Going back to my culinary school days, my friends and I have been getting together around this time of year for what we like to call our "SAD" dinners - aka Singles Awareness Day. Even when I moved to the mountains I brought the tradition with me and it started off as just a single girls food fest and Rom- Com night and slowly evolved into an "I Love You Man" social gathering. Boyfriend, no boyfriend, girlfriend, no girlfriend - just take an extra day to love each other a little more - but not with roses - please no roses! Do you know how expensive they are?
This year was a co-ed celebration with the focus on my number one fan - aka my sister - who was turning 19 - just kidding! She's like thirty or something.
We're calling this the "Mexibodian Feast" - part Mexican with Samuel Adams beer battered cod, cilantro & lime marinated Flank Steak and root beer & Samuel Adams infused pulled pork tacos & tostadas and of course, the Cambodian classics: fried rice & fried chicken - where do you think my love of fried chicken comes from? It's literally in my dna.
It started off with a very simple beer batter - I'm talking easy peasy - so easy I'm not even going to give you a recipe - and it's not cause I'm lazy - it was just too damn easy!
Just make sure you season the flour like nobodies business - salt, pepper, chilli peppers, garlic salt - whatever your little heart desires. One egg, and then start adding the Samuel Adams till you get a thick batter but nothing crazy like pancake and not runny like a crepe batter. Thats it! You can add some parsley as well in the batter - for a little colour and to get that artisan look. If you're feeling fancy darling..
If you've never had Samuel Adams before - get your @#$% together - they've been doing Craft Beer before the hipsters deemed it cool. For the Boston Lager, picture a roasted caramel with citrus, floral notes.
Apologies on no actual pictures of the fish tacos - once that bottle of beer was open, and the guest started arriving .. yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm a bad host. I just simply forgot!
I obviously had no time to fancy up the batter cause I was too busy pimping out the buffet table too. I laid out some craft paper and drew out a treasure map for the guest to follow - complete with a start line and all.
You can't call it a taco bar without offering an array of toppings right? We offered three types of salsa: corn, mango & pineapple, and a classic pico de gallo - as well as guacamole, red cabbage coleslaw with julienne spanish onions, iceberg lettuce, jalapeños and green onions. Everything made from scratch. I don't just show up and eat, sometimes I roll up my sleeves.
The other half of the "treasure map" held the Cambodian dishes - brought to us courtesy of The Sok sisters and I threw in some summer rolls for the vegetarians at the table.
My sister is a huge charcuterie fan and considering it was her birthday too - we threw in a board with some brie, ACE crackers, prosciutto, sopressata, Trader Joe's olive tapenade and some blood oranges and grapes for garnish.
Charcuterie platters are one of my favourite things to bust out at parties. Just throw your favourite meats and cheeses onto a large cutting board and voila - Martha Stewart eat your heart out!
The flank steak was another easy marinade - evoo, salt + pepper, cilantro, a little lime, garlic - the usual. They were quickly thrown on the bbq to a beautiful medium/medium well.
The pulled pork took a little bit more work - like I had to actually do it the nigh before. But trust me - it was just as easy .. are you seeing a pattern here? I love gourmet meals - I'm just not willing to invest the time into cooking them. I'm all about being fast & easy.
For the pork I took a 5lb boneless pork butt and threw it in a slow cooker. Depending on how big your slow cooker is, you'll have to adjust the liquid - but I added 1 bottle of Samuel Adams (Boston Lager), a can and a half of root beer, a small handful of brown sugar, some garlic cloves, & ginger. If you choose to do this in the oven - go at it low and slow and only cover a third of the butt so the top half can caramelize and get all sticky & delicious. I got this recipe from our Executive Chef at work, Jason.
I let it marinate in the slow cooker pot over night and then we set it & forgot it in the morning. Seriously - just let it go for a few hours till you can pull it apart with a fork. Remove the butt and pull apart the meat - make sure you save all the juices still left in the pot cause you're gunna poor that bad boy into a pan on the stove and reduce it down to concentrate the flavours. Then you throw the pulled pork back in the juices and serve!
I know that sounds like a lot of work - especially when you're seeing all those words up there and you're thinking "that must be a hard recipe if she has to use all those words to describe it" well don't be silly - read the instructions - go get yourself a pork butt - some Samuel Adams and get to cooking!
Everyone was free to mix and match their own toppings and indulge in their inner glutton the entire night. That's my kind of dinner party - where I do as little as possible! My resolution for 2014 was also pajama bottom dinner parties but because we were mainly celebrating my sisters birth - she veto'd that idea.
And thanks to Pinterest - you can't have a party without an epic desserts table. And for a group who always claims to "not have a sweet tooth" we always go all out on desserts. We had cheesecake bites, homemade cannoli's from scratch by the lovely Sabrina, and profiteroles from Marny - my friends are legit talented in the kitchen. Oh, and there was a waffle bar too - with hot waffles made to order! Complete with not one, but two types of Trader Joe's Speculoos Cookie Butter - if you've never had this - you need in on it. It's like a legal form of crack.
And of course there was cake for the birthday girl. There should always be cake at social gatherings cause that's the best way to show love -- not roses. Take notes everyone: cake = love.
So, whether you're a crazy cat lady or madly in love - enjoy some cake and the rest of your day folks!
*this post was sponsored by Branding & Buzzing' Opinions expressed are my own