Okay, my biggest problem with making holiday or party meals is that i have a tendency to overdo it. i just feel deep down inside that if i am inviting guests for a special occasion that there is no way in hell that i am going to let them leave unsatisfied. as a result, i tend to make a lot more food than is needed. My darling wife always warns me and i always ignore her and the cycle continues. until today that is. she didn’t say anything but i had a long think about it and realized that especially with just myself and eddie eating that an enormous amount of food would be completely unneeded. so, i scaled back a bit. i figured with the beans, there was no real need to make a potato dish, starch was pretty much covered. also, with the inclusion of the lovely Samuel Adams Summer Ale, that was a dessert in and of itself and while an apple crisp would be nice, it really wasn’t necessary. and right i was. even with the exclusion of those two courses, the remaining feast items were more than enough to stuff me silly, full to the point of just wanting to roll over and never move again.
but, onwards to the barbeque that wasn’t… as i mentioned in the precursor to this posting, i was troubled by the distance between any potential outdoor cooking area and my indoor prep area. it was problematic and i decided that i would apply outdoor cooking methods in an indoor environment and see how it rolled out. i have to say, it went quite nicely.
i settled on five dishes for this meal, an appetizer (spinach artichoke dip), Short Ribs, Baked Beans, Corn on the Cob and Roasted vegetables. The appetizer is pretty much a copy of the California Pizza Kitchen recipe so i won’t linger on it much. I made it because it screams out 4th of July for me and i think its quite tasty. i would encourage you to pick up one or both of the two CPK cookbooks available. I like you all so much that i’m including a link for ya 🙂 California Pizza Kitchen Pasta, Salads, Soups, And Sides and The California Pizza Kitchen Cookbookmy only real modification is that i used chipotle tabasco in place of the regular, i like the smokiness added to it… oh, and i finished it off in the oven to make sure it was nice and hot to serve. here is a picture of the end result, regardless:
The beans are also a traditional dish that we make in our household for just about every barbeque type event. the real difference here is that i used homemade bbq sauce in place of the normal store bought and started with half dried beans instead of canned. easy to make and well worth the effort. just invite lots of guests, i always have waaaaaay too much beans. Start with a can each of white beans, black beans, pinto beans and red kidney beans. drain well and pour into a large pot. if using dried beans, bring them to a boil in a large pot of water and simmer for around 2 1/2 hours before draining and using like the aforementioned canned ones. to this bean mixture, add around 1/2 a cup of dijon mustard, 1/2 a cup of bbq sauce (bonus points for using homemade) and a generous couple twists of black pepper. bring to a simmer and gently stir to combine. make sure you don’t mash up the beans, you’ll end up with a pasty mess and no one will eat them. trust me. simmer for a few hours until the rest of the dishes are ready to serve.
BBQ Sauce: i have never made a homemade bbq sauce so i did a little research and found that the three predominant schools of thought are split between mustard based, ketchup based and tomato sauce/paste based sauces. this was a no brainer for me, both the mustard based and ketchup based start with strong dominant flavors from the gate and i enjoy having a palette to build upon so that the flavors, good bad or indifferent, are intentionally my own. here is the recipe that i based my sauce off of, found out on the internet. i had to play around with the amount of vinegar and the amount of brown sugar until i got to a point that i was happy with the flavor and coloration of the sauce. i also wanted this to scream with garlic so i increased the garlic to around 10 cloves and left them rough cut to give a little chunkiness to the sauce. it fit as an ingredient in the beans and coating for the ribs (see below) but if a smooth sauce is your thing, either mince finer or do what i almost did, break out the immersion blender and liquify. here is the quoted recipe:
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic crushed
4 tablespoons minced onion
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon cayenne
fresh ground pepper to taste
Cook minced onion and garlic in olive oil until onions turns opaque. Add remaining ingredients, mix thoroughly and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes. Makes about 1 1/2 cups of barbecue sauce.
i honestly don’t remember where i found the recipe, i looked at a dozen or so… if you come across it and it’s yours, post me a message and i will give credit or remove it, as suits you. i doubled this recipe to allow for extra. i plan on stewing down some chicken thighs until the meat falls off the bones and then making bbq pulled chicken sandwiches. but thats just me and my plans for the week, nothing to do with the feast per se.
Posting this picture, it amazes me how many dishes that i make start out with this exact procedure. comes from loving garlic i guess…
The Ribs: I picked up two racks of short ribs from a local mega grocery store called E-Mart (see tomorrows post on that experience) and wanted to capture the spirit of outdoor cookery without well, going outside. so, i did the ribs in two staged. first off, i braised them in beer in the crockpot for 2 1/2 hours. then, i coated them with BBQ sauce and gave them about 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven. The results were downright tasty. so, start off, cut an onion in two, peel it and separate it into sections. this will form the base for your ribs in the crock pot. toss them in. take your rack (or two) of short ribs and liberally salt and pepper. sprinkle on a bit of cayenne, a bit of oregano and a light light dusting of sage. place the ribs over the onion piece and pour in two bottles of beer. lots of people use lagers for this but for my money, a nice brown ale gives you a wonderful depth of flavor. i opted Newcastle for the obvious reason. this being that as they are sold in six packs, two bottles of beer for the ribs equated four bottles of beer for me. I like that kind of deal. Cover and cook on high, turning often, for around 2 1/2 hours or until they look well cooked.
after that, i rested mine in the fridge for an hour or so but if you don’t have the time, baste on a liberal amount of bbq sauce to both sides of the ribs and bake in a 350 degree oven for around 30 minutes or until you have finished a beer and a lot of spinach artichoke dip. timing is relative.
The vegetables: this is actually two dishes, corn on the cob and zucchini/mushroom medley but the cooking method is pretty much the same so i am not going to repeat it. again, bringing the grill experience indoors on this one… the key to these is to tightly wrap the veg in foil and bake in your 350 degree oven for around an hour. i modded the spice content of the two for contrast but the basic cooking method is constant. for the corn, i went with butter, a couple twists of salt and just a hint of pepper. wrap individually in tight foil packet for maximum success.
For the veg mix, this one goes back to a technique that i associate with my father-in-law Don more than anyone else. slice up whatever veg you want, spice it with salt, pepper, cayenne and butter, wrap tightly and cook. bonus points for irresponsible use of cayenne, it makes these really tasty. i did it as a layered dish, sliced the zucchini first, spiced it up, and dotted with butter. then, i sliced the mushrooms on top of thise and drizzled with a very thin layer of olive oil. spice and wrap tightly. one hour in the oven and enjoy.
That is about it, plate everything up, enjoy and then roll over like an overstuffed walrus. reaction to these dishes was fairly positive and i thought it turned out great. and that is how you BBQ without leaving the house.
I’ve decided that i will continue with tenuous thread of nostalgia next week by making a Turkish meal, a bit of childhood regression. At least one reader will be able to relate to the dishes on the line up. Look forward to cucumber salad, yoghurt-cucumber dip, Lamacun, kebabs and borek (cheese and meat). I’m just glad that there isn’t any raki around or i would probably have to match it with this meal…