Party Time

Week of February 26 – March 1, 2018

Cobb Salad

Monday:                              Cobb Salad (Home Cook)


Tuesday:                              Farfalle with Sausage and Roasted Broccoli (Home Cook)


Wednesday:                      Bobby Flay’s Sloppy Joes

bab ghanoush

Thursday:                            Baba Ganoush with Fresh Pita, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Olives

Kelly, Conor, Patrick

Connor with his parents Kelly and Patrick

Friday:                                  Connor Riley’s 21st Birthday Party

Pot of chowder

Seafood Chowder (NYT Clipping)


Saturday:                             Dennis Cestra II’s 30th Birthday Party at the PFC

grilled chicken


Grilled Herbed Chicken with Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Parmesan Pudding with Sweet Pea Sauce, House Salad with Marinated Tomatoes, Crème Brûlée á la Janice Hart

Last week featured three great parties:

Connor Riley’s 21st Birthday with really young (21 year-old) people, good drinks and great food at the Juniper Grill in Cranberry.  If there is a more pleasant 21-year-old than Connor, we have yet to meet him.

Dennis Cestra II’s 30th birthday party at the PFC – but a PFC transformed by Annie and Helen Cestra into a nightclub worthy of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.  We haven’t felt so sophisticated since we learned to say ‘pronto,’ when picking up the telephone in Italy.  This would have been one of the events of the “season,” if we had a season in Fox Chapel.  It was one hell of a party.

On Sunday the Harts and Billy and Emily joined us for our first cook out of the year.  I had noticed on the five-day forecast in the newspaper that Sunday would be sunny.  It was.  What I failed to notice was that it would be colder than Manitoba.  The chicken was spectacular, but I was lonely, as well as frozen, cooking on an icy deck.  Janice’s Crème Brûlée, finished by John, Janice and myself wielding a small but powerful blow torch*, was a fitting end to a week of great pleasure, dancing and general decadence.

*I told SWMBO that I need one of these.  She reminded me that I was not to be trusted with matches just yet.

To descend to earth, where we have to park our own cars and cook for ourselves and figure out what it is we will cook – a particularly difficult part of the task about which those who don’t cook are blissfully unaware:  We had a fine week with our typical detoxifying salad on Monday, a pasta dish, something exotic, and seafood.  But the standout – trust me – was that high-school cafeteria and 1960’s weeknight fallback, Sloppy Joes.  Now this recipe from Bobby Flay (see below) is a tad more sophisticated than the one my mother used to feed five hungry boys (Mom wouldn’t have known a Poblano from a Habañero), but the effect was pretty much the same – a huge pot of sweet and spicy beef, perfect for sharing with a crowd on a chilly night while watching the NCAA Tournament.

I had thought we’d be grilling pretty much every night without rain by now.  But the late winter weather in Pittsburgh still has us building fires, cuddling on the sofa and generally longing for either Florida or spring.  The Sloppy Joes helped a bit.

Pot of Joes


(adapted from Bobby Flay)


About 2 hours – allow a bit more since there’s a lot of chopping and the flavor grows if you let it cool and reheat it.

Ingredients:                                       Feeds at least 8

For the barbecue sauce:

2 tablespoons canola oil (we used grapeseed)
1 medium Spanish Onion, coarsely chopped (we used maybe 2/3 of the big honkers supermarkets sell these days)
3 cloves of garlic coarsely chopped (we used 2 cloves, finely chopped)
2 cups of ketchup
½ cup of water
2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1-2 tablespoons chipotle puree (we used one tablespoon of the liquid and chopped one of the chipotles from a can very fine – this adds heat which is necessary for the dish – next time I’ll use more)
¼ teaspoon chile de arbol or cayenne
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey (if you want less sweetness, leave this out and add an extra tablespoon of molasses)
2 tablespoons molasses
Pinch of salt and ground black pepper, plus more to adjust seasoning as needed

  Garlic Toast:     Note:  Instead of garlic toast we used sturdy Kaiser rolls straight from Giant Eagle.

You know how to make garlic toast, right?

Sloppy Joe’s:

1 tablespoon canola oil (again, we were out, substituted grapeseed oil)
2 pounds of ground chuck (80% fat – use the chuck, not a leaner grind)
1 cup of small-dice red onion
½ cup of small-dice celery
½ cup of small-dice roasted poblano chile (roast in a 500 F oven for 30-40 minutes, let cool, remove skin, seeds and membranes and dice – Giant Eagle in its ineptitude, decided that the day we cooked this would be the only day this month when they did not have Poblanos.  We substituted Anaheim chiles.  They are not as tasty or as smoky as the Poblanos.  Get Poblanos if you can.)
½ cup small-dice roasted red bell pepper (see note above on roasting)
½ cup small-dice roasted yellow bell pepper (see note above on roasting)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped (we used 3)
1 ¼ cups of BBQ sauce from recipe above
¼ cup of water
¼ cup of ketchup
1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley or cilantro, plus more for garnish.


Chop all vegetables, measure out dry and wet ingredients – you need to have everything ready because of the rather quick cooking times.

Get out the ground meat and let it come to room temperature if there is time.  (This will speed up the browning, but you can cook the meat cold.)


  BBQ Sauce: 

Heat oil of medium-high (or slightly less – you don’t want onions to char) in a medium saucepan.

Add onions and cook about 3 ½ minutes – until soft.

Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add ketchup and water and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add remaining ingredients and simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.

Garlic Toastalternative, Kaiser Rolls, just need to be sliced into tops and bottoms

You know how to do this – we used Kaiser Rolls instead, going for that cafeteria frisson.

Sloppy Joes:

In a large high-side pan (we used a Dutch oven), heat the oil until just smoking and then add the beef.

Break the beef up into smaller pieces and season with salt and pepper.

Cook, continuing to break up, until golden brown (7-12 minutes or more, depending on your burner’s power)

Remove beef with a slotted spoon to a plate.  Then drain all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan.  Note:  we forgot to do this and left the meat in the pot – everything turned out fine.

Add the onion and celery to the pot and cook about 3 minutes – until soft.

Add the poblano and bell peppers and garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add the chili powder and cook for 20 seconds.

Add the BBQ sauce, ¼ cup of water and the ketchup.

Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened – maybe 5 minutes.

Reduce heat to low, stir in mustard, Worcestershire, honey, brown sugar and molasses.

Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove the cover, return the meat to the pan and continue cooking until slightly thickened – maybe 10 minutes longer.

Add the vinegar, season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir in ½ cup of parsley or cilantro.

Serve on garlic toast or Kaiser Rolls and sprinkle a bit more parsley or cilantro for garnish.

Cole slaw makes a great side for Sloppy Joes.

2 thoughts on “Party Time

  1. Bill, another great blog reporting on the eating life both in and outside the home. You note the advantages to both, but seem to lean toward “there’s no place like home.” You must have had an Auntie Em. Go Wildcats!

    • Go wildcats, indeed – have no other dog in the hunt, plus George Clooney turned out to be a surprisingly good coach

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