August 2 – August 7, 2022
Friday: Shrimp on the Barbie with Corn and Parmigiano Crostini
Saturday: Spicy Turkey Burger
Sunday: Steak, Potatoes, and Tomatoes with Quick Chimichurri for the Horde
Monday: White Bean Ragout
Tuesday: Spaghetti alla Norma
Wednesday: Sheet Pan Pizza
How to Feed a Horde
The best meal of the past two weeks was at Howard and Mère’s party to introduce their magnificently reworked and enlarged house and garden to their family, neighbors and friends. The first time I saw this house, decades ago, was from the main road in the neighborhood looking up to a large cottage style home on a hill with distinctive stone columns,* and a red-shingled second story above the brick ground floor. At the apex of the roof was a unique double chimney. Turning left and driving up the hill, then turning right, you see one of the most pleasant looking homes on earth, with a large garage and carriage house to its left. The house was built in 1908 and was the childhood home of Mère, Beez, UFR and their late sister Lisa. Howard and Mre bought it in the early 1980s, and have made many improvements over the years. This final iteration involved razing the house next door and extensive landscaping. There is phenomenal millwork matching the original and two or three new stone columns allow for an extension of the already expansive screened-in porch. It has always been the kind of house that elicits envy from anyone visiting. And now it’s even more so.
*These columns are unique – imagine very flat rocks being assembled into substantial (just this side of monumental) columns tapering from bottom to top and holding up large wooden beams supporting the gables of the home. I wish I knew enough about architecture to describe them better.
But now, back to that party: The food was very good but the company was even better – lots of old friends and new acquaintances drinking, eating and exchanging views, jokes, and news in the Edenic garden of the old family home. I, personally, am willing to pay resort fees for an extended stay at the house as long as it includes cocktails in the great room served from the great bar, at least two nights of cookouts on the Wolf grill served at tables poolside or on the porch, gym privileges and a game of croquet on the enormous lawn beyond the pool. Oh, and a cup of coffee while reading the Times and WSJ on the deck off the kitchen, and one night of fine dining, cooked by Mère and served in the old (unchanged and regal) dining room.
And now, about feeding that horde:
Meanwhile, at Casa Stuarti, as many Stewarts and Duffys as we could convoke gathered for a simple feast on Labor Day. The menu was basic – grilled steak, roasted potatoes and fresh tomatoes with chimichurri and a side of boiled corn – but the cooking was superb, if I do say so myself, the company was off-the-wall, as at most of our family gatherings, and everyone had a chance to congratulate Gabe and Kellie on their engagement, to meet Andrew’s dog, Murph, and Greg had a chance to sample my new bottle of Knob Creek Rye. The night was proof that, in spite of all the international conflict and heated political rhetoric and inflation and bad Pirate teams, there are still moments of fairly complete bliss available to those who seek them out. And if you get to eat at our house with Beez’s hospitality and my cooking, trust me, you’ll find some bliss. The rye whiskey may also help.
A further beauty of this meal was how simple it was to put together. It took some planning and a little adjustment to the timing (guests tend to drift into our parties over a 45 minute period, making a precise schedule for the lighting of the coals or cooking of the potatoes impossible). But, as you will see below (I’ve included a schedule), you can feed a bunch well without raising a sweat.
And a further beauty of this meal for a horde is that it did not involve pillage and rapine as did the Great Khan’s efforts to feed his own far-ranging horde.
Steak, Potatoes, Tomatoes and Corn to Feed a Horde
Note: We’ll address each of the foods separately, but, at the end of the last recipe you’ll find a schedule to help you coordinate your efforts so that everything comes together at about the same time. All of these recipes, with the exception of the chimichurri (courtesy of Food and Wine) are just observations of the way we cook things we have made so often that we don’t have to think twice.
Reverse Seared and Grilled Strip Steak:
Note – we used 1 ½’ thick strip steaks. I recommend this thickness, but that means you’ll have to ask your butcher to cut the steaks to order. The first time I asked Mr. Wagner (Wagner’s Market) if he ‘could’ cut strip steak, 1 ½” thick for me, he replied with a question, “Can you pay for them?” When I told him I could, he said, “Then I will.” It was a good lesson in when to use the subjunctive case, and Mr. Wagner became, if not a friend, at least a friendly acquaintance.
What if you’ve got only 1” thick steaks? Then you have to adjust your cooking time – less time in the oven and on the grill. Good luck. Or, just call Wagner’s.
About 1 hour before you cook, remove the strip steaks from the refrigerator, pat them dry and season then generously on all sides with salt and pepper. Place them on a rack set on a rimmed baking sheet. [If you think to do this in the morning, or even the night before and leave the steaks to dry out a bit in the refrigerator (uncovered) you’ll have even tastier meat.] Now preheat the oven to 250F. (Yes, I know that’s a low temperature, but you’re trying to warm and par-cook the inside of the steak, you’ll finish it later on the grill.)
When you’re ready to cook (the steaks can sit out for a couple of hours), place the steaks in the oven (middle rack) and roast for about 30 minutes. [You’re looking for an internal temperature of about 115 degrees for medium rare. If you’ve not achieved that after 30 minutes, cover the steaks with aluminum foil and let them rest on the counter (they’ll keep cooking.)]
About 20 minutes before grilling, start your coals or heat your gas grill to high. Leave one burner of the gas grill off and a good space with no coals in your charcoal grill – a cool area to move the steak if you get a sustained flare-up.
Cook for about 5 minutes per side and another minute or two on each side. You’re looking for a golden-brown crust on the steak. Let the steak rest for 5 minutes before your slice it. [Note: If you can tell by pressing how far along the steak is, please do so. Otherwise, remove a steak and cut into it to see where you are. You don’t want to overcook the steak – undercooked steak can be put back on the grill. Overcooked steak is for dogs.]
You’re going to place this steak on a platter alongside roasted potatoes and fresh tomatoes and drizzle chimichurri over the whole shooting match.
Preheat oven to 425 F
Par-boil small golden potatoes (not the marble-sized ones, but the next size up) on top of the stove (cover with cold water, bring to a boil, after about 15 minutes of boiling you should be able to poke a fork into the potato with just a bit of resistance – the potatoes will continue to cook in the oven.
Drain the potatoes and, when they are cool enough to handle, slice them in half. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper (be generous with all three) and then spread out in a single layer on a sheet pan covered with aluminum foil. I like to turn the cut sides down as it gives a nice brown crust to the potatoes. Cook in a preheated oven for about 20 minutes.
(Adapted from Food & Wine, September, 2022)
Stir together 1 cup of loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped, 3 tablespoons of oregano leaves freshly chopped (use dry oregano, if you must – maybe 1 tablespoon, about ½ large garlic clove, grated, ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (I used ½ teaspoon), ½ cup of extra-virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar and 1 teaspoon of salt. Set aside to dress steak, tomatoes and potatoes.
Slice 2 or 3 large beefsteak or heirloom tomatoes into ½” thick rounds. Salt the tomatoes and let them sit for a while before you plate them.
SWMBO is the expert here. I husk the corn, and take the time to remove all of the silk which no one else in the family with their, apparently, busy schedules can take the time to do. Beez puts the corn in boiling water in a large skillet for about 3 to 5 minutes.
To Assemble Dinner (see schedule below), overlap the tomatoes down the middle of the platter and place the sliced steak on one side, the roasted potatoes on the other. Drizzle them with some of the chimichurri and place any leftover chimichurri in a bowl so that your guests can help themselves to more.
Serve the corn alongside – feed your horde.
Schedule – here was my schedule for feeding 8 folks on Labor Day. You are welcome to adapt it to your quirky schedule. We had four steaks, 12 ears of corn, 3 sizeable tomatoes, 1 ½ lbs of small Yukon gold potatoes. Oh, and dessert was Heath Bar Klondikes supplied by Uncle Rick.
To Serve at 7:30 p.m.:
4:00 – Make Chimichurri / Trim Steaks of any hard fat, salt and pepper and let sit at room temperature.
5:30 – Husk Corn / Make Appetizers* / preheat oven to 250 F. / parcook the potatoes
6:15 — Put steak into preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. (You’re looking for an internal temperature of 115 degree for medium-rare.)
6:45 — Remove steak from oven and set aside / start coals or heat gas grill /
Slice tomatoes and salt them now. / Turn the oven up to 450 F (for the potatoes)
7:10 — Potatoes into oven
7:15 — Pour coals into grill, clean and oil the grates (you don’t want your steak to stick)
7:18 — Put the steaks on the grill
7:25 — SWMBO cooks the corn
7:30 — Potatoes out of oven / steaks off grill, rest five minutes
7:35 — Slice steak and assemble platter
*We had cucumber slices topped with slices of pecorino and marinated, roasted red pepper (homemade), peach slices with feta, and a plate of cheese, olives, Calabrian chiles and bread sticks. Between talking and fixing drinks, we didn’t get around to many of the apps.
One thought on “How to Feed a Horde”
Congrats to Kellie and Gene on their engagement!!! The shrimp and pasta dishes are my faves.All look delicious. Congrats on your wonderful cooking, Bill and Barbara!!!!!