For some, catering for parties can feel challenging enough as to be overwhelming. There is a degree of nuance such that a few tips can really make a difference. This is especially the case since each event needs a different approach. While some types like Superbowl watching parties can stand to have a similar menu year on year, others, such as dinner parties, ideally want a fresh approach every time, perhaps with a different cuisine or theme.
Poker night presents another significant and unique challenge. Looking for ways to entertain themselves during a deadly pandemic, lots of people were using software workarounds during social restrictions, and since then poker games at home with friends have remained as popular as ever in the US. Of course, socializing is at the core of poker night. But the food has to be done right — resist the urge to reach for a takeout menu, because your catering strategy is going to be as important as your poker strategy. Specifically:
- Choosing whether to be aggressive on the flop might not be as important as choosing food that doesn’t leave greasy fingers marking the cards.
- Catering for different play styles might not be as important as catering for vegan friends.
- Avoiding tells slipping through your poker face might not be as important as avoiding allergens.
If that makes you a little anxious, fear not! Here are some great ideas to leave your guests feeling flush.
Homemade nachos and salsa
When the chips are down, there’s another kind of chip that’ll lighten the mood, and they’re made of corn. Almost the default hot snack food for millions, making neither tortilla chips nor salsa needs to be arduous. The chips can be made from scratch using cornflour, but you can simply leave out tortilla bread to dry or lightly bake it. Making the salsa is more important, since it’s always better fresh. If you do go store-bought for the tortillas, though, get a quality chip that won’t be too dusty or oily on those playing cards. Luckily, salsa is pretty simple to put together — fresh tomato and red onion chunks, cilantro, minced garlic and a little lime juice are all it takes. Add chili if desired, and season lightly. Make a simple guacamole from avocado, lime, salt and cilantro for bonus points. If you want sour cream, you can put it in a separate bowl to cater for anyone who doesn’t eat dairy.
A herby classic made mainly from a chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour base and any combination of parsley, mint and cilantro to taste, paired with either a creamy hummus or tahini and some fresh salad these’ll go down a storm. If you don’t have time to make the mixture, there are premixes that work really well and should be available from any good store selling West Asian fare, because just like salsa these want to be made fresh as close to serving as possible.
Crispy potato-skin cups
Done right, these are a bit of a show-stopper. The first step is to choose suitable potatoes. Yukon gold is probably ideal, but yellow potatoes are similar enough. Bake them for over half an hour or briefly microwave till tender before halving and scooping out the insides, leaving no less than ⅛ inch remaining. Turn that into a slurry using a blender and a little water, then coat the cups in it before putting a few at a time into hot oil for about a minute and drain. They’ll even keep in the fridge overnight or in the freezer for a couple of months. When you’re ready to serve, deep-fry them again for a few minutes and dry them off again before loading them with all your favorite fillings and dips.
Luckily, good friends won’t judge too harshly even if your food is terrible, but the good news is that it doesn’t have to be fancy for poker night. Just make sure you’re using the right equipment — that means the fundamentals like knives and chopping boards. Happy bluffing!