Monday, May 3, 2010

Click-o de Mayo

Mac and I formed our company, Click Communications in May 2007. So every year we celebrate the survival & success of our little enterprise with a big Cinco de Mayo-ish BBQ in the backyard.

In honor of that event, I wanted to share a couple of my favorite recipes: Guacamole and Kalua Pork.

First, the guac. I've gotten lots of "I don't generally like guacamole but I like yours" compliments on this recipe. It's not super fancy, and not even much different from the traditional recipes you can find just about anywhere. I basically just paid close attention to our waiter at El Cholo while they made it tableside, replicated it from memory, then played with it til it was my own.
What you need:
3 ripe avocados (or 1 avocado as big as your head, like the one pictured, left)
2 limes
small handful of cilantro (1/2 cup ish?)
1/2 red onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 jalapeno pepper
coarse salt (like kosher)
black pepper

Because I'm often making this for parties, I'll often do the whole thing in the food processor just to save time. If you don't have one or like a chunkier style to your guac, then you'll want to start by prepping all your flavors.
  • Give the cilantro a rough chop
  • Dice the onion fine
  • Dice the jalapeno fine--then WASH YOUR HANDS before touching anything. Seriously
  • For the garlic, I do this Rachael Ray style, and grate it into the bowl. All the flavor, no giant chunks of garlic, and no waste from the press. A fine dice will also work here.

Get all your flavors together, then cut up your avocado. This is pretty close to how I do it, although I prefer a proper-sized chef's knife to a small paring knife, and I just scoop the goods out with a spoon once I dice it. (Tip: You can learn how to do just about anything in the kitchen on YouTube.)

Alrighty. Next. Juice your limes into the bowl--this'll help you mush up the avocado better--and stir all your ingredients together. Season the whole thing up good with a couple healthy pinches of salt & black pepper. Then taste & check. I find that if I'm missing anything, it's usually salt, black pepper, and/or garlic, so if it doesn't taste perfect to you, start with one of those three.

And that's it! You can add tomatoes if you really want to, but I don't. Personal preference.

Now the Kalua Pork! I'm sure you're wondering, Why the Hawaiian recipe for the Mexican holiday? Well, we have the tiki bar in the back yard & like to add a little island flavor where we can, of course, but the main reason? It's FREAKING DELICIOUS.

It's also ridiculously easy. Here's all you do: follow this recipe. BUT! The last time I made this, I got it started the night before a party, and when I checked on it the next morning I discovered that A) it was already shredding & falling to pieces in the slow cooker and B) it needed more liquid smoke. So, to do this my way, follow that recipe, but about halfway through, shred the pork and stir in about another tablespoon or so of liquid smoke to taste. If it turns out anything like that last batch, you, too, could have guests picking bits of pork out of the slow cooker with their fingers and making their own doggy bags to take home.

To marry this recipe with our Mexican holiday party, however, I was thinking of creating a "Kalua Pork Taco," putting the pork in a soft taco shell with a tropical salsa made with, like, pineapple and Maui onions. How does that sound to you? I think it sounds deeeelicious!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

we have this thing down to a science

It's Awards Season, everyone! Which means I have decided to peek out from under the pile of work where I've been hiding to talk Oscar Party.

Mac and I have been throwing this party together for years. I think since 2002? It was whatever year Will Smith was nominated for his role in Ali, because that was the year we came up with the punch (get it??) recipe that would become the Almighty Funch.

Needless to say, by now we have this thing down to a science. So for those of you who can't make it or are looking for ideas on throwing your own shindig in your corner of the world, here are my tips:

1. A clever, ambitious menu is fun; a short & easy one is better. A couple years ago, I created a deconstructed ratatouille appetizer that was delicious, but super complicated (you bake the ratatouille using the recipe from the movie, toast up some olive-oil-drizzled crostini in the oven, and pile the hot veggie goodness on the bread, and top with a dollop of goat cheese). The year before that I sauteed up a hot, savory filling for lettuce wraps that turned out to be highly involved tricky to assemble & eat. Both of those years, those complicated offerings were part of extensive, fabulous menus, I spent the entire party in the kitchen, and all my friends bitched about it. Last year, I shortened the menu, made MORE of each item, and spent twice as much time watching the show and chatting with friends. No one noticed or cared about the shorter menu, and no one complained about not seeing me. More importantly--I had a much better time!

2. Prizes, prizes, prizzizes! The easiest way to get everyone into the spirit of an awards show--even when the show itself sucks which, let's face it, is often likely--is to put money on it. You can print ballots from the official Oscar site or make your own. The person with the most right gets a nice wad of cash--we do a $10 buy-in. We also do prizes for the runners up and a booby prize for whoever gets the least right--these are all made up of donated swag, so if you don't have the connections? Save your money. Mostly, people just want the cash.

3. The easiest way to decorate for your party is with your guests, I always say. For awards night, we encourage cocktail & party attire as well as movie-inspired costumes. The costumes usually win the Best Dressed award, a prize we will often purchase & assemble, but is still pretty easy. Books about the history of Oscar attire, Vogue magazine, and/or a bottle of nice hooch is sufficient to support the honor of being the most dazzling/creative/brave soul of the party.

4. Multiple Viewing Options! People like to watch awards shows differently. Some are into the whole peanut gallery thing; others prefer the quiet. We offer a variety of options. If you're having 20 or more people to your party, I think you need at least 2 TVs. We offer 4-5. It's probably overkill. There's one in the living room for the rowdy bunch, one outside for smokers & people who want to cool off, a quiet room for the live-bloggers & people who take it more seriously, and one in the kitchen for, well, me. We've also done 1 in the garage in the past, but we're so not cleaning the garage this year so I think we'll stick with the very reasonable four.

5. Keep decor classic & simple. Black table cloth, white platters, gold stars. A plastic red "carpet" for people as they walk up to your place is always a nice touch, and you can find them at most party supply stores. Our personal touch to the decor is the Best Picture Centerpiece, comprised of a variety of fun, symbolic objects to represent each film. With 10 Best Picture nominees this year, this centerpiece will be even more dominant than ever.

And honestly? That's it. Not to untoot my horn and encourage anyone to be less impressed with our efforts, but that really is all there is to it. Have fun at your parties on Sunday, everyone! Maybe I'll even find the time to let you know how ours goes down.