leave your inhibitions at the door
Boom Boom made it through the Susan G. Komen 3-Day walk this past weekend! Physically, there were only a couple blisters and really tired legs to deal with. Like many things, the mental challenges are often harder. In this case, it’s keeping motivated for training and keeping sanity after running out of things to talk about with her walking partner.
There was also the pressure of raising enough money for the walk. She did the usual reaching out to friends and posting about it on Facebook, which turned out well. But then she turned to something that’s right in her wheelhouse – throwing a party. She’s organized a few fundraisers for the kids’ school before, and they were both fun and successful. For those events, she was able to secure some sweet deals on catering. This time around, she got cheapest caterer around.
She and her friend were able to secure some cheese, fruit, and dessert trays from local businesses. So it was up to me to come with a savory dish that would feed about 40 people. “No problemo,” says me. I had visions of a making my horseradish-crusted beef tenderloin or maybe even a big ol’ piece of prime rib. I thought it would be cool to set-up a carving station and put on one of those ridiculously large chef hats. But there were a couple of problemos. First, I had other duties that meant I couldn’t stand around slicing meat. The other problemo was that I had a to keep food costs under $75. Oops.
That meant it had to be something easy to serve, can be done ahead of time, and inexpensive. I made a joke about hitting White Castles to grab a couple hundred little pieces of heaven. But then it hit me – I can make a whole bunch of sliders on the cheap.
I went with four kinds – two pork and two beef. For the pork, I bought a giant 8-pound shoulder which, at around $3 a pound came in at under $25. I was able to cook this the day before using my pulled pork recipe. When done, I split up the batch and put some in the vinegar-based sauce and the rest in regular barbecue. Halfway done!
For the beef, an acquaintance turned me on to a Marcella Hazan recipe from her classic book “Essentials of Italian Cooking.” It’s only slightly less ridiculously easy as the pulled pork. And since it uses beef brisket, was super cheap – around $30 for a brontosaurus-sized slab. The recipe calls for “larding” the beef – inserting slices of pancetta or bacon into it. I went ahead and did it, but it would be just as delicious without it. Also, the recipe calls for the beef to be cooked for 3.5 hours and then sliced for serving. I cooked it for an additional 45 minutes so that it could easily be pulled apart for the little sandwiches. From there I served half with barbecue sauce and half with just a splash of balsamic.
Add in about $20 worth of dinner rolls and – BAM! – right under budget. Thankyouverymuch.
Beef Roast Braised with Onions
– 1/4 lb pancetta or thick slices of bacon
– 2 lbs of beef brisket
– 5 cloves of garlic
– 4 thinly sliced medium onions. You want to have around the same mass of onions as you do beef.
1. Preheat Oven to 325 degrees
2. Make long slits into the beef along the grain and shove the bacon into the slits. The original recipe calls for a larding needle, but just used my fingers and the handle end of a spoon.
3. Insert the garlic in a few of the slits at random
4. Put the sliced onion in a dutch oven large enough so the beef can snugly fit inside.
Put the beef on top of the onions and season with salt and pepper.
5. Put it in the oven and cook for 3.5 hours. You have to flip the beef over every 30 minutes, so that’s why it’s more complicated than the pulled pork. But then again, if you consider flipping beef every 30 minutes to be complicated, then you better stick to making ice.
6. When done, slice the beef against the grain, top with the caramelized onions, and serve.
Remember, if you’re pulling it apart like I did, you’ll want to cook it for another 30-45 minutes.
We asked folks to bring a bottle of wine to share, so there were too many to list here. The highlight of the evening was a 1979 Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley).
It was incredible – still luscious, well-balanced with some tannins left over.
Seeing that bottle, I was inspired to open what was easily the lowlight of the evening –
…a 1985 Bonny Doon Chardonnay (Santa Cruz Mountains). For all you keeping score out there, that’s a good 25 years older than usually recommended for California Chards. Another friend gave me a case of 1980s Chards and this is one of the few I have left. All of them turned a beautiful amber color and most of them were actually still drinkable… in the first 15 minutes. This one was terribly oxidized. The lawn died where we spit it out.
I also served this magnum of Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose I won at a silent auction a couple years ago.
It was an absolute stunner. Not only was smooth, creamy, fruity, and lightly toasty, it had a beautiful pink hue that was perfect for the fundraiser.
And these bottles may or may not have taken major hits that night.
Boom Boom originally wanted to have someone come in and play guitar and sing for everyone. I thought – pshhhhh, why settle for hamburger out, when you can have steak at home?!? So I volunteered my musical services. (Ok, the guy couldn’t make it, but work with me here.) I had the grand idea of doing acoustic karaoke to raise money – people would donate $5 to sing a song with me playing piano or guitar accompaniment. We had an iPad out to pull up lyrics for the 50 or so songs I picked out. I made sure to choose songs that I was confident I could muscle through even if super loaded. And that theory was put to the test.
It was a BLAST!! Unfortunately, we were a little too loopy to collect money for the songs.
Oh well, she still hit her fundraising goal.