The Real Reason My Friends Invite Me to Their Parties

JW and I have known each other for the better part of a decade.  We have boozed together, cruised together, dined together, he’s been a guest at my Saturday Night Salons, and I happy to have him as a friend.  When I got the invitation to his house warming/BBQ, my Saturday plans were settled. 

An early afternoon client meeting ended sooner than anticipated leaving me with two hours to finish my newspapers, down a Café Americano or two, smoke a cigar and enjoy the lovely weather before heading to JW’s place.  Eventually I had the thought that I should be a good friend so I called to see if there was anything I could do to help prepare.

“Where are you now” was all JW said in response.

“I am at a coffee shop a few blocks East of your place.”

“OK, I am in the truck now.  I’ll pick you up and then I need to hit the grocery store.”

As it was only an hour or so before the time on the invitation, I assumed that we were shopping only for the odd sundries that one forgets or intentionally saves until the last minute.  I was wrong.  Really wrong.

Before I could clamp my seatbelt shut, JW accelerated from a stop at a speed that men only use when we are really late and foolishly think that the extra horsepower can rescue us from trouble.  “Here’s my shopping list; can you think of anything I forgot?”

I scribble a dozen or so more grocery items as JW says “I’m soooooo glad you called; I still need to finish cleaning and take a shower.”  This is when I start the timer in my head and sketch a plan.  What can I cook first so that early guests have something to eat while other dishes are prepped? What can I make irrespective of how well the kitchen is equipped?  What starch can I cobble together with minimal effort?

“JW, how many people are you expecting and what’s your budget for food?”

“Anywhere between 20 and 30, and I don’t know… nothing too crazy.  Can we keep it under a C-note?”

“Food only? Sure.  When we get to the store you have all of the paper, plastic, and cleaning supplies – I’ll handle proteins, starches, and the veggie burgers for the one woman vegetarian that always comes to a BBQ and gets annoyed when you don’t feed her.”

Forty minutes and $150 later, we are driving away from Harris-Teeter with 5 pounds of assorted sausage, two pork tenderloins, enough ground beef for a dozen burgers (80/20 blend is the only way to go,) assorted cheeses the makings for my “get you laid good guacamole,” and the requisite ingredients of a simple orzo and blue cheese salad.  The drive back to JW’s place only took about five minutes but in that time he received two phone calls from guests who were already at his door.

Pressure is an old friend of mine – I would always wait until crunch time to write papers in college – and we became instantly familiar all over again when I hit the door.  Fortunately for me when adrenaline flows and time is tight things slow down in my mind. Unpack groceries. Start the water for the orzo.  Cut the avocados, cilantro, jalapeños, and limes for the guac.  Find the cutest woman in the room and task her to be my sous chef.  Mash this, cut that, start the grill, I delegate.  Dress the tenderloins; can someone pour me a beer please?  Grill this, slice that, send out plate after plate.

When the eating was done, the cigar smoking begun, JW offers a toast “Thank you to all of you who have come here to celebrate my new place.  I love you all, I love having you in my home, and Refugee, thank you for handling all of the food and feeding us all so well, tonight – I swear I invited you because I love you like a brother but you cooking was a nice bonus.”

I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

And now I channel my inner Lemmonex and give you, the dozen loyal readers, the recipes of a few of the dishes I made.

Get You Laid Good Guacamole – serves a party of 20 for a couple of hours

  • 3 avocados
  • 3 jalapeños
  • 2 limes
  • 2 fingers of cilantro
  • 1/3 of a medium sized red onion
  • 1 tbsp of sour cream
  • 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
  • Coarse Ground Sea Salt or Kosher Salt to taste
  • Freshly Cracked Black Pepper to taste

Peel and cube the avocados – the smaller the better but not smaller than playing dice.  Finely dice the jalapeños – think the size of confetti – use only 80% of the diced peppers.  Dice the red onion into pieces about twice the size of the jalapeños.  The easiest way to deal with the cilantro is to bunch it as tightly as possible and then slice it.  Add all ingredients in a large bowl (larger than the size bowl in which you will serve) squeeze one lime over the mixture and muddle until smooth like extra chunky peanut butter.  You will probably want to add more lime juice maybe another half lime.  When it comes to recipes like this, really all recipes, know that you can always add more of any seasoning or accent but you can never take any away from the dish so start slowly and add more to taste.

Insanely Easy Orzo Salad that I Invented While Walking Through the Aisles of Harris Teeter – serves 15 or so as a side dish.

  • 12 ounces of Orzo
  • 8 ounces of cherry tomatoes
  • 5 ounces of crumbled blue cheese
  • Juice from ½ a lemon
  • 2-3 ounces extra virgin olive oil
  • Coarse Ground Sea Salt or Kosher Salt to taste
  • Freshly Cracked Black Pepper to taste

Cook the orzo al dente according to the manufacturers instructions (whatever amount of salt and butter is recommended on the package you should double it,) drain, shock with cold water, place in a mixing/serving bowl and let cool while you do something else.  Slice the tomatoes in halves (long ways if you want to use grape rather then cherry tomatoes) and add to the pasta.  Add all other ingredients and toss the salad (yes, I got a strange kick from telling my very pretty sous chef to “toss my salad”) until all ingredients are evenly dispersed.

Kick 5 Guys Ass Burgers

  • 4 pounds of 80/20 ground sirloin – getting the extra lean 90/10 or 95/5 mixture will make your diet feel better but makes for a lousy burger
  • ½ cup diced red onions
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 tbsp Tabasco
  • 2 tbsp Freshly Cracked Black Pepper
  • 2 tbsp Ground Sea Salt or Kosher Salt to taste
  • The rest of the diced jalapeños from the guacamole
  • 2 tbsp of honey
  • 1 cup of crumbled stilton cheese

Understand that mixing all of these ingredients with your bare hands is interactive food porn – if you don’t love this, you probably just don’t like to cook.  Mix them until satisfied and form into ¾ to 1 inch thick discs about six inches in diameter.  Just before placing the patties on a cherry hot grill brush them with vegetable oil (don’t use olive oil because the burn point is too low.)  Here is your doneness measurement: 

  • feel your cheek – that is what extremely rare feels like
  • feel your palm just besides your thumb – that is medium rare
  • feel the ball of your foot – that is medium
  • feel yourself wasting money and know that you should have ordered chicken – that is any burger cooked over medium

Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin aka Yes, I am a Firm Believer in Overkill

  • 1 pork tenderloin
  • Several sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • Coarse Ground Sea Salt or Kosher Salt to taste
  • Freshly Cracked Black Pepper to taste
  • 4 cloves of garlic – pressed
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • 4 strips of thick cut bacon

In a small bowl, mix mustard, lime juice, soy sauce, rosemary leaves, and 1 tsp of pepper, muddle until blended into a paste.  Cut any remaining ligaments away from the tenderloin and sprinkle salt on the meat with a gentle hand (there is plenty of salt in the paste.)  Coat the meat with the paste and then wrap the bacon strips around the tenderloin.  Brush the exterior with vegetable oil and place on a medium hot grill.  When the bacon is fully cooked, the underlying meat will be a perfect medium.

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9 Responses to The Real Reason My Friends Invite Me to Their Parties

  1. Fearless says:

    Even with all of the food porn, I think I am most envious of the fact that you are still able to have a barbecue. As I walk through 0 degree temperatures, with a sky threatening to snow…

    This post reads like an episode of Top Chef…except with no pesky judging and elimination at the end.

    It didn’t hit me until you wrote this – it was very much like a Top Chef Challenge. Where the hell was Padma?

  2. Lemmonex says:

    That orzo salad looks killer.

    I once showed up at a friends party and was asked to make the cous cous salad, make the marinade for the flank steak and prepare a dip…while the host showered. I didn’t mind, but Jesus, what would she have done if I wasn’t one of the first folks there.

    I don’t think JW planned this – as your friend probably didn’t plan for you to do all that you did either – but once we arrived we became their contingency. The parties would have happened without us, we just made it a bit easier.

  3. carrie m says:

    that’s very similar to the orzo salad I make for parties that everyone loves! except I use feta cheese and also season with basil. sounds and looks like everything was excellent. and now I’m hungry.

    clean flavors, simple preparation – always the best way to go.

  4. Julie says:

    Oh yes… I’ve been there. I’m sorry, but now I have to share my story.

    I showed up to my best friends birthday party at her apartment a little early with 3 dresses, 2 tops, a skirt, and a birthday crown so she could then assemble an outfit.

    As she’s changing I hear her yell out “Oh, would you mind making the Kielbasa?” Sure. No problem.

    Throughout the next 4 hours that I spent in her kitchen I had made:
    5 White Four-Cheese Pizzas with Basil and Garlic (http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/White-Four-Cheese-Pizza-with-Basil-and-Garlic-236174)
    At least 100 Chicks in Blankets
    (http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Chicks-in-Blankets-236166)
    My mothers secret kielbasa recipe
    4 trays of Mini quiche’s
    All while keeping the veggie tray filled, the dips fresh, and leaving in the middle of the party to go buy paper plates and napkins for the 40 people who came.
    Did I mention the kitchen is about 50SF?

    The things we do for the love of friends who have no idea about the concept of “preparation”. At least I had someone there who kept my martini glass filled throughout it all… god was I drunk by the end of that party.

    We’re awesome.

  5. LiLu says:

    I’ve wanted to make bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin forever. This looks like the perfect recipe. All it needs is 4 bottles of wine, picked out by you.

  6. Lisa says:

    Man, do you think fast on your feet. Very impressive. And pig-wrapped pig – I love it. I wonder if you will do a turducken for Thanksgiving?

    We had bacon-wrapped figs as an hors d’oeuvre during cocktails before the rehearsal dinner. I hadn’t gotten involved in the selection at all, so when one of the servers offered them to a group of us, I asked what it was. He said it was “pig wrapped in bacon.” We all paused, and then said “Yes, please!!!” They were delicious.

  7. Michelle says:

    LOL! I and I thought it was bad that my sister always asks me to pick up something (ie ice, lettuce, onions) last minute when i go over for a party 🙂

  8. Mme. Meow says:

    It was great to meet you last night– and I could die happy seeing that you spelled the word “jalapeño” ever so correctly 😉

  9. imgreer says:

    I am a huge fan of wrapping things in bacon. Last Thanksgiving I wrapped my turkey in bacon. People thought I was nuts until they realized that yes, of course, everything tastes better wrapped in bacon. Great blog, thanks for checking mine out.

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