TND – July 15th . . . . Summer Birthday Dinner or How to Work a Theme

September 16, 2014

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Dinner – July 15th . . . . Summer Birthday Dinner or How to Work a Theme
Basil Scented Sangria

Barbacoa Beef Tacos
– Tomatillo Salsa Verde
– Spicy Barbacoa Sauce
– Smashed Avocados
– Quick Pickled Onions
– Cojita

Mango Slaw
Chopped Salad with Mexican Green Goddess Dressing

Strawberry Margarita Jello Shots
Brownie Ice Cream Sundaes with Dulce De Leche Sauce

Never let it be said that we can’t beat a horse to a delicious delicious death.  When we go Mexican(ish) we take it all the way.

Basil Scented Sangria
(serves 10-12)
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup water
6 sprigs basil
2 sprigs mint
1 cinnamon stick
Zest of 1 lemon, peeled in 3” strips
Zest of 1 orange, peeled in 3” strips
¾ cup brandy
½ cup fresh orange juice
2 bottles chilled pinot grigio
(2-3 cups chilled soda water – optional)
2 small oranges, halved & thinly sliced
1 small lemon, halved & thinly sliced
1 lime, halved & thinly sliced
1 pint blueberries, frozen

In a small saucepan combined the sugar and water.  Bring to a simmer and stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Remove from the heat and add the basil, mint, cinnamon stick, orange and lemon zests, and stir to combine.  Allow to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally – about 20-30 minutes.  Strain.

Combine the brandy and orange juice, and strained sugar syrup.  Can be made in advance & refrigerated.

In a large pitcher combine the brandy mixture, wine, sliced citrus, frozen blueberries, and some additional decorative springs of basil if you desire.  Stir to combine.  Serve – allow people to add soda water to the glasses if desired.

Barbacoa Beef Tacos
(serves 6)

3.5 lb boneless beef short ribs
4 large ancho (dried) chilis, stemmed, seeded & torn
4 chipotle (dried) chilis, stemmed & seeded
1 large onion, halved & thinly sliced
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
15 cloves garlic, peeled & smashed
8 bay leaves
1 stick cinnamon
2 Tbsp dried oregano
2 Tbsp kosher salt
½ tsp cumin
2 cups water (I used about 1 ½ cups water + ½ cup chicken stock for a little extra flavor depth)

Preheat oven to 325.

In a large casserole pan arrange the chilis, onion, celery, carrots, garlic, bay leaves, and cinnamon stick.

Mix together the kosher salt, dried oregano and cumin.  Trim any egregious fat deposits from the short ribs (boneless short ribs tend to be fairly well trimmed already, which is convenient), and then toss with the salt mixture.  Arrange the short ribs over the vegetables in the pan.

Pour the water over everything, and then tightly cover the pan with a double layer of foil and braise in the oven for 3 ½ hours, until the meat is very tender.

Carefully transfer the short ribs to a different oven safe pan and allow to cool (the meat will be super tender, so carefully is the watch word here).  Cover and refrigerate.

Remove the bay leaves and cinnamon stick from the vegetable mixture.  Then strain out the vegetables from the liquid – pressing on them to extract as much liquid as possible.  Refrigerate the vegetables and the liquid separately.

The next day lift off the layer of fat that has risen to the top of the liquid and solidified (this is why you refrigerate the vegetable and liquid separately).  Puree the liquid and vegetables until very smooth.  Season to taste with salt/pepper/honey/orange juice (or vinegar).  Reheat slightly in a saucepan.

Spoon about ½ cup of the sauce over the cooked short ribs, cover tightly, and reheat in a low oven for about 30 minutes.

Heat a grill pan and oil generously.  Grill the reheated short ribs until browned/charred on all sides, transfer to a cutting board and shred with forks.  Mix with the liquid/sauce from the reheating process.  Serve with the extra sauce on the side (plus any and/or all of the other fixings listed above).

Tomatillo Salsa Verde
¾ lb tomatillos, husked, rinsed & quartered
½ cup basil
1 jalapeno, seeded
1 clove garlic
Lemon juice

Puree the tomatillos, basil, jalapeno, and garlic until smooth.  Season to taste with salt/pepper/lemon juice/honey.  Can be made up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated.

Quick Pickled Onions

Recipe previously given:  Not For the Onion Shy


Mango Slaw
I omitted the pistachios, and seasoned with cumin & coriander to meet the theme.

Recipe previously given:  The Perfect Food

Chopped Salad with Mexican Green Goddess Dressing

¾ cup plain yogurt
6 Tbsp buttermilk
2 Tbsp olive oil
¼ cup lime juice (about 2-3 limes)
1 Tbsp honey
1 fresno chili, seeded
¼ cup basil
¼ cup chives (or scallions)

Puree all together until smooth.  Season to taste with salt/pepper.

Strawberry Margarita Jello Shots
(we made half of the recipe and had lots of jello leftover – if you have leftover jello you can pour it into whatever mold you like to make ordinary jello shots)

jello shots
24-30 large strawberries
1 box strawberry jello
1 cup tequila
¾ cup Cointreau
Lime zest

Hull the strawberries, and then use a small spoon/melon baller to scoop out the interior.  Take a small slice off the tip of the strawberry so it will stand upright.

Mix the jello with ¾ cup boiling water, stirring until the jello is completely dissolved.  Add the tequila and Cointreau.

Pour the jello mixture into the strawberry cups – filling them as full as possible because jello shrinks as it cools.  Chill for at least 4 hours.

Mix together lime zest and sugar on a plate.  Wet the rims of the strawberry jello shots with a little water and then roll in the sugar-lime zest.  Garnish with a thin sliver of lime.

Brownie Ice Cream Sundaes with Dulce De Leche Sauce
Birthday girl wanted to bring her own dessert, and since she was making dulce de leche from scratch I didn’t argue particularly strenuously.


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