Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Feasting On The 4th...And 5th...And 6th...

I had been wanting to barbecue. I had been wanting to have a small group of friends over. I had been wanting an excuse to make somewhat unhealthy, and less balanced food than usual. The 4th of July seemed like a great time to do all of this, so I did! Husband and I had a few friends over for what turned out to be a total feast! We are still enjoying the fruits of our all-day labor.
  • I started off making my own buns, courtesy of King Arthur Flour. Surprisingly, the dough didn't give me any trouble at all. It rose great, it wasn't too sticky (well it was sticky, but it didn't stick all over me or the board at least), it kneaded well. I even managed to get some windowpane action going! I like a lot of bun with my meat, so instead of forming the dough into 18 buns, I ended up doing 12. They didn't see like they would be too big, even after their second rise. But once I popped them in the oven, they popped up and out! They were pretty huge. I still think into 18 would be too small, so I think I'll try for 16 next time. The burger buns formed well, but I had some issues with the hot dog buns. The burger buns I covered with a damp kitchen towel, which is what I would recommend to anyone making this recipe. I got lazy with the hot dog buns and only covered them with a damp paper towel. The paper stuck to the dough. Not a little, a lot. Husband actually had to cut away pieces of dough because the paper would just rip when I tried to separate it. Whoops! They also ended up a little water logged. I don't think it affected the flavor, but it did make them spread a bit, and not puff up as much, so they ended up being pretty flat. Doh! It's hard to say exactly how good these were, since Husband ended up basically burning them on the grill. They ended up being very crunchy, but still tasty. I would definitely try this again for my next barbecue (and toast them in the toaster!).
  • For an appetizer, I made white bean and roasted red pepper dip, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen. This one is a definite keeper. It turned out so fantastically delicious. It tasted kind of like a hummus, but without the sesame flavoring, leaving it a little sweeter, I think. I roasted my own peppers because I'm a snob. I'll pretend like it made all the difference. Husband and I may have partook of some dip before the guests even arrived...but you can't prove it! This one was definitely a hit with my guests. They kept asking what was in it between mouthfuls. Did I mention this recipe is a keeper?
  • The second dip I served was a jalapeno black bean dip, courtesy of Noble Pig. I love black beans, so I liked this recipe, but it paled in comparison to the other dip, unfortunately. I seeded the jalapeno because I don't like things super spicy, but I think maybe a second seeded jalapeno could have punched up the flavor a bit. I used cream cheese instead of mayo because I had extra from the other dip, and I'm not a huge mayo fan (at least I try not to be). Flavor-wise, the dip was yummy, but texture-wise, it was a little stiff. Maybe because of my substitution? I don't really mind that it was bit thick, but the guests definitely didn't enjoy it as much. Though it was still mostly eaten by the end of the evening, so obviously it wasn't terrible. I would make this again for myself, but I don't know if I would serve it again without figuring a way to punch it up a bit.
  • For the "main course" we had hamburgers, hot dogs, and barbecue chicken. No recipes for these. We just seasoned the burger meat with basic salt and pepper, and being that it was Husband cooking, he also threw in some fresh minced garlic. For fixings we had everything but the kitchen sink. I caramelized a red onion, which was delicious and gone in about 5 minutes. I also put out some sliced avocado, tomato, red leave romaine lettuce, and raw red onion. And of course, cheese! I marinated the chicken in some barbecue sauce first thing that morning to ensure lots of flavor-y goodness. The chicken actually turned out really yummy, but no one actually had the stomach room to try it during dinner. Sad. Husband and I have been eating barbecue chicken sandwiches all week instead, which is a-ok by me!
  • For a side I made a quick panzanella salad, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen. Husband, again he let me down a bit with his grilling skills on Saturday, ended up burning most of the bread I gave him to grill, so it was sadly light on that aspect (I have no problems with burnt bread, so I snacked on this on the side). But otherwise, this was very good. I forgot to buy couldn't find any good basil at the store, so I left it out, but I think it would have definitely been better with it. The dressing, while I'm not usually a fan of dressing, was very light and delicious. The champagne vinegar was a little hard to find (yay Whole Foods!), but I think it's nice enough to warrant the storage space for yet another kind of vinegar (along with balsalmic, white wine, red wine, raspberry, rice wine, apple cider, etc.)
  • For another side I served mustard-roasted potatoes, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen. These turned out seriously good. I was looking for a way to serve potatoes without frying them or mixing them with mayonnaise or sour cream, but still do something delicious, and these potatoes were it. They actually tasted a bit like french fries, but better because of the mustardy, saucy goodness that was all over them! I will be saving this recipe for another time.
  • For dessert I decided apple pie would be appropriate, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen (ok, I swear I checked other food blogs for recipes for this feast, but everything that sounded the best ended up coming from her. Go Deb!). I'm not very experienced with pie making. I admit that handling uber-thin pie dough is the stuff of my nightmares. I am far too clumsy and uncoordinated to think I could ever attempt this successfully. But you know what? I did a halfway descent job! Of course, Husband was on hand to spot me, since he knows me all too well. Not only was it not at all scary, it was actually quite easy. Know why? Plastic wrap! Rolling out the dough between two pieces of plastic wrap meant that I not only didn't have dough sticking to my rolling pin, or sticking to the board. It also provided an all too easy way to transfer the dough to the pie pan, which was always the trickiest part when my mom did it. I just took off the top piece of plastic wrap, lifted it from the bottom (with the plastic wrap on the bottom still in tact, preventing tearage), carefully flipped it over into the pie pan, and then peeled off the remaining plastic wrap. Easy! The recipe for the dough was a little weird when it came to "cutting in" the water. My dough ended up a bit of a soggy mess. I considered re-doing it, but I hate wasting and so does Husband, so he convinced me that it was probably alright. After chilling it for a few hours, it was a little sticky, but overall fine. I didn't do the lattice top, since I prefer as much dough as I can get. I completely forgot to do the egg white wash and sprinkle sugar on top before I put it in the oven. I didn't miss the sugar. The wash probably would have made the texture a bit better, but really I don't think I missed it. The spotlight of this pie was definitely the filling. I followed Deb's recommendation and doubled the spices and reduced the amount of lemon juice with the apples, which I would highly recommend. The flavors were fantastic. I also only used granny smith apples, since I couldn't find any McIntoshs. Does anyone know if they are not available on the west coast or something? Or are they just not in season? At three different grocery stores, all I saw were grannies, fujis, galas, golden delicious, and red delicious (hardly). Poop. Anyway, I don't think I'm a pie prodigy by any means, but I think this was a very successful first attempt! My crust was nothing to write home about, but it was still buttery and delicious. Yum!
  • I also used the barbecue as an excuse to finally try these strawberry shortcakes, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen. I've been eyeing this recipe since she posted it. Unfortunately, I wasn't super impressed (especially next to the pie!). The shortcakes really didn't puff up in the oven, like I had hoped. They actually puffed out a bit. I may have rolled the dough too thin, but I had to in order to get 6 shortcakes. There was totally not quite enough dough. Also, I thought they were a little dry. I would try shortcakes again, but with another recipe. And next time I do my own whipped cream - which I totally will because it's ridiculously easy and wonderful - I'll add some vanilla and a pinch of sugar to give it some flavor. The cream plain was a bit, well, plain.
  • And to drink (even though my guests ended up bringing so many drinks they wouldn't all fit in the fridge), I made some watermelon lemonade, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen. I had just bought a juicer the previous weekend, so I was excited to try my own lemonade, and this just looked delicious. And I have to say, I don't know when it happeend, but sometime within the last few years, I've really become not a very big fan of lemonade. I didn't realize it until I made this recipe. There was nothing wrong with the recipe itself. It was a bit sweet for me. Even after I cut it in half with seltzer water, it was still too sweet. I didn't add that much sugar, I think that's just how lemonade is. Oh well. I discovered my love of watermelon juice through this exercise! It has a really light and refreshing, yet understated flavor. It actually reminds me a lot of cucmber water. I could see mixing it with some water for just a little added flavor.
So there you have my 4th of July feast! It was my first hosted 4th of July barbecue, and I think it went well. I may just have to do it again next year! I made so much food, that Husband and I are still enjoying it. Yum!

By the way, this might not sound like a lot of food on paper (or monitor, I guess), but I was disgustingly full just having a little bit of everything. I haven't eaten that much in as long as I can remember! I literally gained 3 pounds from this one meal. 3 pounds from 1 meal!!! I regret nothing. It's the first real splurge I've had since my radical lifestyle change (read: diet, only it's not a "diet", it's just how I eat now), and it was wonderful. Ok, it didn't feel so wonderful after the two desserts, and I really shouldn't have eaten a hot dog and a hamburger. Lessons for next time. Anyway, I've been exercising a bit extra to work off my fatty fatty fat fat. No big.


Diana Mo' said...

omg, that's a crap ton of food. but it all sounds AWESOME.

you just made me realize, i don't think i ever see mcintosh apples anymore. maybe fuji's took them over.

the best shortcakes don't require rolling, but rather are like biscuits so you handle them less. i have a good recipe somewhere at home. remind me and i'll share.

i'll have to try that red pepper dip. sounds like something rob would like. i'm usually lazy with my appetizers and just put out bread and cheese (mmmm....cheese....) but rob doesn't eat cheese. so i need to add to my dip repertoire.

JuLo said...

Yeah, it was. But it worked out, since it's the end of the week, and we just finished polishing off the leftovers. ;)

Yeah, this recipe wasn't rolling so much as just patting it flat. I didn't want to re-roll at all, so I had to get it thin enough to get 6 out of one roll/pat. Yes, share! Though I think I'm over it for awhile. I think strawberries are on their way out already. Sad.

Dude, seriously, if you used store-bought roasted red peppers, this dip would be seriously easy, and it's seriously good. especially when you find little hunks of garlic that didn't get fully ground up...mmmm....garlic... Ok, I'm hungry.

Diana Mo' said...

why would i store buy? roasting a pepper is so damn easy!