Per the request of the scrumptious Lily Diamond.
  1. Braise, baby, braise.
    Hang with your guests, not your stove. Pick a main dish that can be made ahead and kept warm at a low heat. Braised meat is heaven because it's even more delicious the second day. Lamb stew, pork belly, caramel chicken, short ribs... Bon Appetit Mag has some great recipes:
  2. Throw an egg on it.
    A veggie side dish can easily become a main course for vegetarians by tossing a fried egg or sautéed mushrooms on top. Roasted asparagus works well.
  3. Drink the cooking wine.
    This one is self-explanatory.
  4. Invite a ringer.
    I always think it's fun to use dinner as a chance to connect disparate friend groups. But stack the deck with a close friend who's good in a crowd and will get conversation flowing.
  5. Change location.
    If you have the space, it's fun to mix it up. Appetizers on then deck, or coffee in the living room. You can also simply shift seating. At bigger dinners, my mom used to always have the men move two seats to the left at dessert, to shake up the conversation.
  6. Designate someone as the unofficial bartender.
    One less hosting piece for you to worry about. It can even be fun to ask a friend to bring the fixings for their own "signature cocktail."
  7. Make too much.
    The Jewish mother in me always feels it's better to have too much food than not enough. You can buy disposable containers to send extra home with guests.
  8. Put money where your mouth is.
    Dinner parties can get expensive. It you're cash strapped, spend on one or two items where it really counts (good meat, fresh burrata etc). Strawberries and vanilla ice cream make a yummy, elegant, and easy cheap dessert.
  9. RELAX
    It's just dinner! Amongst friends! Messups are part of the fun. My dad still tells a story about the time soup spilled all over our kitchen floor.