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Save my benefit cookout

I relocated to a midwestern small town and joined the fundraising committee of a local non-profit. We had a fundraiser cookout last week and did it their way, selling burgers, grilled pork chops and brats. The trouble is that these items are available at at least four other establishments in town and not interesting enough to draw anybody to our location. We got killed - 14 hours in 90 degree heat for about $100 profit.

We have another cookout coming up. I'd love to add some signature item to the menu that we can advertise the heck out of. It has to be grilled, delicious sounding but not too exotic for local palates, not require too much grocery expense, and be simple enough for unskilled volunteers to execute with my guidance.

Quite a challenge, but I'd appreciate any thoughts. (I'd love to do grilled corn with Mexican and ancho/honey butter options, but we need an entree idea)

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  1. Hi Cathleen. I tried this one during a cook out party last summer. Misono Kebab... Put some Slices of Misono on a stick. In between insert prawns, then tomato, then bell pepper. This depends on how you want it to look. To add color, you can also add a slice corn on the edge of the stick. Brush a bit of olive oil on each side then grill. A dash of salt and pepper to taste. I have this recipe from my own DIY Cookbook. Hope you like it, Have a nice day.

      1. re: pikawicca

        +1. don't know how we're supposed to know how to answer without this info.

        1. re: soupkitten

          Look at the OP's posting history - perhaps that will provide a rough idea of which part of the "midwest" this is taking place. Perhaps a far flung 'burb?

          1. re: Jen76

            The OP has been asked several times to be more specific and has not chosen to. Her one follow-up reply, downthread, was even less forthcoming, not addressing her opinion of any of the suggestions thus far. If due to her silence she misses out on some good ideas, it's her loss. You shouldn't have to consult a profile or posting history to respond to a question - the OP should have the courtesy and forethought to include the salient details in his/her post.

            1. re: greygarious

              I'm just saying it may help if you are so inclined to look. Was not intending to be sarcastic or snippy in tone in any way.

              1. re: Jen76

                Didn't think you were. ;-) I sort of am, toward folks who want suggestions without giving 'hounds any basic parameters.

                1. re: greygarious

                  We all come to the list with different expectations. It's not one size fits all.

                  The question is an interesting one and I've benefitted from all the ideas myself. May be able to use them down the road.

      2. Big stuffed baked potatoes with a choice of toppings? If you microwave ahead of time, so they are chilled but 3/4 cooked beforehand, it won't take too long to brush them with oil and grill to finish them and crisp them up. Hint - so the spud will be fluffed when you cut it open, when it is finished cooking, throw it down onto a counter or table once or twice before opening it.

        1. I think chicken wings are fiendishly good when they are grilled. Costco has those 10# bags of frozen fiery wings. Thaw those (they are already cooked so you don't have to worry about killing anyone) and grill them until they get good grill marks on each side. You could grill 6 of them arranged side by side with 2 skewers through them (pretty presentation). Serve them with a mustard dip and a bleu cheese dip. Offer a killer death melt hot version and dare people to order it. Take pictures of them if they survive to submit to the local newspaper as a human interest piece. Have some kind of small award to give them, like a button. Do something that would generate buzz. Make them wear a crown. Made out of Tabasco bottles.

          1. Oh, what about beer butt chicken? I think people have heard of it but haven't tried it and that might create buzz. And it's good.

            Edit: And personally, there is nothing I like better than a good grilled romaine caesar salad. Seriously.

            3 Replies
            1. re: runwestierun

              Cornish game hens with 6oz juice cans up their butts. It's a whole bird per person (easier to sell and eat with hands, and cute) and faster than a regular chicken. Dry rub first, any kind of fruit juice, 350-400 or medium grill on indirect heat, 45-60 min.

              1. re: runwestierun

                I love beer can chicken. DH does it on the grill all the time! Very moist bird!!!!

              2. How about a Middle Eastern theme? Lamb kabobs -- marinate the lamb chunks in yogurt, olive oil, lemon, allspice, honey -- serve with a couscous salad or rice pilaf, cucumber / yogurt / garlic/ t ahni sauce. Maybe get a local pizza joint to donate dough and roll it into small rounds and throw it on the grill for a pita-style flatbread.

                Find a couple of gals in town willing to donate 15 minutes of belly dancing every hour for 3 hours?

                1. If you're going to do a cookout, see if you can round up a few smokers and do a REAL barbecue. (Low and slow cooking over charcoal and wood chunks). Don't do brisket - too tricky. But pork shoulder (or picnic or butt - variations on same cut of meat) and ribs are very easy. Not much active cooking. You just have to get it started early to give the shoulder time to cook (10-14 hours - lots of folks start it after midnight; ribs take 3-4 hours). No one can resist the smell of smoking meat.

                  There are several advantages over burgers, etc.. Pork shoulder is ridiculously cheap (around $1/lb.). But the finished product is so good it is priced higher than a burger or pork chop. Much better profit margin. You can do one with a dry rub, one stuffed with garlic/oregano and olive oil rub for cuban style, etc... And serve either sliced or pulled.

                  If you want to go more exotic flavor wise, you could do the cuban style and serve with a mole sauce. Or brine it with Chinese 5 spice powder and halfway through cooking give it a honey/5 spice glaze.

                  And if you could invest in a "caja china", you could do a whole pig roast. They cost like $200 but are reuseable. And I'd guess you could build a good profit into a whole suckling pig entree.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: sbp

                    Pulled Pork would be great and don't forget to make some really good homemade slaw!!!

                    1. re: boyzoma

                      pulled prk sandwiches and the corn would be great.
                      Around here chicken bog is a great seller but also soup beans and corn bread or chicken dumplins and corn bread

                    2. re: sbp

                      Slow roasted pork. Oh yeah!!!

                      We just had a dinner party for 10 where I roasted about 9lbs of pork shoulder in the oven for 10 hours. It was fantastic in pulled pork sandwichs. Should have roasted more. Not one shred of leftovers. I used woodburner's recipes for the rub and sauce found here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6086... The sauce *seemed* to watery and runny, so I spiked it a bit with Worcestershire sauce, some prepared mustard, a healthy shot of cayenne, and pan drippings from the roast. But that's not necessary since it gets mixed with the meat.

                      I'd be interested if anyone has tips on how to pre-roast the shoulders in an oven, then finish on a grill. I'm thinking it would work well, and be a really good approach for your benefit cookout. You probably don't want to be on-site for 10 hours, especially if the net was $100 last time!

                    3. Depending where you are, some good Italian sausage with peppers and onions could be exotic enough to bring out the locals.

                      1. I hate to be a bummer, but I think that fundraising cookouts generally do not draw people because of a specific food item, but because of their commitment to the organization. Either you need to be in a location where lots of people are passing by and want good food (then a new idea will work), or you need to do great marketing to the people who support your organization.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: milklady

                          Milklady, you are 100% right! Just trying to make the best of a bad situation here...

                        2. Grilled pork tenderloin. Although the breaded variety is more common around the midwest, the grilled variety should be easy enough for your volunteers. BTW, milklady made an excellent point wrt marketing and location.

                          1. If this unusually hot summer continues, reconsider the whole cook-out idea. Hot food in 90-degree weather? Pass. If you can arrange the logistics for refrigeration, how about a chill-out beach-less beach party? Ice cream cones/dishes, sundaes, floats, berry shortcakes..... Include a bake sale with both items that can be eaten on site and others packed for take-home. And in the bake sale, include dog treats, which sell extremely well. For the kiddies, have a wading pool and one of those plastic things that hook up to a water hose for slip-sliding.

                            If dogs are permitted, have a pool for them, water buckets, frisbees, and a lawn sprinkler to keep them from overheating.

                            9 Replies
                              1. re: nofunlatte

                                Yes! Homemade pie and homemade ice cream sandwiches.

                              2. re: greygarious

                                i forgot about this but the last festival we went to had strawberry shortcake....it was a hug hit and delish!

                                1. re: LaLa

                                  Depending on where Cathleen is in the midwest, the strawberries might be done, but the peaches are in season. Peach shortcake might be a possibility, as long as some sort of acid is used to keep them browning.

                                  1. re: nofunlatte

                                    the op isn't telling us location though. "the midwest" is only slightly more specific than "asia". . .

                                    how about a charity bash featuring local wines/beer? that would go over well in my part of "the midwest"-- sell flights/samplers of the alcohol (get 'em donated, to promote the winery/brewery), then also sell small-plates of nibbles. rather than expecting to make any $ on one main item, you'll actually get people interested and spending $ by diversifying your offerings. and, pairing a fundraiser with booze is always a selling point. assuming the "non profit" the op refers to so vaguely isn't a no-alkie church, or a shelter for folks in chem-dep recovery, of course. . .

                                    srsly op, help us out here.

                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                      The OP may wish to remain private and that is certainly acceptable. I believe she is simply seeking ideas and options--the location is largely irrelevant. But your id3eas of featuring local wines/beers/whatever is a very good one.

                                      1. re: nofunlatte

                                        sorry, but i don't think location is irrelevant when the op is specifically talking about wanting to avoid something that's commonly available in restaurants in the area, but (components of) *is/are* available in local grocery stores-- and simultaneously something that's "not too exotic for local palates"-- whatever that means.

                                        the op said brats were a flop. well. . . if the benefit took place in rural WI, where everybody's got their own specialty butcher of choice for fresh brats, and the op thought they could go with some cheap grocery store brats. . . well there's the problem. otoh maybe the same concept might fly in south dakota, if the op set up shop next to an athletic park.

                                        not looking for latitude/longitude and exact name & date of the fundraiser, but the op could probably afford to let us know general area w/o getting stalked by local chowhounds. . . (ex: greater madison WI), state (ex: iowa), or country (ex: canada-- yes, canada has a "midwest").

                                        another suggestion: $1 grilled corn on the cob. caveat: you need a bigger grill than you think you'll need in order to pull this off, or more than one grill.

                                        1. re: nofunlatte

                                          Thanks, nofun. Yes, actually, I did wish to remain private. Sorry if I otherwise caused consternation by seeming unresponsive during the course of this thread. I'm connected to cyberspace by a seriously faulty mobile broadband connection - hence one brief response and then silence.

                                        2. re: soupkitten

                                          Might this require an alcohol license though? (I really don't know, just something to consider.)

                                  2. What about something like funnel cakes or corn dogs? You can also do cheese in corn batter instead of a hot dog ... sinfully delicious. When I lived in the Midwest, Indian fry bread was popular.

                                    Chilled Mexican shrimp cocktail is nice when it's hot ...

                                    So this is a standalone cookout, not a booth among other booths? Are you selling food at an event?

                                    1. Can you please give us more specifics?

                                      1. Thank you all for the wonderful ideas. I truly appreciate all the creative thoughts. (Runwestierun, you are a genius). I chose the ones I thought would have the best chance of success and brought them to the committee meeting.

                                        I hate to tell you all what happened. The committee heard what I was saying about adding a new menu item. Alas, instead of selecting one of the wonderful ideas put fourth in this thread, they decided it would be great would be to sell "walking tacos". Ever heard of them? I hadn't. You take a bag of doritos, open it up, add taco meat, lettuce, cheese, salsa and sour cream and hand it to your customer to eat with a fork out of the bag...

                                        11 Replies
                                        1. re: CathleenH

                                          Thank you. And, sorry. And, um, eww.

                                          1. re: CathleenH

                                            Yes, walking tacos are a thing, not my thing, but hey: http://www.barrypopik.com/index.php/n...

                                            There's this bizarre Q&A that even gives info about how to do walking tacos for 100

                                            Good luck in your small midwestern town, wherever on the sprawling prairie it may be.


                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                              Oh my goodness! That recipe reads like a satire. You know that thread about toe-curling junk food? Well, this goes right to the top of the list.

                                              1. re: JoanN

                                                To see it in all it's gory (spelling intended): http://www.npr.org/blogs/waitwait/201...

                                                Too bad, CathleenH - I've "got the tee-shirt" from an analogous group situation - at least you tried!

                                                1. re: greygarious

                                                  You really shouldn't have, greygarious. That link led me here:


                                                  I think I'll be eating salad the rest of the day.

                                                  1. re: JoanN

                                                    Hey Catherine H, we've got a winner for you - cornlike day-glo orange styrofoam with cheeselike glowing orange goo, in a bag!

                                                    1. re: JoanN

                                                      Egads, compared to those two pictures, the walking tacos sound almost gourmet. At least they'll have some fresh veg on them.

                                                2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                  I feel compelled to speak in defense of Frito Pie. It does not have to be nasty. Layer of fritos with a layer of really good chili topped with a good shredded cheddar or jack and some diced onions... nothing wrong with that. Not at all.

                                                  Cheetos, cheeze whiz, hamburger helper... that's disgusting. But Frito Pie is the bomb.

                                                  1. re: BernalKC

                                                    Not if one doesn't like Fritos to begin with! ;)

                                                    1. re: Jen76

                                                      Not entirely sure about that. As a kid I ate a lot of Fritos, but grew to hate them, or at least strongly prefer fresh corn chips. But in Frito pie - a good one - they're some sort of molecular gastronomic vehicle delivering corn, toasty crunch, and salt. It just works. YMMV, of course.

                                                3. re: CathleenH

                                                  Just heard of these yesterday, but made with Fritos and some pico de gallo-like salsa. They were a HUGE hit at the Wisconsin State Fair. Sorry, just not my idea of good food, but to each their own I suppose.

                                                4. Pulled pork is a good idea or even an all out bbq. Once the aroma from bbq starts wafting through town... let em stay away, then!

                                                  If you are trying to raise funds, you better stay away from the expensive stuff like ribs and steaks but brisket and pork butts and maybe some sausage would be great. Somebody needs to bring some potato salad and maybe some slaw.

                                                  1. I'm thinking small town, how about venison or fresh fish caught locally, always goes over pretty well here. And the main course can be donated by hunter/fishermen.

                                                    1. Cathleen, I gather from your posts that you are in the Chicago area. You have so many ethnic groups there that a theme cookout might draw people, even having booths for different ethnic groups. However, all things considered, I think your best bet is to do something familiar in an original way. And I'd be inclined to follow the pork suggestions, whether Caribbean pulled pork, German Spanferkel, or an Italian porchetta. Make the preparation part of the fun. You could pair the pork chosen with some other ethnic dish, like Caribbean rice and beans, potato cakes of some sort, or many varied pastas. And in the case of porchetta, it is often served as a sandwich meat. So have someone baking Italian breads in an oven on a trailer rig--like Scott Wing of the book "Bread Builders." And for desserts, the idea of peach shortcake and plenty of watermelon too sounds like a winner. Also, think in the long term. If it is really good one year and word gets around, more people will come the next. Good luck.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                        She already replied upthread that the group has decided on some sort of frito pie.