Hosting a Summer BBQ
I love food. I love the sound of laughter at my house. I crave time with my friends (probably more than I should). For me, my home is not simply a great place to raise my kids (though it is), but an intentional tool used for enjoying my community.
I love to host people at my house, answering the question “what can I bring?” with the one word response: nothing. I often spend all day dreaming up a new pasta recipe for the night. Or working out how I’ll prepare steak in a new way. Or “getting thirsty”, as my friends say, thinking about the pitcher of cocktails I’ll be pouring all night. I can’t wait to have my guests feel like they have nothing to worry about but telling jokes and catching up.
This time of year, as the sun starts staying around more than 6 hours a day, I get the craving to host a barbecue. If you’re lucky enough to have an outdoor living space, the turn of the season offers options available for the first time in months, so take advantage of it.
First off, start with the right mentality.
Hosting is more than providing a couch for your buddies to fart on while watching the game and crushing beers. Although you’re going to put in some work in beforehand, a barbecue should feel like a loosely planned evening, albeit with attention to the right details.
Think about the compatibility of the group you’re inviting (emphasis on inviting). Unless the chemistry is already certain, don’t get overzealous about bringing in too many people just because you like them. Ask yourself: What do they have in common? Will one person dominate the conversation? Do we really want to listen about Vegan cleansings for 3 hours?
Plan a menu.
And keep it simple. Just because you like creme brulee doesn’t mean you can pull it off. Provide easy starters like bread, olives, and cheese and have them ready in your kitchen when your group arrives. For the main course, prepare a protein and one side. That’s all you need. Just make it exceptional.
Grill a steak.
Easy as one, two, three:
The Perfect Grilled Tenderloin Recipe
- Do a dry rub. There are plenty of them at the butcher counter. Do this an hour ahead. Cover your steaks in the rub and then rewrap in the butcher paper they came in. Put the wrapped steaks into the fridge until you are ready to grill.
- Now get ready to sear the steak 5-6 minutes on each side, which locks in the juices. Pre-oil the grill with non-stick spray. Heat your grill to to 550 degrees. For a 6 oz. tenderloin, cut about two inches thick.
- Let sit for 5 minutes before serving. The steaks will be perfectly medium rare.
Prepare your side.
Your attention should be on preparing your steak just right, so make your side before hand and go simple. Pasta recipes are ideal. This simple recipe will store well in the refrigerator for hours and is perfect for warm weather.
Simple Summer Pasta Salad
- 4 tomatoes. Cut in half and cored.
- 3 lemons
- 1 head of live basil (about a ¼ cup chopped)
- 2 tablespoons of good olive oil
- ⅛ cup of grated Parmesan Reggiano
- 1 lb pasta. Penne or something that catches sauce
- A small dash of salt and pepper
- Purée everything (save for the cheese and the pasta, of course) including salt and pepper.
- Boil the pasta until done (if you’re making ahead of time, undercook by 2 minutes).
- Cool the pasta in a colander with cold water. Add salt to taste.
- Pour the purée over the cooled pasta, then mix in the parmesan.
Have a drink ready to pour.
When guests arrive, you don’t want to be stuck at the counter mixing cocktails all night. A good pitcher recipe that’s ready to pour is perfect. We asked our resident bartender, Ryan Victor (from Clark Lewis in Portland), for some advice and a kick ass recipe. He certainly delivered – just don’t drink all of it before your guests arrive.
“Once the grill comes out for the summer, I’m ready to grill anything and everything. I fell in love with grilled watermelon salad some years ago, and with lots of help from barman and Rhum St. Barth’s ambassador, Justin Siemer, I was finally able to find a cocktail home for some charred melon. Justin brought his extensive knowledge of flavor pairings to bear, and we banged out this earthy, grassy, bright punch. The Rhum St. Barth Agricole has the big bones needed to keep the Strega in line and give character to our melon while playing well the brown sugar underneath.”
“This drink takes some preparation (so you should do it the day before) but offers up a concoction that is at once friendly and accessible, yet complex enough to be unfamiliar – just like that party guest that everyone wants to get to know.”
Cheers! – Ryan
Rhum St. Barth Grilled Watermelon Punch
Recipe by Ryan Victor and Justin Siemer
Recipe per ten servings
- 10oz – Rhum St. Barth Agricole
- 2.5oz – Strega
- 7.5oz – Jasmine Tea, Tarragon oleo
- 7.5oz – Lemon/Lime Juice (at a 2:1 ratio)
- 15oz – Strained juice of grilled watermelon
- 5oz – Water
- For this recipe, we used an eight pound seedless watermelon.
- Peel strips of skin from the rind and set aside to pickle for garnish.
- Cut your melon down to palm sized triangles like you would for serving as is
- Place each slice on a hot grill, leaving each side down just long enough to leave a nice char line. Think of it like searing tuna.
- Cut the meat from the rind, blend, and strain out the pulp.
- Set aside.
- Pickling liquid
- 1 cup sugar (we used a turbinado sugar)
- 1 cup water
- 2 tsp salt
- In a dry sauce pan, toast 1 tbsp cardamom with 2 tbsp Coriander.
- After your spices begin to brown and become fragrant, add pickling liquid to your pan and bring it to a near boil.
- Have your strips of watermelon rind ready in a large mason jar or mixing bowl.
- Pour your pickling liquid over the melon strips, ensuring they’re completely covered. Cover your container and let sit overnight.
- Zest six lemons and six limes into a mixing bowl, or place in a zip lock bag.
- Cover the peels with brown sugar (here again we used a turbinado sugar). Work the sugar into the peels with a muddler to release the essential oils.
- Let sit for at least six hours.
Jasmine, Tarragon Tea
- Steep five jasmine tea bags into 20oz. of water, with half of one bunch of tarragon.
- Let your tea steep about five minutes, then add it to your Oleo Saccharum base.
- Strain and let cool.
Right before your guests arrive, combine everything into a serving pitcher over ice. When you start pouring, just add one garnish per glass. Sip (or gulp) and enjoy!
Set your scene.
When I was a kid, setting the table was a pain in the ass. It still is, but taking the extra time to do so is well worth it.
Think comfortable and clean. Pick one color and make it pop (don’t go overboard, just put it where you can). Beyond that, stick to neutrals. Galvanized metal is an easy option, as it is both masculine and corrosion-resistant. Get some pots (and don’t forget to plant something in them). Make sure they are perennials so you can simply water them once a week. Your guests will think you worked your ass off to pull together a table like this, but in reality, it’s not as daunting as it was when you were six.
Finally, remember that a host is not a server. You’re the driver. That means you shouldn’t be cleaning and serving all night. If you have good friends (and you do, right?), they’ll offer to help when they arrive. So pick easy things like grabbing the pasta salad out of the fridge or filling glasses with your premade pitcher of cocktails. The evening should be inclusive. And you should be enjoying yourself as well. Laugh and eat alongside everyone else.
Most importantly, bring your group together and then enjoy it. Fill their drinks only to keep the conversation going, and make sure your glass is always full. After all, you’re the only one not driving home.