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BBQ Menu

Hey all,
We're doing our first big group dinner in our house, and I wanted to get input on the menu. The party's not for another month, so we've got lots of time to futz with the food. Right now we are looking at about 10-15 people, all in their 20's and with the exception of my BF and I, not very adventurous eaters. (Def. meat and potatoes types...though living in the Chesapeake Bay area they all love seafood as well) And absolutely everything either needs to be cooked in advance or outside because our house is pretty small and heats up quickly when we use the kitchen. We have a fairly large charcoal grill and a big portable propane stove with a griddle. We also want to keep the cost of this meal under control. The guests are bringing all the beverages, so we've just got to get their bellies full.

Menu at the moment:

Spinach dip in bread bowl
veggie tray (for dipping and just eating)
chips and dip (perhaps ina's pan fried onion dip I've heard so much about)
crab stuffed mushrooms <grill - perhaps very lightly foiled or in a disposable pan?>

Slow grilled/roasted pork shoulder (something along the lines of the zuni mock porchetta, but on the grill with low indirect heat, and probably a slightly different flavor profile on the herby rub.) <grill>
Brats <griddle with a big pile of onions...then into a pan with beer to hold (still on griddle)>
(rolls/ciabatta and cheese and condiments provided with these to make various porky/sausagey sandwiches)

Corn on the cob <steamed on propane stove. no room on the grill>
cucumber salad (creamy, but with a vinegar twang)
Pasta salad (vinegar based)

Fruit salad / sliced watermelon

so what else? What instead? And how many pounds of pork do we need for a group of 15, split pretty evenly male/female, with some big eaters among the guys? (assuming we make ~10 brats) Any changes you'd make to cooking methods? And I'd love to have the excuse to make an extravagant dessert (I love to bake) but it seemed excessive with all the fatty porky goodness to whip out a big pie or cake something at the end.

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  1. If they love seafood I would do some chargrilled oysters ...yummy! the ina onion dip is great!


    1 Reply
    1. re: LaLa

      The only problem with oysters is that they are out of season (at my fishmonger anyway) and would be a bit beyond our budget in any case. though I've always wanted to try grilled shellfish. do you just lay them directly on the grate or do you put them on/in something? If they just go directly on the grates, how do you get them back off without burning yourself or tipping them and losing the lovely fishy juices (or the meat itself)?

    2. Cornbread would be nice. Either just sliced up, or in muffins.

      You might want to reconsider corn on the cob. It could take a very long time to get the pot boiling on your propane stove. How about a southwestern corn salad instead?

      2 Replies
      1. re: Christnp

        Gotta agree about corn on the cob. Shucking is a mess, boiling that much water takes time, eating is messy, the remains are messy...I savor fresh corn when I can do it for just the two of us. Maybe I'm a fun killer! Love the idea of a cucumber salad, though.

        Marinated (fill in the blanks: cauliflower florets, green beans, carrots) make a nice substitution for the crudite (and eliminates the need for dip) or as a substitute for another kind of salad. You can make that a day in advance and let the vegetables marinate. A tomato and watermelon salad is always great.

        I've never known anyone to refuse a great cake or pie, no matter how much they've eaten, especially when homemade. Peaches are in season, so a fresh peach pie or cobbler. You can make the cobbler ahead and serve cool or at room temperature.

        1. re: dcandohio

          Getting the water boiling on our propane stove won't really be an issue...that thing is a monster.
          this is what we have: http://www.campchef.com/catalog/item/...

          I agree that it is messy...especially since I'm used to being able to shuck the corn at the bottom of the garden and just throw the husks over the fence to the horses. Things are little different in my little townhouse than they were where I grew up! But the points about corn are duly noted...that might take some discussion. Corn on the cob is so much a part of an outdoor summer meal that it'd be hard to give it up.

          And excellent point about the cake...who complains that there's dessert? And it's def. the kind of party where everybody will probably hang around until late, so there's lots of time to get hungry again. Sadly though...no peaches. My BF can't stand them. Traumatic childhood experience involving an entire bushel of peaches. His brother won't eat them either.

          Maybe a mixed berry pie or cobbler of some sort?

          Ohhh...maybe some semi-pickled dilly beans! that would be good...

          and I LOVE the cornbread idea. I was thinking that we might need something starchy for those that don't go the sandwich route with their meat.

      2. Make a jello cake or a coconut cake. Both are insanely easy and cheap to make, whether you use mix or make from scratch. With both cakes, bake a white cake according to directions.
        Jello cake: Take whatever your preferred jello flavor is (strawberry goes over really well and I've been dying to try lemon), a small box, and mix according to directions BUT cut the cold water in half. Poke holes in warm cake and pour. Yes, use it ALL. The liquid jello should fill a cereal bowl up to almost the top. Once cooled, frost with whipped cream.

        Coconut cake: Add flake coconut to cake batter, a couple good handfuls. While cake is still warm, poke holes and pour cream of coconut over. Use a good amount, the cake will soak up a LOT. Cool, and again, frost with whipped cream.

        I suggest doing these as a 9x13 cake instead of layers, since you soak them while they're still warm. If you serve them when they're fresh out of the fridge, they're actually very refreshing.

        Edited to add: These are all excellent if made the day before.

        1. Nice menu. How about some sides like baked beans (note my username)? Cole slaw? Rice and beans? Collard greens?

          1 Reply
          1. re: Bostonbob3

            I second the baked beans.
            I love baked beans with BBQ, especially homemade ones!

          2. For the brats, I'd recommend doing a pre-grill parboil in beer (2-4 bottles), 1/2 stick of butter and 1/2 a chopped onion. Throw them back in the bath to keep moist when you are done.(just leave it on the grill) I also posted a recipe for my ultimate brat and sauerkraut cooking method in a different link.

            Your sides look good but other things to consider are a good coleslaw and a good potato salad.

            1 Reply
            1. re: kolgrim

              Coleslaw is definitely a contender (see my hemming and hawing below), but I think potato salad and pasta salad is overkill. And the BF specially requested the pasta salad, so pasta it is.

              And yes...that brat bath sounds just about perfect. Due to grill space constraints, we're going to do the brats on our outdoor griddle (see stove link above for what I'm talking about) They won't have that lovely smoky 'grill' flavor, but I think we can still get a good sear crust on the outside for that snappy texture. Any thoughts?

              As for the sauerkraut method you linked to...wow. That looks damn tasty, but I think for this party we'll just keep the brats with the onions for simplicity. But next time, with a smaller group, that kraut is coming out.

            2. I would allow a pound of pork per person, to account for fat and bone and shrinkage. If you have leftovers, so much the better. I'd do 15 brats at least...what if everyone wants one or some guy wants a couple and no pork.

              A wash tub filled with crushed ice and Sam Adams beer, some Cokes and iced tea with lemon and mint for non-imbibers, perhaps a chilled rose wine.

              Second the idea on cornbread, baked beans, potato salad, and slaw. The corn is good but messy and you need a really big pot. The SW corn salad with some red onions, black beans, cumin, seasoning, etc is a great suggestion for alternative.

              For dessert why not have a couple of freezers of home made ice cream churning during dinner?
              Sounds great; let us know when to be there

              6 Replies
              1. re: steakman55

                A pound of pork per person?? Really? That's a whole shoulder. Like, really the whole 14+ pounds butt&blade. We've bought that before, but only to make sausage, not to cook all in one fell swoop. We were thinking more along the lines of one half of the shoulder (though we hadn't decided which half) and keeping the other for our next sausage making session. Though I do agree that 15 brats is probably better than 10. Assuming all of our maybes turn out to be yes'es. But perhaps we'll just do as much pork as we can fit on the grill and still use indirect heat. I love leftovers. :)

                There will defiantly be a big tub filled with ice and beverages, though they are being supplied by the guests. Everybody's been assigned various categories depending on what they like to drink. (our wine expert is bringing wine, etc) This party is a regular bi-monthly gathering that moves from house to house. The previous 3 parties have been potlucks of various sorts, but we both love to cook, so we're just doing it all. Everybody is very understanding of my kitchen obsession and his grill obsession, so no ruffled feathers.

                And you have no idea how badly I want to be able to make my own ice cream. It is a constant topic of debate. I got an ice cream maker for Christmas when I was 14 and it finally kicked the bucket when I was in college (3 years ago). I'm dying to buy another one, but our freezer is chronically full to the gills and I can't convince the BF that we should have a second freezer to support my ice cream habit.

                I'm torn on coleslaw and beans. I tend to make way too many dishes because I want to have everything that "goes" and not be missing something. So I've been trying to keep the menu simple. But my "MIL" has a great bean recipe that I've been thinking about converting to crock-pot, so maybe i'll give that a try. And I know I'll wish I had slaw to put on a couple of leftover sandwiches...decisions decisions.

                Do you ever wish you didn't like food so much?

                1. re: wawajb

                  I know the feeling. I always overcook. If there's 10 people coming, I end up with enough food for 25. I love leftovers though!

                  1. re: QueenB

                    Me too...sandwiches made of assorted fridge pickin's are my favorite.

                  2. re: wawajb

                    I just did a BBQ for 40 "non-adventurous" people and purchased 53 lbs. of meat and don't even start me on the sides and apps. Two shoulders, 4 pork bellies, ground beef, bacon, shrimp and chicken thighs. Afterwards, only a few lbs. of beef were leftover, and only because I forgot to serve them, so a lb. per person is not overkill at all.

                    Watermelon salad goes really well at BBQs. Paula Deen has a great and easy recipe. Love coleslaw, but if you have to go with a pasta salad, why not be a little creative? Couscous salad maybe? Or orrechiete with a classic macaroni preparation? For dips I'm a big fan of guac. Mayo and sour cream dips take up space before the main feast!

                    1. re: JungMann

                      A lb a person huh? well, I guess we'll just plan on making as much meat as we can fit on the bbq. It's not a little webber kettle or anything, but it's not huge either. I'll be sure and let y'all know how it goes.

                      Mmm...quacamole. That's an excellent suggestion.

                      And as for the pasta salad...it's the one (side) item that my bf has claimed responsibility for. He wants to make it and he has a very clear idea of what he wants to make, so I'm just letting him run with it.

                    2. re: wawajb

                      "And I know I'll wish I had slaw to put on a couple of leftover sandwiches..." Exactly! Cole slaw is traditional for a reason - goes great with the pork. Ya gotta do the cole slaw!

                  3. Gotta go with macaroni salad. The Gonzales Market one from"legends of Texas" is great and very easy. Good also as you can prep it well in advance.

                    1. A follow up question...I'm thinking about some interesting sandwich condiments for the smoked herby pork and need some inspiration. The flavor profile is probably going to involve a good bit of garlic and rosemary and sage. Likely some other components, but those are probably the dominant ones. I'm thinking about things like a savory apple butter and/or some sort of oniony/garlicky jam. Any suggestions? I'm ready willing and able to make things from scratch...although readily available store bought is fine too. (including Trader Joes in possible sources)

                      Interesting cheeses or other sandwich fixin's that would be appropriate are appreciated too.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: wawajb

                        Here's a link to a recipe for onion marmalade. I've made this and it's very good

                        1. re: wawajb

                          This has me thinking of slaw again. A nice bright green apple and cabbage slaw with apple cider vinegar and mustard and a slice of sharp cheddar cheese would be super yummy.

                        2. So final menu (Party is this Saturday)

                          7 Layer Dip (I wanted guacamole...he didn't want to buy that many avocados. We compromised...I can live with it, but I'm not excited about it)
                          veggie tray (for dipping and just eating)
                          chips and dip (ina's pan fried onion dip )
                          crab stuffed mushrooms
                          deviled eggs (one dozen regular, one dozen horseradish)

                          Herby smoked pork shoulder
                          (rolls/ciabatta and cheese and condiments provided with these to make various porky/sausagey sandwiches)

                          Corn Bread Muffins
                          Baked Beans
                          cucumber salad (creamy, but with a vinegar twang)
                          Pasta salad (vinegar based w/ lots of veggies)

                          2 Sir Gawain fruit cakes...one mixed berry and one peach

                          So...how does it look now? We've already gone grocery shopping, so no big changes are possible at this point. Any minor tweaks though?

                          And on the pork...it's going to be smoked with Hickory, and we're thinking "salt+pepper+garlic+sage+??" rub which will go on today. Anybody have suggestions for the ??. (and I'm not looking for a BBQ primer here please...just suggestions for flavor components that you think would go with the ones already planned)

                          Thanks for all the help everybody!

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: wawajb

                            I think pork shoulder loves parsley and rosemary as well as some lemon rind to cut through the richness. If you're going with smoking, I think it also needs some sweetness to balance the smoke, possibly paprika or even a fruit juice. I might also recommend a compound butter that can go on the muffins or spread on the sandwiches, but that's my own preference. Everything else looks great, although quite labor intensive!

                            1. re: JungMann

                              Mmmm...compound butter. I have been trying to think of interesting condiments to have out for the pork-y sandwiches so I can try and convince my friends not to immediately reach for the bbq sauce. That one will work for me at least...maybe parsley lemon butter.

                              Thanks for the suggestions. We used rosemary along with tons of garlic and some salt and pepper. I would have liked some lemon zest in there, but that one was a hard sell and I know how to choose my battles. (i.e. I have free reign over the condiments) There ended up being some brown sugar in the rub, just because it didn't seem right to do a smoke-rub without something sweet in it.

                              I'll be sure to report on Monday if anybody is interested on how it all turned out.

                          2. Hey there wawajb, I just did a party for my best friend's son's 21st birthday. So I now have a template for 30-35 serving them:
                            Tri tip and BBQ Chicken (hind quarters).
                            Heavy on the Veggies Tossed Salda
                            Pasta Salad - Tuna and Deviled Egg
                            Garlic Bread
                            Homemade Salsa (delicous) and tortilla chips
                            All for $130 it was delcious and there was food left over/
                            You suffer from the same thing I do, wanting to make too much food!
                            For her party, I figured about 1/4 to 1/2 lb of tri tip per person. People just don't eat that much meat or huge portions when there's salads or other things.
                            The chicken pieces I bought were just huge so I cut the thighs from the drumsticks and they were gorgeous.

                            I believe she almost had the same appetizers as what you have only instead of spincach she got an artichoke dip.All the apps proved to be too many.

                            I would not bother with the corn on the cob, its too time consuming to cook and to eat. Make a salad with it off the cob instead. Make one or two fruits skewers or don't do any.
                            Also no fruit salad. If you have pork, do a great cole slaw.

                            I notice you have a lot of pork going on, maybe have another meat. BBQ Chicken works well. I would make a shrimp platter on ice, and not do the bread bowl it's (too filling) people will scarf that down when they arrive because they are hungry.
                            Pace them, keep them wanting to eat your lovely dinner.

                            And make a brownie like cake, then add ice cream scoops with nuts already done in the freezer and then when your ready, they can be plopped on the brownie assembly style with a little whip cream send off. I have a template if you want it..