The Endless Backyard BBQ – Part I

My boyfriend and I have been throwing an epic Memorial Day BBQ party for the past three years.  When we first hosted this event, what we thought would be a cookout turned into a 2 day, multi-meal party.  Five people spent the night and became as obsessed about cooking as we are and just couldn’t peel themselves away before we surprised them with another show-stopper course.

The following year was amped up a bit and different.  Instead of one group of people, we had two different parties, on two different days.  This was no fun for us because we were working the entire time at cooking and entertaining because there was a limited amount of time with each group.  There was a party beginning and an ending, so like a performance, we had to work it, time it and create the food so people could eat and get on with their days.  Plus, the first group ate almost everything we bought for the two days and we had to go shopping again for the second day.

This year we swore we would stick to one day.  Guess what?  It stretched out to three!  Inevitably no one’s schedules lined up perfectly so only some could come on Saturday, some on Sunday and then we had a surprise group decide to drop by on Monday.  I panicked at first, but then relaxed and gave myself a few rules that helped immensely:

  • Be organized-I figured out in advance what I would be making for each day, for each course and how much of everything I would need.  This turned into a shopping list so I wasn’t just blindly picking up everything that looked good at the market
  • Clean as you go-of course it rained alot this weekend so there was a constant flow of people in and out of the house, which meant lots of muddy foot traffic.  Also, with so many dishes, the pots and pans piled up and since I swore off paper products in lieu of earth-friendly recycled materials, I had more to wash this year. As long as I cleaned as the days progressed, I didn’t fall too far behind.
  • Make use of leftovers-of course inevitably I made a few big batches of something or other that was barely touched.  Instead of throwing these dishes away, I figured out how to reincarnate them.  This is perhaps the piece that makes me happiest as entertaining can be expensive and I didn’t want to have to go back to the store as I did in year two. Here are some examples of how I recycled perfectly good food:

We grilled too much sausage. Upon looking at the plate of leftover sausage the next day, I wanted to gag.  However, after I sliced them and sauteed them with garlic, freshly chopped spinach, sundried tomatoes, and onions, they came back to life.  Why throw out perfectly delicious sausage that is only a day old?  Meanwhile, I boiled orechiette pasta and then tossed everything together along with grated Pecorino Romano cheese and lemon zest.  It was a hit the next day and talk about stretching a buck!

I made way too many ears of corn. This was my great excuse to try Seamus Mullen’s Corn and Crab Salad recipe, or my variation of it based on what I had on hand.  I happened to have two cans of crabmeat  that I was going to use for a Crab Dip, but this recipe just stole it right from the cupboard.  First I took the leftover ears and scraped the kernels off with a knife.  In a bowl, per Seamus’ instructions, I grated a clove of garlic, added white wine vinegar, lemon juice and zest and EVOO and whisked it together.  I tossed the corn with this dressing, along with a minced red onion, a seedless cuke, a pint of sliced grape tomatoes, the crab, a handful of fresh tarragon and fresh basil, a sprinkling of ancho chili powder, salt and pepper. His recipe is different, but mine worked great and it was super light and refreshing.

Roasted Beets on their own?  Not a hit I guess everyone wanted things that made them feel bad on day one of our party because no one touched the beets I laboriously roasted the night before.  I should have made a Beet and Goat Cheese Salad, but instead, the next day I turned these wallflowers into the main act.  I sauteed some onion, garlic, carrot and celery until soft and added Farro, or Italian Barley, then cooked it as you would risotto, slowly adding broth.  Once cooked, I tossed it with the roasted beets which were diced, a handful of crumbled feta cheese, sliced cherry tomatoes, freshly sliced red onion, fresh herbs including mint, basil, oregano and thyme and sliced marinated artichoke hearts from a jar.  On the side I whisked together a lemon vinaigrette and tossed the whole thing together for a side dish the next day.

We grilled way too many shrimp on skewers. I marinated these babies overnight in a delicious garlic-lemon-EVOO blend while they were still in their shells and then we grilled them on skewers for people to pull off and peel.  Maybe no one wanted to go through the effort of peeling their own shrimp (mental note for next time) because we had many leftovers.  We also had a few leftover clams from my boyfriend’s famous Clams in wine broth that he does in a cast-iron pot right on the grill.  Meanwhile, I had made a simple and delicious pasta dish that yielded many leftovers.  All I did was make a simple and plain short pasta.  To it I tossed in half a stick of butter (it was two pounds of pasta), chopped fresh sage from my garden, Pecorino Romano cheese, and tons of black pepper (and a little salt).  Delish!

You guessed, it, with all of these leftovers, the second dish was to saute the clams and cleaned and chopped shrimp super briefly in EVOO and garlic and toss with the pasta dish above.  It was super tasty.

Here’s the method to my madness:

Leftover meat=saute with onions and garlic and maybe a green and toss with pasta OR serve in a warmed tortilla with a salsa of sorts

Leftover veggies=cook a sturdy grain like a brown rice, quinoa, farro or small whole wheat pasta and toss with the veggies and a vinaigrette for a hearty side salad.

Stay tuned for Part II from this weekend’s festivities- There’s Always Room for Dessert!

Rosemary Maggiore is our Last Minute Lady. A single mom of two kids plus a full time job (she runs this website!) keep her busy and usually pushing things to the last minute. Somehow she manages to keep her cool and her sanity while she enjoys good food, wine, friends and most importantly, family.

For more Ro, see:

Mom Talk

Follow me on Twitter at @lastminutelady

What's Fresh from @RachaelRay

Rachael Ray