So Fourth of July week was my most intense meal planning yet. I had to figure out meals that would feed anywhere between six and ten people, without breaking the bank, and get it approved by both my mother and my aunt. I then had to turn my menu into a food shopping list. Talk about exhausting!
To simplify things a bit, I decided to have theme nights. Even our drinks fit the theme! On the third we had Italian night, where we made garlic bread and had fresh pasta with meatballs..and wine, of course. The Fourth was obviously American-themed, with hotdogs and hamburgers and Freddi's chili and beer. The next day was seafood night featuring soy-orange glazed grilled salmon with pineapple salsa (recipe to come). Sadly, there's no real drink that matches seafood night...so we all just had whatever we felt like (I had white wine, obviously). And Friday was Mexican night. And by Mexican night, I mean it was a Mexican FEAST. With margaritas to go around!
To prepare for the feast, I literally started chopping around 2:00 p.m. And no, you know I would never suggest you cook for hours, so don't think that is where I'm going with this story! The one problem with Mexican food is that it involves a lot of little pieces. And my hands get tired of chopping! So at 2:00 I started on my pico de gallo. A couple of hours later I moved on to chopping everything (except the corn, which had to be grilled) for the charred corn salsa. Then came the fajita veggies, which needed to be sliced. By periodically spending time chopping, the dinner came together fairly easily (emphasis on fairly)...minus my little cousin bringing a couple of unplanned friends.
But isn't that the beauty of Mexican food? Add some more rice and beans to the stove top and its easy to stretch a meal. And stretch we did!
the accoutrement table
Our main dishes were butter steak from Drew's Market and grilled shrimp in a hawaiian style marinade. Those two made it onto the main table, which everyone sat around. The above is simply a side table that had...well, everything else on it.
By everything else, I mean the basics...black beans, white rice, Mexican cheese and shredded lettuce along with the tortillas. Then there are the delicious bonuses...homemade pico de gallo, guacamole, charred corn salsa and fajita veggies.
hawaiian grilled shrimp
All of this allowed everyone to make their own Mexican meal. My mum loves putting all of this over rice, so she made a plate with rice, fajita veggies, butter steak and guac. My little cousin likes burritos, so she made a couple (her eyes were bigger than her stomach), each with different ingredients.
My eyes also happen to be a little large for MY stomach too. Or I just felt like I made everything, so I was damn well going to try it. Probably a bit of both, methinks. I actually didn't end up eating the tortilla on the bottom (I couldn't actually WRAP everything into a burrito so I just started from the top and ate down and by the time I got to the bottom I was full). I was so distracted by everything I didn't even eat any steak or shrimp! But I'm sure I'll get it next time.
For those feeding a large group of people, I highly recommend serving buffet style. With meals like this, everyone gets to take exactly what they want from lots of options, so no one complains. This is also an excellent way to feed children--because they get to choose their own meal, they're more apt to eat what they choose. No, I'm not a parent, but I'm young enough to remember being an annoying little tot who only wanted to eat certain foods--and when my mom let me choose our dinner, I would clean my plate. And potentially ask for seconds. My brother would be next to be chowing down on whatever was put it front of him...boys!
If you made a theme night for your family, what would be your cuisine of choice?