The Cheap Party: Eight on the Floor

Photo: Caroline Shepard

Eight Guests, Six Courses = $500

Caleb and Mawn Scott moved into their 2,500-square-foot Williamsburg loft with three roommates when it had just emerged from its previous existence as an architect’s office. “Our bedroom was once the conference room,” says Caleb, an actor. “The space is odd; it’s almost like a Lake Tahoe house in the sixties.” They renovated as necessary, and he built some furniture, including the coffee tables repurposed (left) as the dining table. And they threw parties—lots of parties, like the Jamaican-themed party and the Saint Patrick’s Day party and their two annual holiday parties. The first is for tree trimming, when friends bring over “cheapie little toys” to use as ornaments. One year, the tree toppled twice, felled either by overdecoration or the cat. “It becomes a weird, crazy art tree,” he says. The second, for New Year’s Eve, starts out as a smallish dinner party for about fifteen and usually ends up in the street for firework igniting. Conveniently, the apartment also includes a recording studio, so their D.J. friends will mix up an eclectic list for dinnertime listening, with big-band jazz, bluegrass, reggae from the fifties, and punk from the seventies. Caleb cooks and Mawn, a schoolteacher, bakes; friends bring wine or salads, help in the kitchen, or contribute to the budget. “We’re not trying to be crazy with blowout events,” says Caleb. “We entertain in order to be around people we like without spending a lot of money.” Our experts created the sit-down dinner, pictured here, and broke the budget by only $50.

How the Experts Would Redo the Loft
Love cushions, pumpkin soup, and some electro-booty “sugar plum fairy.”

From left: Jung Lee, the before shot, and chef David Chang.Photo: Caroline Shepard

The DécorJung Lee, Fête

I didn’t want to go a very expected route or look too commercial. There were two low tables, and I decided to put them together for a clean square with two people on each side. It’s inclusive and better for conversation. Doing cushions that people share adds to the intimacy; almost like a love seat, but a love cushion. We bought red silk in the garment district (Butterfly Fabric; 212-575-4744) and covered foam. As I was designing, I thought, Wouldn’t it be funny to draw different-shaped butts on each cushion?—this was the little “sit down here.” The party had an Asian feeling, so I got the shoes; they’re inexpensive, and if someone has holey socks, he doesn’t have to be embarrassed. They also make great party favors. I covered the tables with a bamboo-mat window shade, which added texture and made it feel like one table. We got eleven-by-thirteen blackboards because I knew Mawn was a teacher, and guests could write each other notes or draw faces or rate the food (New York Blackboard of N.J. Inc.; 973-926-1600). The red votives (Jamali Garden Supplies; 212-244-4025) add a punch of color. Banking the candles adds a little drama, and we all want candlelight because we all look best in it.

We made the Christmas tree into a chandelier and, because Caleb is an actor, we put photos of early-eighties TV stars on vellum and then cut them out and clipped them on with mini-clothespins in red and green. We did the red and green peppers instead of flowers because it was unexpected but it still feels holiday. You can dry them and eat them afterward, so there’s a lot of bang for the buck.

We got the platters, chopsticks, mugs, window shade, clothespins, and slippers from Pearl River Mart (212-431-4770). We drew Buddhas on the bottom of the white bowls with a marker. It’s a small detail that you see when you get to the table, and it makes you smile. TOTAL COST … $402

The FoodDavid Chang, chef, Momofuku

This is a simple meal that’s not labor-intensive. There’s a lot of family-style finger food; you can see this on a lazy Susan, being shared with family and friends.

We made pumpkin soup because it’s in season. The whipped tofu keeps it Asian; using dairy would have made it fusion. We were on a budget, and a little shrimp goes a long way. You can bulk it up with herbs and vegetables; for a strictly vegetarian option, you can just do noodles and fresh vegetables. Tofu is a cheap protein that they can fill up on if they don’t want pork; this is a very light, simple dish, and you can put ginger-scallion sauce on anything and make it taste terrific. The pork is low and slow: You throw it in the oven, you don’t have to stuff it or truss it. It will feed a lot of people, and it’s easy and affordable. We twisted the accompaniment; we couldn’t use oysters because of the budget, so I put in rice, ssäm sauce, and pickled peppers. Usually you have a bowl of chiles on the table, but not as part of the dish; you eat it raw. Kimchee is always part of the meal, traditionally.

For dessert, when everyone thinks they’re going to have pie, I serve Asian pears and persimmons. I think dessert is a pain in the butt; for me, it’s all about the company and the wine. TOTAL COST … $148

The MusicDuane Harriott, D.J., Other Music

I created a playlist of holiday music that reflects the couple’s taste in music. They’re avid vinyl collectors, and they love digging for old, rare music—it seems like they’re definitely into vintage music right now, which is great. The mix I made should be played from the beginning of the night. It slowly picks up speed the more festive they become. You can play it at mid to low volume for cocktails, and after. The first half of the playlist would sound nice during dinner.

Sufjan Stevens, “Put the Lights on the Tree”: This beautifully earnest song comes from his brand-new Christmas album. Raveonettes, “The Christmas Song”: another original song from a great Danish pop band that’s fast becoming one of my favorite Christmas songs ever. Donny Hathaway, “This Christmas”: a bright soulful holiday tune that seems to gain in popularity each year. The Davis Sisters, “Christmas Boogie”: an old vocal rockabilly tune from the fifties. Granville Williams Orchestra, “Santa Claus Is Ska-ing to Town”: I couldn’t resist sharing this old ska tune. It’s a bit kitschy, but the song rocks. Rufus Thomas, “I’ll Be Your Santa Baby”: They love to dance, and this is a great mid-tempo tune. Gonzales, “Return of the Sugar Plum Fairy”: an electro-booty bass version of “Sugar Plum Fairy.” This one was kind of a wild card.

From Momofuku to You
David Chang’s budget dinner recipes.

The Menu• Spicy Roasted Pumpkin Soup With Whipped Tofu
• Shrimp Spring Rolls
• Chap Chae
• Braised Tofu With Ginger Scallion Sauce
• Bo Ssäm
• Fresh Asian Pears and Persimmons

Drink Pairings• Prosecco
• Hitachino Red and White Ales

Shrimp Spring Rolls
VIDEO RECIPE: Watch David Chang make this dish

1 cup rice-wine vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 medium daikon radish, julienned
1 medium carrot, julienned

1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tablespoons finely chopped
cilantro stems
1/4cup white sugar
2 bird’s-eye chiles, minced
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 pounds shrimp, cleaned and de-veined
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
4 scallions, white part only, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/2 cup cilantro, loosely packed, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup mint, loosely packed, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup basil, loosely packed, coarsely chopped
1 packet of Red Rose
Vietnamese 22-cm. spring-roll skins (24 to a pack)

PICKLED VEGETABLES: Heat the rice-wine vinegar with 1 cup water in a saucepan; add the sugar, mixing until it dissolves. Set aside to cool. Place the daikon and carrot into separate small containers, cover with the pickling liquid, and set aside for several hours or overnight.

DIPPING SAUCE: Combine all ingredients in a bowl, add 1/4 cup water, and mix together well.

Chop the shrimp into 1/2-inch pieces or slice lengthwise with a knife; do not use a processor.

Heat the grapeseed oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp in batches, and cook for about 2 minutes, until the shrimp turns pink. Remove from the pan immediately (they will continue to cook). In a bowl, combine shrimp, soy sauce, scallions, black pepper, and 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar, mix well, and allow to marinate for 30 minutes. Add the herbs to the shrimp just before assembling the rolls.

Fill a large bowl with warm water, and soak one spring-roll skin until pliable. On a flat work surface, carefully spread the moistened skin flat. At one end, put 2 tablespoons of shrimp, then cover it with pickled daikon and carrots. Fold the sides in, and roll as tightly as possible. Repeat with the remaining skins, stack the rolls on a large platter, and serve with the dipping sauce at room temperature. (These can be made 2 hours ahead and refrigerated.)

Chap Chae

Photo: Caroline Shepard

8 ounces glass, mung-bean, or sweet-potato-starch noodles
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 1/2 red peppers, thinly sliced
1 1/2 red onions, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, julienned
8 ounces king oyster or shiitake mushrooms, roughly chopped
2 1/2 bunches scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces
5 large cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup mirin
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Add the noodles to a large pot of boiling water, and cook until tender. Strain the noodles, shock in a bowl of ice water, and drain. Using kitchen scissors, cut the noodles into bite-size pieces, then transfer to a large bowl. Season the vegetables with salt and lots of black pepper. Heat the grapeseed oil in a large sauté pan, add the onions and peppers, and cook until the onions become soft, 8–10 minutes. Add the carrots, mushrooms, scallions, and garlic and cook another 10 minutes. Deglaze the pan with mirin, and add the vegetables to the noodles. Stir in the soy, vinegar, toasted sesame oil, and seeds, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix the noodles and vegetables together. Serve at room temperature on a large platter.

Bo Ssäm

Photo: Caroline Shepard

10 pounds bone-in Boston pork butt
2 1/3 cups white sugar
2 1/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons salt
4 each red and green chiles
1 tablespoon brown sugar
4 cups uncooked Korean rice
2 heads Boston lettuce
Sagyegeol ssäm jang (Korean soybean paste)
Salted shrimp
1 pounds cabbage or daikon kimchee

THE NIGHT BEFORE: Place 2 cups each sugar and salt in a bowl or saucepan large enough to hold the butt, add 6 cups water, and stir until dissolved. Place the pork butt in the brine solution. Make sure it’s submerged (weight if necessary), and refrigerate overnight.

Clean the chile peppers (leave the seeds in for a hotter flavor) and slice them 1/2-inch thick, on the bias. Mix 1/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup salt with 1 cup water until dissolved, pour over the chiles, and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Place the pork in a large 6-inch-deep pot or casserole, and cook uncovered in the oven for about 6 1/2–7 1/2 hours, basting the pork with the pan drippings every hour. When the meat is fork-tender and pulls away from the bone, sprinkle the exterior with a mixture of 1 tablespoon brown sugar and 1 tablespoon salt. Increase oven temperature to 500 degrees, and continue roasting until the outside is well caramelized. Remove from oven.

Rinse the rice well to remove any sediment. Add 7 cups cold water, 1 tablespoon salt, and 4 cups rice. Cook for 20 minutes or until water evaporates.

Clean and wash the lettuce; select the best leaves, and set aside.

ASSEMBLY AND SERVING: Place the pork on a large platter surrounded with the pickled chiles. Arrange the Korean rice, ssäm jang, salted shrimp, kimchee, and lettuce in separate bowls. Allow guests to assemble their ssäm by wrapping each component in a lettuce leaf.

Spicy Roasted- Pumpkin Soup With Whipped Tofu

1 medium- size sweet pumpkin, about 4 pounds
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons grape seed oil
4 – 5 cups chicken stock
2 – 4 tablespoons Sriracha hot sauce, to taste
2– 4 tablespoons honey, to taste
1/2 teaspoon Japanese seven-spice blend (shichimi togarashi)
8 ounces soft or silken tofu
1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

Garnish: 1 bunch scallions, green and white parts finely chopped Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the pumpkin in half and remove the seeds and pulp, reserving the seeds. Season the pumpkin with salt and pepper, and drizzle each half with 1 tablespoon grape seed oil. Place the pumpkin on a baking sheet and roast for about 1 1/2 hours or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Scoop out the flesh, of the pumpkin and purée in a food processor or blender with 1 – 2 cups stock. Pour purée into a saucepan, add 2 more cups stock, hot sauce, and honey to taste, and reheat gently, stirring to combine. If the soup is too thick, add more stock and season to taste with salt.

Meanwhile, toss the cleaned pumpkin seeds with 1 tablespoon grape seed oil and 1 teaspoon salt, place on a baking sheet, tray and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the seeds are crispy, dry, and golden. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the seven- -spice blend.

Place the tofu in a food processor or blender, and purée until smooth. Season with vinegar and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.

Top each bowl of soup with 1 tablespoon each of whipped tofu and, pumpkin seeds. Sprinkle with and scallion and serve.

NOTE: The more-exotic ingredients are available at most Asian markets, says Chang, but he recommends Han Ah Rheum (25 W. 32nd St., nr. Sixth Ave.; 212-695-3283), Sunrise Mart (4 Stuyvesant St., nr. Third Ave., second fl.; 212-598-3040), and M2M (55 Third Ave., nr. 11th St.; 212-353-2698).

The Cheap Party: Eight on the Floor