So every year since kindergarten I've thrown a birthday party for my friends and myself. "Thrown" is the key word, since I usually plan everything out and host all of the festivities. I'm definitely ridiculous with my parties since this has been going on for almost 26 years, but my friends probably love my birthday even more than I do. One of them even flies back from out of state for it. Basically I plan out a bunch of random games and competitions throughout the night and the party usually includes a lot of drinking and eating. Also did I mention it's a sleepover? Anyhow enough about my childish games and back to the purpose of this blog and the post, the food.
When I was younger we would BBQ hot dogs and hamburgers at my parents house. I can still remember all of the boys giggling about burning our hot dogs in the fire or catching our marshmellows on fire for late night s'mores. Honestly things haven't changed much over the past few decades, however this year the food was a little different than in the past.
This year to keep the party going I decided to plan a multi course meal so that everyone could eat throughout the night. Also in years past we would usually stuff ourseleves full of hamburgers, hot dogs, and steak and then would be full and lethargic for the rest of the night. So I figured food throughout the night would keep everyone from crashing too early. Hey it was the end of a long work week and we're all old working men now not hyper little grade schoolers!
Everyone was welcomed with our charcuterie platter of prosciutto, brie, aged cheddar, crackers, marcona almonds (my favorite snack to pair with a cocktail), pistacious, some olives, and Muscat grapes. Muscat grapes seem to be pretty popular right now. You can find them at all of the local grocery stores. They are the grapes used in Muscat wine which is a very sweet wine, so the grapes have a high sugar content.
Since it was a competition, everyone had to wear a jersey, so that's why I was sporting my B. Roy jersey. Anyhow we paired all of the appetizers with Maker's Mark cocktails. I made some Old Fashioned's and also a hard iced tea. The tea was 2 parts pre-brewed and refridgerated mango tea (unsweetened), mixed with 2 parts low sugar lemonade, 1 part soda water, and 1 part Maker's. It turned out to be a refreshing cocktail that went well with the food that wasn't also too sweet or overpowering.
This dish was one of the highlights of the meal. Emi made crostinis and I made the ricotta spread. The spread was creamy with a fresh thyme flavor and saltiness that brought all of the flavors together when spread on the crostini. I definitely ate way too much of this dish. To make it,all you need to do is buy a tub of fresh ricotta cheese, drain out the liquid and dump it in a food processor. Then add a splash of milk and puree until smooth. Pour into a bowl, add some fresh thyme, layer with sea salt, and olive oil and serve. It was so good, I made it again last night just for Emi and me.
After snacking and drinking a few drinks, we started some of the games and also ate some truffle popcorn which is a new favorite snack of mine. All you do is make a bag of instant microwaveable popcorn and then open up the bag and add a couple pinches of truffle salt, a little bit goes a long way, and then reseal, shake, and serve. It's a great way to turn some simple popcorn into a very memorable snack.
Emi joined in on this year's festivities, which was a first because usually it's a "guy's only" party. She helped keep the food coming and made her famous Spring Salad. It's a simple romaine salad with strawberries, kiwi, mangoes, and slivered, candied almonds with a sweet dressing.
Our first course was a slow roasted leg of lamb that I prepared for the party. Since Easter was that weekend, lamb was pretty cheap. I rubbed the lamb with salt and pepper and then browned it in olive oil. Then I wrapped it in aluminum foil, rubbed more salt and pepper on it along with 3-4 cloves of diced garlic and also poured in 1-2 cups of white wine. I also added in a few more whole cloves of garlic for extra flavor, sealed it up and slow cooked it at 250 degrees in the oven for about 6-7 hours. This is the aftermath, which turned out really good. The flavor was great and the lamb was succulent and tender.
Later in the night we had bacon cheeseburger sliders. I premade the sliders by first premixing the 3 lbs of ground beef in a bowl with salt, pepper, MSG (you don't know what you're missing if you don't eat MSG), and garlic powder. Then I spread out the mixture of seasoned ground beef in a baking sheet with a 1/4 inch raised edge. It should fit in like one giant cookie. Then I sprinkled truffle salt all over the meat and baked it at 350-400 degrees for about 10 minutes. It cooks pretty quickly and easily in the sheet, then you can pull it out and drain the fat. I then added on multiple slices of Tillamook cheddar to cover the meat and let it melt and stay warm in the oven. Then we hand prepped all of the sliders with mayo, mustard, ketchup, etc and I cut up the meat in the pan into 12 patties. Emi fried up some bacon and onions to go with these perfect sliders. They were amazing as a later night meal.
We paired the sliders with sweet potato and yam oven baked french fries which we drizzled with olive oil and sea salt. One of the few "healthy" options of the night, but a fun change of pace instead of normal french fries to eat with the sliders.
Besides snacking on chips, salsa, and my homemade guacamole we also were hungry later on in the night for some pizza. Emi made us two pizzas one was a margarita pizza with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. The other one had Italian sausage, cherry tomatoes, and more fresh mozzarella.
To end it all we had to save room for my annual Baskin and Robins ice cream birthday cake. I've been eating this bad boy since I came out the womb. They probably want to remove this cake from the B&R ice cream catalogue, but for some reason it is their most consistent selling cake with over two decades of yearly sales. It's always the exact same cake no matter what. A good way to ruin my birthday would be to order me a different cake. White cake, white frosting, five balloons, "Happy Birthday Kyle", and the best rainbow sherbet known to man. The perfect ice cream cake for a five year old and still the perfect ice cream cake for a 26 year old man. Ask anyone who has tried this cake, everything goes together surprisingly well. And what's great about ice cream cake is that it makes amazing leftovers. Think about it, after you have a cake you usually throw it out, maybe eat a little the next day, but this cake freezes! So I can enjoy it a month later, not that I save it that long...
Emi also made some homemade ice cream to go with my ice cream cake. She made a delicious Thin Mint Cookies and Cream Ice Cream, strawberry ice cream, and also some chocolate covered strawberries.
The next morning in what is even more famous than the cake are my Mom's strawberry waffles with whipped cream and sausage. We usually drive over to my parent's in the morning for the waffles. Most of my friends look forward to this more than anything else we do at the party. Needless to say we usually gain a few pounds over a short 12-16 hour period and then pass out for the rest of the weekend.
Thanks again to all of my friends for making it a fun weekend, to Emi and Mollie for helping with the food, and to my Mom for the always great breakfast.
This year was a lot of work, so I'm rethinking my strategy moving forward. Also I've come to realize there isn't anything wrong with eating all at once and being stuffed. So I may be changing things up again next year. We'll have to wait and see.