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It's taken me a while to get this this post because I came down with a bad bug and wasn't feeling myself for a bit. But now that I'm back, I'm ready to cook up a storm (I'm writing this while working on braised short ribs) and am super excited to tell you about our Labor Day weekend barbecue too.
My husband & I really, really love to throw barbecue parties. We've got a great big deck, which is a luxury in Brooklyn and we definitely like to put it to use. And since Labor Day pretty much marks the end of summer, we wanted this one to be especially tasty. So we planned out a full menu with soup, salad, two small "entrees" and dessert -- plus cocktails, of course. We kept this party on the small side, so we could pick up some special ingredients and everyone would have a place to sit and enjoy their meal.
Early that morning I'd started on a simple, but deceptively-potent, spiked sun tea. We have a great acrylic drink dispenser that makes easy work of this (www.bedbathandbeyond.com/
We started our meal with a crab and corn soup. The night before the party I'd slowly sauteed some chopped onions in a bit of concentrated lobster broth (we always have chicken, beef and lobster Better Than Bullion in our fridge -- it comes in so handy). I added in a spice bag filled with bay leaves, oregano, sage and thyme, as well as some roasted corn tossed in canola oil, Old Bay, salt and pepper to give the soup just a bit of thickness. Then I continued slowly adding water and letting this base simmer for hours. The next day I brought the soup back to the stove and added crab claw. I let the soup simmer so those flavors could develop for a few hours before adding in some fresh herbs -- cilantro, parsley and this great "soup celery" from the farmers market, which is very leafy with skinny little stalks. We served the soup drizzled with a spicy roasted jalapeno and cilantro oil that my husband whipped up.
Then onto an arugula, crumbled goat cheese, dried blueberry (Trader Joe's sells these great little freeze-dried blueberries -- and strawberries -- that I love to use in salads), and yellow cherry tomato salad topped with my mint & parsley vinaigrette -- one of my-all time favorite dressings. It tastes like eating a garden, in the most wonderful of ways.
For our next course my husband marinated shrimp in bourbon (Maker's Mark is our go-to), lemon, honey, jalapeno and cilantro and threw them on the grill. We're both pretty passionate about cooking and so I always like to put fun tools in his stocking -- this past Christmas I gave him these neat "fire wire" flexible skewers from Williams-Sonoma that are great for shrimp and veggies. The shrimp turned out incredible and in full disclosure, this dish was all him -- I can't take any credit for the deliciousness here.
Next up: kobe beef sliders with grilled onions on little home-made buns woven with rosemary, sage and thyme from the garden, served with the kirby cucumbers, cauliflower and onions I pickled a few weeks ago (http://sweettheresahomecooking.blogspot.com/2011/08/oh-yes-i-can-can.html). These burgers were really easy and tasted incredible. We picked up some gorgeous kobe beef and worked it into tiny patties, about 1/8 of a pound each. Right before grilling we lightly seasoned them with kosher salt but were mindful not to over-flavor this beautiful beef. We topped the burgers with grilled onions and Port Salut -- a semi-soft cow's milk cheese that has a soft flavor and melts nicely. So good.
And we finished all this off with a goat cheese cheesecake topped with freshly sliced peaches & raspberry sauce. All-in-all, one of my favorite dinners with friends yet.
I'll be posting the recipes to these dishes over the next few days, so check back in soon...