Being Memorial Day weekend, it was inevitable that I would either attend or host a cookout (more than likely both). Since I’ve been itching to actually prepare some food for the past two weeks (since moving back, I hadn’t yet had a chance to grocery shop for myself or to cook anything – it’s been a lot of convenience eating), I decided to host a small cookout on Sunday and invite some of my closest friends.
(You may be wondering how I could host a party when I do not have a house. I hosted at my parents’ house while they were out of town. With their permission. It was all very much on the up-and-up.)
After discovering that we all would be consuming countless hamburgers and hot dogs over the course of the weekend, we decided to go in a slightly different direction for our cookout. We chose a menu consisting of chicken burgers and shish kabobs as the main dishes. Jess contributed her kick-ass potato salad and equally delicious spinach dip, and Sophie put an inventive spin on dessert by contributing an avocado pie.
A last-minute discussion between me and Jess led to an experiment with the menu. Jess had been shopping at Whole Foods and had seen buffalo bleu cheese chicken burgers in the meat case. She and I decided that we could create these on our own. It was very simple: I mixed a pound of ground chicken with 1/3 cup of Frank’s Hot Sauce and about 1/2 cup of crumbled bleu cheese. Then I formed the meat into four equal-sized patties, which we threw on the grill.
The experiment was deemed a success. The hot sauce was super-flavorful but you could still get the flavor of the juicy chicken as well. the melty bleu cheese distributed throughout the burger added little bursts of deliciousness. I topped mine only with onions, thinking that the sauce and cheese provided more than enough flavor, but you could certainly put any variety of toppings on this burger.
Jess and I discussed adding various seasonings, etc, but in the end agreed that adding too much more might be overkill (although we did like a suggestion we later read online to mix some chopped celery in with the meat, sauce and cheese).
The kabobs were extremely basic – I did a very minimal amount of preparation. I started with Trader Joe’s angus steak tips (they were already cut to the right size and cheaper than buying a couple steaks – worth a try) which I marinated overnight in Newman’s Own Zesty Italian dressing (I saw several good marinade recipes, but kind of wanted to stay away from soy sauce flavors, which most seemed to include). I chopped up some bell peppers and onions and marinated those in the same dressing, but only four about four hours (I wanted them to stay very crisp). Then I threaded everything onto bamboo skewers and we were good to go.
This was already a lot of meat for seven people, but we were treated to even more when Steve showed up with leftovers from his barbecue the night before. His pineapple-habanero smoked ribs were absolutely divine.
The avocado pie was the perfect dessert for the occasion – not overly sweet, creamy in texture, and just a bit tart from the lime juice. It was a refreshing end to the meal.
Although Noe’s grilling skills were greatly missed, we all still had a great time. The boys (well, OK, Steve) stepped up admirably in his place. Soon enough Noe will be able join us, and I know that Sophie, Jess and I are looking forward to a summer of grilling experiments. Hopefully we set the tone for the whole season with our successful first cookout.