Saturday, September 23, 2006
Pulling Out the Big Guns
Margy and I had a bunch of friends over, many of them making the trek out to "the country" from NYC, and these people deserved to be well fed.
With the guests gathered out back, we started everyone off with a rousing round of Those Things, which I stuffed and rolled using Margy's incredible pizza dough. Half of them were the traditional anchovy version, but I also tried some with fontina, which melted beautifully, and some with pancetta and Parmesan. Though I have a way to go before I can live up to my grandmother's Those Things legacy, the results were quite successful, and there were no leftovers. I was particularly proud to see our 18-month-old pal Charlie nibbling on one with anchovies (though I imagine his little piece was fish free).
When dinnertime approached, I lit one, two, three grills, two of which I'd borrowed. This is when things really got interesting. I placed dry-rubbed chicken pieces (thighs, drumsticks, and, to appease those whose tastes run toward the conservative, a few breasts) on each grill, opposite the coals, and put down the lids. I'd also sprinkled hickory chips on the charcoal to generate some smoke. It was a lot to keep track of, but the fact that I was using indirect heat was my saving grace -- no need to worry about burning.
After maybe 45 minutes or so, the chicken was looking fine, and that telltale spicy-smoky aroma was telling me we were getting close. So I added a few hot and sweet sausages to the grills, right over the coals. I did a little much-needed charcoal replenishment, and we remained in business. As the sausage cooked, I brushed the chicken with a sauce I'd made earlier with beer, honey, ketchup, vinegar, chipotle, onion, garlic, and spices.
We set out the chicken and sausages on a serving table, along with green beans (dressed with roasted tomatoes), mac and cheese, and cheddar-chive biscuits that Margy had made in the morning. Those biscuits were wonderful, and, this being the first official day of fall, they played right into our theme: Summer's over -- let's eat a huge dinner with lots of carbs. People began to fill their plates and dig in.
And then, in one of my final work-oriented acts of the evening, I grilled the Thai shrimp, which I'd entrusted our friend Sonny with skewering. Oh, what a job she did -- her steady hand and ample patience meant the little guys, I think there were about 85 or so, were just the way I like them, meticulously arranged. I'm pretty much a disorganized mess everywhere else, but the kitchen is one place where I like to preserve order.
The shrimp had been marinated in a puree of ginger, garlic, lemongrass, chilies, cilantro, sugar, fish sauce, and lime juice. They cooked quickly, and then I sprinkled them with more lime juice and some Thai basil. As I set the platter on the table, I looked up and saw a line of people heading my way with shrimp on their mind. That made all the work, not to mention the fact that Margy and I, as hosts, sort of neglected to eat properly, more than worthwhile. (I certainly didn't neglect to have a bunch of beers.)
Of course, we weren't quite through. Margy had made dessert: lemon meringue tart. She'd assembled the tart earlier, but the meringue part came at the last minute, and a small crowd watched her work her finishing-touch magic. I'll be "ordering" this creamy, lemony tart again on a monthly basis.
By this point everyone seemed happy and appropriately loopy. Dinner down, it was time to keep howling at the moon, and we did our best to live up to the task.