at it and tend to find it ever so slightly stressful, which is why whenever I get overly worried I think to myself "What would Ina do?". Ina's entertaining advice is pretty straightforward. Make what you can ahead of time and make what you know. Her optional third rule for entertaining is use a lot of butter.
I find Zuni Chicken is a good choice because you can prepare it the day or the morning before. Then an hour, or perhaps a half hour, before your guests arrive you put it in the oven.
My dinner party rice is a riff on the Zuni bread salad. I put in all the things from the bread salad so you get a similar taste - but making rice is less work than washing lettuce.
Dinner Party Rice
3-4 tbsp raisins
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 shallot, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, also chopped fine
1 tbsp oil, sometimes I used canola, or sometimes olive
2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
salt and pepper
Rice for four servings, I make about 1 cup of dry rice
1. The night or the morning before your friends are coming over, soak the raisins with the balsamic vinegar and about a tbsp of hot water. Cover and leave sitting at room temperature.
2. Maybe about 1/2 an hour before you expect your guests, fry up the shallot and garlic in the oil and start cooking the rice.
3. When your rice is cooked and your chicken is ready, add the shallots, the raisins and pine nuts. I also add some salt and pepper and this point, and then vinegar. Now, this is the sneaky bit, start adding some of the rendered chicken fat, about a tablespoon at a time, until you find the rice tastes deliciously chickeny.
And that's it.