Wednesday, May 26, 2010

weekend dinner party: memorial day

Anyone else confused as to what today's date is? I couldn't even tell you what month I thought it was when I was walking into work this morning. 8:30am and dressed in an airy, light cotton dress I was already feeling the nearly oppressive heat. And after a quick glance at my faithful Outlook Calendar, May 26, 2010 was confirmed. May? You could have told me July and I would have believed you. August, even, and I don't think I would have flinched. There's probably a term for this condition. I fear it's got something to do with aging (we won't go there). But as evidenced by my scatterbrain, well, that term won't be crossing my mind any time soon.

What were we talking about?

Ah! Memorial Day Weekend is up on deck and the implications of this long weekend make my heart flutter. Why? Because I'm beach and boat bound. And beaches and boats yield the happiest version of me I know. Throw in some great food and drink and I'm on a straight up high. And so, the plan to achieve said euphoria is as follows:

chipotle pulled pork sliders topped with red cabbage-apple slaw
2007 Seghesio Family Vineyards Zinfandel
grilled chicken under a brick with citrus, garlic, and smoked paprika
potato salad with salsa verde
watermelon salad with feta and mint
Unoaked Chardonnay from Burgundy
strawberries and blueberries over vanilla ice cream drizzled with black pepper-balsamic syrup
Remember on Monday how I mentioned picking up a big ole pork butt? Well, now you know why. By throwing that into a slow cooker with a few BBQ spices for a few hours and putting together a tangy slaw, you'll have the makings for the world's best appetizer: pulled pork sliders on potato buns. Bam.

And as for the wine pairing? Jon Troutman of Cork'd says: "Zinfandel can serve as the ultimate BBQ red wine this summer. The jammy berry and spicy flavors that many have can play well with a chipotle sauce and other sauces with a 'zing' to them. But, choose wisely; those with excess alcohol levels (15.5% and higher) can be tricky to pair with foods as the alcohol dominates the flavor. 2007 Seghesio Family Vineyards Zinfandel."

And given my experience at a Cork'd tasting with BBQ ribs and sparkling rosé (the left-field pairing of the century), I imagine that could be an equally interesting option with these sliders as well.

Chipotle Pulled Pork Sliders

2 lbs. boneless pork butt
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp. (more or less depending on your heat tolerance) of chipotle in adobo
1 bottle (12 oz.) of your favorite BBQ sauce (I recommend Sweet Baby Rays)

Place pork into lightly greased slow cooker. Combine onion, garlic, chipotle, and BBQ sauce and pour over the pork. Cover and cook on the Low setting for 7 to 9 hours. (Make this the day before the bash.) Shred the meat with two forks. Serve on mini potato buns (non-negotiable) with a small spoonful of slaw (recipe follows).

As for the slaw, feel free to go the classic route or omit it all together. But a red cabbage and apple slaw with fennel and dill and a yogurt-based dressing just sounded way too lovely to pass up. Click here for the recipe, courtesy of Gourmet, many, many moons ago.

For the grilled chicken under a brick, follow this recipe from Bon Appetit. But here are my alterations: swap the Hungarian sweet paprika for Spanish smoked paprika and bump up the garlic. The herbs, I'll leave up to you. I trust you. Promise.

Potato Salad with Salsa Verde

3 lb. small red potatoes (or fingerlings)
3/4 cup salsa verde (Jamie Oliver, you are a God)
1/2 cup mayo (or try greek yogurt as a substitute)
a couple handfuls of baby arugula

Place potatoes in a large pot, add water to cover, and season liberally with salt. Bring the water to a bowl and then allow to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and allow to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the salsa verde and mayo. Add in the cooled potatoes and baby arugula and toss until every potato is perfectly coated with dressing. Taste for seasoning then adjust with salt and pepper.

Watermelon Salad with Feta and Mint

1 (5 lb.) watermelon, chopped into bite-size chunks
2 tbsp. fresh mint, chopped
1/2 cup feta, crumbled
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl, whisk the lime juice, olive oil, and mint together. In a large bowl, add the watermelon, red onion, and feta. Pour the dressing on top and toss. Crumble the feta on top and toss again just before serving.

And to sip? Jon recommends: "Chardonnay has taken a beating from the mainstream press lately for being over oaked and ubiquitous, but there are plenty of options out there that serve as the perfect chicken pairing. Look for something either lightly oaked or unoaked, especially those from Burgundy. While the very best Burgundies can get super pricey, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. St-Aubin is home to some of the most value-driven and under-appreciated Chardonnay in the world."

For dessert, we're keeping things super simple, because quite frankly, that's all I know how to do. Slice up some strawberries and add them to a bowl with plenty of fresh blueberries. Grate the zest of an orange on top and add a sprinkle of sugar. Set them aside and let them do their thing.

In a small pot, add in 1 cup of balsamic vinegar with 3 tablespoons of sugar and a few cracks of black pepper and swirl it all around. Crank up the heat to medium-high and allow it to reduce while checking in and stirring it occasionally. Once it's the consistency of syrup, immediately remove it from the heat.

Add a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream to a bowl, spoon on a generous portion of berries, and drizzle with a bit of the balsamic-black pepper syrup.

And don't think we didn't match up a cocktail for dessert. Jon? "Madeira wines are often reserved by many only for cooking, but the best Madeira can make for an awesome pairing option. Usually reserved for chocolate, Madeira might not be a traditional pairing, but it should play nicely with the black pepper-balsamic syrup. Look for "Bual" or "Malmsey" to appear on the label, which indicates it's a sweeter Madeira."

Now, take a bow. And then a seat. And enjoy every single bite and sip.


bee and jay said...

Ha! We're with ya on the scatterbrain thing- same heat wave here, and we're passing through our POST long weekend discombobulation! (last weekend was our Victoria Day here in the Great White(hot) North) We're really not sure what day it is.

Gotta try the pulled pork, it sounds amazing!! and sparkling rosé- who woulda thunk?!

No beaches or boats for us this weekend, although there will be an anniversary dinner at a resto called Canoe- is that close enough to a boat?

Kiira Leess said...

Consider yourselves on a boat. Same difference!

And definitely try the sparkling rosé and ribs combo. It's kinda mind blowing.

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