How to throw together a BBQ

Farrell and I are blessed to have a small porch with our bitty apartment. On this porch is a cheap grill, some rusted chairs, and a makeshift table fashioned from a shipping crate.

So what happens when you add two scheming newlyweds and a day off from work to the mix?

Farrell got a call from a close friend Sunday night asking if we had planned a barbecue for Memorial Day.

“Uh…no. Why do you ask?”

Well, we knew you had a porch and a grill and just wanted to see if you were planning a barbecue.

Farrell eventually got the point, emails were sent and by the next afternoon about 12 people (surprisingly, it seemed nobody had plans already) showed up at our place looking to be entertained and fed.

And the grill was ablaze!

With such short notice, tasks had to be delegated. Farrell was the obvious choice to deal with various meat products to grill. Easily tote-able foods (chips and dip, etc) were toted by guests. Booze, as usual, just magically appeared.

We all know how these things go. Without specific instructions, you end up with five bags of chips (true story). Another side dish was needed just to be safe.

Potato salad, inspired and adapted from several Smitten Kitchen recipes, mostly this one, substituting white wine for sherry, cutting out the bacon and adding a boat load of dill.

And dessert? No question that was my role. Before we were volun-told to host a barbecue, I was planning on practicing macarons on Monday, but decided to settle for attempting my new cookbook‘s Italian buttercream method instead to top off some easy chocolate cupcakes from Joy the Baker.

Trouble happens with such last-minute preparations though. For example, I have a series of glass containers that I use to store dry goods like rice, flour and sugar. When I got back from Baghdad, one of these was filled with what I assumed was cocoa powder. Today I tested my theory and…wrong! Spicy hot chocolate mix. I didn’t catch the error until after I finished butter-cream-from-hell (powdered sugar cures all mistakes, apparently) and flavored it with Chambord. Uhh, chipotle and raspberry liquor, anyone?

People were forgiving. The phrase “best cupcake ever” was thrown around a few times. One guy even stole a cupcake as soon as he walked through our door.

That’s why these kids get to tell us to host a party, we’ll always happily oblige.

– Dill/Dijon Potato Salad – Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
5 lbs of red-skinned potatoes, cleaned and chopped into manageable pieces
1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for roasting
2 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp white wine
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
Dill…a lot of fresh dill (I didn’t accurately measure, let’s say enough to put in one hand and make you say “Geez, this seems like a lot of dill.”)
4 hard boiled eggs
Several stalks of green onion
salt and pepper

– Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly coat potato pieces in olive oil (separate from the 1/4 cup, that is) and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 25 minutes, set aside in a large bowl.
– Prepare dressing by whisking together the 1/4 cup of olive oil, along with the dijon mustard, white wine, apple cider vinegar, canola oil, garlic and dill.
(If you’re making this ahead of time, prepare the potatoes and dressing and keep them separated until about an hour ahead of when you’ll serve it)
– Roughly chop the hard boiled eggs and thinly slice the green onions. Combine potatoes, dressing, eggs, and green onions, coating everything with everything. Season with salt and pepper if necessary.
Wonderful thing about this potato salad? There’s no mayo, so don’t worry about this getting icky.

– Chocolate cupcakes – via Joy the Baker
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (or, hot chocolate mix that is made of mostly cocoa powder)
2 tsp baking soda (I missed this during the first read-through. Baking soda, not powder)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup canola oil
2 tsp white vinegar
2 cups cold coffee

– Preheat oven to 350 and prepare a muffin tin with either liners or butter+flour (just butter isn’t enough to get these unstuck).
– Mix flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
– In a separate bowl, whisk together vanilla extract, canola oil, vinegar, and coffee. Pour into dry ingredients and mix only enough to get rid of most of the big lumps and moisten everything. The batter will be thin. Fill tins 2/3 full and bake for 20-24 minutes. Cool completely before topping with frosting.
(Unfortunately, no, there’s no recipe for buttercream-from-hell. Just try making an Italian buttercream, burn the sugar syrup into a burnt sugar hockey puck, try again, have the ingredients not form a luscious frosting like shown in the pictures, add scoops and scoops of powdered sugar until you finally achieve a stiff consistency, add 2 tbsp chambourd [raspberry liquor] and decorate your cupcakes as you see fit. …Or do something easier!)