Three Vegetarian Dinner Party Ideas for Every Effort Level

Credit…Christopher Testani for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews. Prop Stylist: Caroline Dorn.

Growing up, my parents’ annual New Year’s Eve dinner party drew in all corners of our neighborhood. The first floor of our house would transform into a hot-ticket restaurant for roughly 40 guests. Out unfurled the leaves of the dining room table, on which my parents built an elaborate spread: lasagna and scalloped potatoes, Caesar salad with croutons from scratch, leg of lamb, mussels in red sauce but also clams — not everyone liked mussels, my mom recounts.

No detail went unaddressed. They topped the buffet in shimmering linens, labeled each dish with a place card and outfitted every table and surface of the kitchen and living room with place settings and chairs. The party would then stretch to the “disco” my dad had built downstairs, where a small dance floor, disco ball, laser lights, bar and audio-mixing setup awaited guests.

My parents were — and still very much are — consummate entertainers, and I aspire to be like them. So this week, I made my case for capital “E” entertaining, while my boss (and recovering intense host), Krysten Chambrot, shared her argument for a laid-back, breezier approach, by way of two dueling dinner party menus.

Each menu is flexible, with vegetarian guests (or hosts!) in mind. In my elaborate spread, Gabrielle Hamilton’s roasted mushrooms with braised black lentils and parsley croutons (above) works as either a side or a luxurious centerpiece for those foregoing the chicken, and it’s flanked by two vibrant salads. Krysten provides a couple of centerpiece swaps in her effortless menu: Melissa Clark’s artichoke and pea stew or Alexa Weibel’s white bean and celery ragout would pair nicely with the salad and rice sides she suggests.

Roasted Mushrooms With Braised Black Lentils and Parsley Croutons

View Recipe.

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