Foodbuzz 24x24: A Swanky Outdoor Barbecue Party
I have different sets of friends. Don’t you?
Do you have friends you socialize with at work, who, come Monday morning, hear all about your other friends that you hang out with on the weekend? Or a group of friends you do a particular social activity with who don’t know the other friends you meet up with for the occasional happy hour? Yesterday I pulled together some people from my various groups of friends to celebrate the unofficial arrival of summer with a backyard bash. I was lucky that Foodbuzz chose my proposal to host a party where the food was influenced by all the places the boy and I have lived, our backgrounds, and our family histories; we ended up with an eclectic menu that tied well together.
As I write this today, as the rain is beating against the windows while I snack on what’s left of the tapenade, I am thankful that we were graced with such good weather yesterday. The rain avoided us altogether which was perfect, as we had both grills (one charcoal, one gas) and the smoker going.
I knew that the boy and I would make the most of using our grills and smokers, but I didn't want the menu to be traditional grilled fare, such as hot dogs and hamburgers, hence the swankiness of the menu.
On the menu:
. Tapenade with toasted baguette
. Roasted red pepper, chipotle, and white bean dip
. Vidalia onion dip
. Grilled clams with prosciutto and Sriracha
. Grilled artichokes with chipotle vinaigrette
. Smoked and grilled wings
. Grilled asparagus and haricots verts, tied with leeks and drizzled with a garlicky balsamic vinaigrette
. Red and yellow tomato salad with buffalo mozzarella and basil vinaigrette
. Beef tenderloin, slathered in roasted garlic, then smoked
. Jalapeno-stuffed and grilled pork tenderloin
. Cedar plank grilled salmon
. Vanilla Pavlova topped with sliced Georgia peaches, whipped cream, and a raspberry-peach coulis
. Chocolate mousse cake
. Signature drink: a pitcher of sweet tea vodka and lemonade (this and vodka mixed with San Pellegrino Limonata are my two go-to drinks this summer. I can't seem to get enough of them!)
In deciding the menu, the boy and I chose some of the foods we like the best. Some of them are influenced by where we currently live, such as sweet tea vodka and lemonade, the Vidalia onions used in the dip, the Georgia peaches used in the Pavlova. I was super excited a few days back to find the first of the season's peaches at Nell's Produce Stand on the corner of Old Alabama and Nesbit Ferry Roads. The peaches sat in a bowl on the dining room table all week, where i've set up my home office, and the smell of them has been intoxicating. I knew right away that i'd have to incorporate them with whipped cream and meringue. Pavlovas seem to be one of my go-to desserts for dinner parties, and this one did not disappoint.
There's a long running joke in this house that the boy would eat chicken wings every single day of his life if given the opportunity. As it is, he makes wings pretty regularly around here. Lately he's been making them on the charcoal grill. He'll smoke them first with some hickory chips, and then give them some good grill marks before moving them to the cooler side of the grill to finish cooking with the grill lid down. While these were doing their thing, he grilled some clams. These take but a few minutes; they are ready once they open up. Top each clam with a bit of prosciutto and a dollop of hot sauce. The briny clams instantly transport me back to the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, where the boy is from, and where we lived together for five years.
The grilled asparagus and haricots verts are a throwback to my French roots. I love simple vegetables grilled then drizzled with vinaigrette. Not only is this a super healthy way to cook the vedge, the grilling gives them good flavor, which is only enhanced by a vinaigrette made with balsamic and sherry vinegars, olive oil, Dijon mustard, minced garlic, salt and pepper.
The beef tenderloin couldn't be easier to fix. Roast a head of garlic, and once cool enough to handle, push the cloves out with your fingers into a bowl and mash along with a teaspoon or so of olive oil and some salt and pepper. With your hands, slather this all over a nice beef tenderloin that has been trimmed of all the fat, and truss it. Trussing is just a fancy name for tying things up with twine. If you do this, you can fold in the tapered end of the tenderloin and tie that part together, as it will ensure even cooking all over. If not, some parts of the tenderloin will be more cooked than other parts. We put this 7 pound tenderloin in the smoker (which had been prepped with a mixture of both hickory and apple chips) and let it smoke to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F, which took about 2 1/2 hours.
We are big fans of spicy foods, which is how Sriracha, jalapenos, and chipotles fit in to the picture. I love the smokiness that a bit of chipotle gives a dish. Take a can of chipotles in adobo from the grocery store (found in the International Foods aisle), and blitz in a blender. This will keep a very, very long time in your fridge in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Use a teaspoon or so to add some depth of heat and flavor to a vinaigrette or a dip.
I would like to thank all of my friends, old and new, who were able to enjoy this wonderful evening with us, and especially would like to thank Foodbuzz for making it all possible. I'm left with great memories and new ideas for our next dinner party.
PS tomorrow i'll post the recipe to the pork tenderloin, which was a bit hit at the party (here's lookin' at you, Darrel).