Memorial Day Dinner

What do you feed eight adults and ten children for dinner? In the seven years we've been going away over Memorial Day weekend with these eighteen people, we've never had to answer that question. We just brought lunch. This year, we were on Saturday dinner duty. We made one decision: The children and adults would eat the same thing. No more pasta and cheese for them.

This is what we made. It is a meal for meat eaters, although there are other things here for those who don't like red meat. I reproduce it in its entirety because it was pretty good. (Grilled steak tips, chicken apple sausages, garlic roasted potatoes and asparagus, salad with really great vinaigrette, brownies, soused strawberries.) In retrospect, I think we'd forego the brownies for dessert and just have the marinated strawberries by themselves or over vanilla ice cream. But the brownies are really good, so that recipe's here too.

Grilled Steak Tips (this is from Cook's Illustrated, that great magazine for food obsessives)

6 pounds sirloin steak tips — more than enough for 18

1 cup soy sauce 
1 cup olive oil 
9 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 3 tablespoon)
3 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary 
3 tablespoons minced fresh thyme leaves  
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar 
3 tablespoons tomato paste 
1 T ground black pepper 

1. Combine marinade and meat in gallon-size zipper-lock bag; press out as much air as possible and seal bag. Refrigerate 1 hour, flipping bag after 30 minutes to ensure that meat marinates evenly.

2. About halfway through marinating time, ignite about 6 quarts (1 large chimney) charcoal briquettes and burn until covered with thin coating of light gray ash, 20 to 30 minutes. Create two-level fire by spreading single layer of coals over half of grill bottom and arranging remaining coals in layer several briquettes high over other half. Position grill rack over coals, cover grill, and heat rack until hot, about 5 minutes; scrape grill rack clean with wire brush. Grill is ready when thicker layer of coals is medium-hot (you can hold your hand 5 inches above grill rack for 3 to 4 seconds).

3. Remove steak tips from marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Grill, uncovered, until well seared and dark brown on first side, about 4 minutes. Using tongs, flip steak and grill until second side is well seared and thickest part of meat is slightly less done than desired, 4 to 5 minutes for medium-rare (about 130 degrees on instant-read thermometer), 6 to 8 minutes for medium (about 135 degrees); if exterior of meat is browned but steak is not yet cooked through, move steak to cooler side of grill and continue to grill to desired doneness.

4. Transfer steaks to cutting board; tent loosely with foil and let rest 5 minutes. Slice steak very thinly on the bias; serve immediately with lime or orange wedges.

Chicken apple sausages — for the non-red meat eaters. 6 of them: sausages, I mean, not non-red meat eaters.

Roasted garlic potatoes (enough for 18 with great left overs):

6 pounds small red new potatoes cut in half (it's important that they're small)
1/2 cup garlic olive oil (I have olive oil that's been infused with garlic — you can make this by heating olive oil and smashed up garlic for about half an hour on very low heat and then straining it out into a jar)
2 teaspoons coarse salt

Put potatoes into gallon size zip lock bag (you'll need to do this in two steps); add olive oil, salt & pepper. Toss.

Put potatoes cut side down on large rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil to make clean up easier. Set pan on lowest rack of cold oven. Turn oven on to 425 degrees and roast until potates are tender and golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Serve hot, warm or room temp

Roasted asparagus (enough for 18, a great pre-dinner appetizer the next day):

3 pounds asparagus
olive oil
toss with garlic olive oil in gallon sized zip lock bag. Cook at 425 for about 6 minutes.

Salad — whatever lettuce and other things you like

Our favorite dressing. This recipe makes a LOT of dressing — enough for a week of salads

3 shallots diced small
3 cloves garlic — diced small
1 T coarse salt
1 cup vinegar (red wine, champagne, balsamic)
–let sit at least 30 minutes
add 1 1/2 cups olive oil
6 Tablespoons dijon — shake

Brownies: not quite enough for 18; I also made an 8×8 pan of brownies from a Trader Joe's mix. It was not as good as this:

2 sticks butter
4 squares unsweetened chocolate
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt

Melt butter & chocolate, add sugar, eggs and vanilla, stir. Stir in flour and salt, pour in greased 9 x 13 pan. It's not a lot of flour — that's why they're so good. This time around I ran out of sugar. I used one cup of dark brown sugar and one cup of regular white sugar. The result? Great! My friend Carrie is a baking goddess for encouraging this substitution with such confidence.

Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes — sometimes for 30, check and make sure they're not overcooking. Brownies are done when they don't look quite done.

Strawberries Marinated in Port (mostly for adults; the children ate mixed berries)

4 cups strawberries hulled and quartered

Mix together and pour over strawberries the following concoction:

1 cup port
4 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest

Marinate for a few hours in the fridge. Pour this over vanilla ice cream. Or serve it on top of the brownies.


3 thoughts on “Memorial Day Dinner

  1. Wow! I’m going to keep these recipes for my next big family gathering. But I’ll make twice the brownies. Us Michiganders like brownies. Everything else also sounds great. What did people drink besides coca cola and iced tea, I assume? Did you play croquet or ping pong or baseball?

  2. Ping pong. A lot of ping pong. A homerun derby, in which each participant got pitched ten whiffleballs. No complaining about the quality of the pitching was tolerated. An arbitrary spot (out of the courtyard) was designated home run territory. The person who hit the most whiffleballs out of the courtyard with the large yellow plastic bat won the derby. The winner was not an adult. We did not play croquet. There isn’t really any grass to speak of where we were. We did hike — we saw a snake, a lot of rabbits, deer, cattle. As for drinks, the adults made do with wine and beer. It used to be that we went in for fancy mixed drinks before dinner. This year, we brought noticeably less food and far less structure around pre-dinner drinks. This seemed to be a good idea. I hope your midwestern Memorial Day was a fine one.

  3. I like to play baseball with whiffle balls too. But I can’t admit that to my fellow midwesterners. Here in the home of the free and the brave and the macho, most people laugh at Californians for a whole variety of reasons. Whiffleball is one of them. The word SanFrancisco is another. I’m embarrassed for all these things. But I did go along with the rest of the family–we had about thirty people. Someone baked a ham and a lot of people made pies, the usual kind of fruit ones. Mashed potatoes and peas and salads– to the playground of the school where my uncle is principal and his wife the librarian. My grandmother lives with them, and I think that she will take a turn with our family soon. I feel like I am getting younger as I write this. Back in time kind of thing. We had about fifteen people playing baseball. We played with an actual baseball. By the way no one was impressed with your Barry Bonds breaking the Babe’s record. People in this family SAW the Babe hit home runs in Tiger stadium and he didn’t have to take drugs to hit ’em. Well, that’s what people here say. I’m sorry about that. My dad used to canoe and kayak on the Detroit river. My mother taught English in high school, but is retired now. We played baseball even after most of the adults got tired and left the kids to play. That built up another appetite for some ham sandwiches before everyone got in their cars for rides home, some as much as a hundred miles or more to Ohio and Chicago. None of them lives in Indiana. There was a scrabble game before they left. I won. We also had a ping pong game, but no one was very good. For next year’s family reunion, I’m going to try to get people to grill you steak tips. Let me know about some of your other recipes and favorite foods. I’m glad you write about food topics. I like your writing. I’m not sure what the folks here would say. But they should read it. It might bring them into this century. I think the other reason people here don’t want to come to California is they heard you don’t have fireflies.
    Keep writing. I enjoy everything. I see you are getting lots of hits on your site. You should.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s