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BBQ Party Ideas

Hey folks. Can anyone offer some inspiration for a cookout this weekend? I was originally thinking of traditional southern BBQ foods. Chicken, ribs, burgers, hot dogs, potato salad, baked beans, etc. But I am having the hardest time narrowing down what I want. AND now I'm thinking of a Mexican inspired BBQ.

IF anyone has any inspiration, I'd greatly appreciate it. I'm having people over to celebrate my birthday and now I'm realizing that I want to have as much that I can make ahead as possible so that I'm not manning the grill all evening.

Any ideas?

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  1. The Mexican-themed meal is actually of the easiest ways to feed everybody beautifully with a minimum of time spent at the grill. You can even do an oven-roasted, Mexican-spiced pork shoulder in the oven to shred, and do things on the grill that require only a minimum: marinated chicken, marinated steaks to slice, etc.
    The beauty of it is the advance prep, which it all basically is: a "cold bar" of salsas, chips, condiments, etc. and then a tortilla table with platters of sliced meats and grilled veg, w/ additional plates of cilantro, chopped onion, limes, etc. - maybe a side of mixed beans (we like black and pinto beans, sometimes mixed with corn, but if you're grilling you might consider grilling rounds of corn, instead; to be served on sticks.), and a big pan of tomato-and-cumin scented rice. Maybe a fruit bar: sliced pineapple, papaya, mango, cucumbers, melons; with a shaker of salt and lime wedges. To be accompanied by a purchased tres leches cake or simple butter cookies.

    2 Replies
    1. re: mamachef

      Another thing you can prepare ahead of time is matambre (note in South America this is generaly made with a piece of meat taken from above the beef ribs which would be hard to order, so some recipes specify things like flank). If you can get a butcher to debone a chicken (or figure it out from a book or the internet -- its not hard), that is another stuffed meat which can be special. In Brazil top round is often stuffed with sausage and sometimes cheese -- you might consider doing this with tri-tip. This kinds of things you can either leave cooking in the oven or cook on indirect heat on the grill, to reduce the actual time in front of a live fire.

      1. re: mamachef

        I really like this idea. I think I finally have a theme and some direction. Thanks! I'm going to do a Mexican-themed cookout. I live in LA and know of some really great Mexican markets that have delicious pre-marinated carne asada and chicken breast. Then I can prepare a pork shoulder to shred. I love that idea!

      2. To give a better idea of some of the ideas I've had (I've been all over the place), I was thinking of doing skewers or kabobs. I saw a recipe for shrimp and pineapple skewers that looked delicious.

        7 Replies
        1. re: alliebear

          First: define your theme. Almost any budget can be worked around. As far as skewers, those sound great, but you'll need a lot, which is fine. Remember, if you use wooden skewers, to soak them first in water. And you could certainly assemble them ahead-of-time, or if you really want to relax, craft a do-it-yourself kebab bar, by prepping a variety of ingredients, having a few grills going, and letting people do their own thing - it'll become part of the evening's entertainment, I promise.

          1. re: alliebear

            I'm not a huge fan of things like "shrimp and pineapple" but if you can find it at a local library the book "Big Flavors of the Hot Sun" which has a lot of good ideas along these lines. You can grill fish in packets made from bananna leaves with seasonings inside (a bit time consuming). In addition to the fruit bar mamachef mentioned, you can grill fruits like pineapple. Sprinkle them with a touch of cinnamon/sugar mixture (a raw sugar is nice here) and grill. If using a whole pineapple on a spit, you can cut a bit, then sprinkle and grill again.

            Note what is being said about a Mexican BBQ above -- the condiments and sides are important. Similarly with a Brazilian churrasco -- you can do that with a couple of meats (one cut of beef just seasoned with coarse salt, chicken marinated in a acid marinade, sausage), but its not really a churrasco without vinagrete (salsa of tomato/onion/garlic/green pepper), feijao tropeiro (a "farofa" of beans), and rice. Side dishes like salpic√£o (the brazilian version of salpicon) make it even better and having several side dishes allows for a partial potluck. If doing skewers, its good to have a more plain "farofa" so people can roll the meat in them. In any case Latin American BBQs are a social outing, where people help themselves, so you have side dishes and a few simple meats which can be cut to serve multiple people and you eat bit by bit (a bit of meat, make a plate, dance, eat a bit of meat). If you make it too complex it loses the theme.

            1. re: itaunas

              I've decided to nix the idea of skewers. Thanks for the tips on not making it too complex. It really helps to narrow the focus.

              I'll do chips and a salsa/dip bar. Tortillas, rice and beans. And have some chopped onions, cilantro, limes, etc. on hand.

              1. re: alliebear

                Oh, hey? Something that's really fun and interactive - ask guests (if you're comfortable asking for things like this...) to bring a six-pack of something imported from South of the Border, or a bottle likewise, and provide mixers, etc. in big basins with ice....we did this for a Scottish-themed (Braveheart!) party and ended up with the best party bar in town!

                And, Happy Early Birthday!

                1. re: mamachef

                  Or a "we provide the limes, you bring the bottles" caipirinha and margarita party. Try to get a box of limes from a restaurant cash and carry as its a lot cheaper. Just make sure someone brings the cointreau and you can squeeze lime juice and cut the limes ahead of time.

                  1. re: itaunas

                    Nice one; I like this. And it occurred to me; why not an adult pinata? You could put in Mexican candies, trinkets, etc. Maybe too junior though. I don't know.

                    1. re: mamachef

                      I was talking about getting a pinata, actually.

          2. I think technically, you're talking about grilling rather than BBQ which is meat slow-smoked on indirect heat. Not to nit-pick or anything...
            If you'd like to go Mexican, I would suggest that you try carne enchilada. Here's Diana Kennedy's recipe:
            2 oz. chile ancho.
            2 oz. chile guajillo
            1/4 c. mild vinegar
            4 peppercorns
            3 whole cloves
            1/2 inch of a cinnamon stick
            1/2 t oregano
            1 small tomato
            1 1/2 t salt (or to taste)
            1/4 c water

            Puree all that together and rub on to skirt steak or flank steak. Allow to marinate and dry in to the meat. Grill.
            Can be served with pico de gallo, guacamole, on corn tortillas. Pair with grilled corn (just peel off the outer husks and put it on just like that), and perhaps some charro beans.

            6 Replies
            1. re: gilintx

              You're right. It's no longer a BBQ. That's something I learned from reading these boards. :)

              You reminded me to add corn to my list. Are you saying you put it on the grill after removing the husks? I have only ever grilled it with the husks on.

              1. re: alliebear

                I think I was imprecise about the corn. Leave husks on, but thin them a little. That way, you get a little bit of a char.
                Traditional condiments for Mexican corn include butter, lime, powdered chile (usually cayenne), Cotija cheese (but anything crumbly will work), mayonnaise (?), and of course salt.

                1. re: gilintx

                  The mayo sounds bizarre, but I love it on elotes, and I don't even like mayo that much. Remember to use squeeze bottles for the condiments; it'll save a huge mess.

                  1. re: gilintx

                    Ok, yes. I had grilled corn like this a few months ago. Grilled in butter, then taken off and covered in mayo, cotija, cayenne, salt and lime served on the side. It was a revelation! Great idea. I'm going to make sure to do this again. Thanks for the reminder.

                2. re: gilintx

                  I'm a little confused. Are the chiles dried that you have at the top of your list? I assume so, since it's not easy finding fresh ones. So you should explain that she needs to seed them, then either reconstitute them in hot water, drain & then puree, or dry roast them in a skillet first.

                  1. re: Phurstluv

                    Sorry for being so confusing. Yes, the chiles are usually only found dried, and should be seeded then reconstituted.

                3. gilintx hit on one of my favorites - i'm a HUGE fan of elote...though i remove the husks before grilling the corn because i love to get that char directly on the kernels.

                  sometimes i do an elote-inspired salad instead, and it's always a big hit. discussion and methods here:
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7179...

                  my black bean dip complements most corn/chips/salsa/guac menus really well, it's ridiculously easy to make, and best done in advance to let the flavors develop which means you can get it out of the way a day or two ahead. recipe here:
                  http://www.chow.com/recipes/24426-ghg...

                  don't stress too much over the food - the most important thing is to RELAX and HAVE FUN...it is your birthday, after all :) have a happy one!

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    Thanks for the bean dip recipe. Looks great! I'll let you know how it turns out. Good to have some stuff I can make ahead. And I have a friend who agreed to man the grill!

                    So, in case anyone is interested, here's the menu:

                    Grilled carne asada
                    Grilled chicken breast
                    Pulled pork
                    Salad with red, yellow and green bell peppers, beans, jicama and tortilla strips.
                    Grilled corn (with butter, mayo, cotija, cayenne, salt and lime)
                    Grilled jalapeno stuffed with cheese
                    Salsa bar
                    Guacamole
                    Bean Dip
                    Chips and tortillas
                    Chopped onions, cilantro, limes, etc. on the side.

                    1. re: alliebear

                      Beautiful. Love it. Enjoy the day, honey.

                      1. re: alliebear

                        Yes, that all looks delicious! Have a wonderful birthday party!

                        1. re: alliebear

                          Your menu looks great! Have fun!

                          1. re: alliebear

                            Wanted to give an update. The party went great. I ended up cutting out a few items to save time. I didn't end up doing the pulled pork or the cheese-stuffed jalapenos.

                            I also made some margaritas that were a huge hit. 3 parts tequila, 2 parts fresh lime juice, 1 part cointreau. I blended this mix with fresh pineapple and mango.

                            I made the bean dip from the recipe linked above from goodhealthgourmet. I forgot to add the cilantro, but the recipe was very forgiving. I'll have to try it again using the cilantro.

                            Thanks again everyone for the direction/ideas/help.

                            1. re: alliebear

                              next time try adding something different to the salsa bar, and perfect for the summer:

                              http://joyof.kosher.com/recipe/exotic...