This is going to be one of those old-school, family Sunday dinner posts that our long-time readers remember from back in the day, when the BCD parents lived closer to Baltimore, in sunny Columbia, MD. Technically this meal was on a Saturday -- a requirement when your parents live a 2-hour drive in beach traffic away. We gathered at Blackacre to celebrate something super-important: my birthday!! My actual birthday was at the end of July but this weekend was the first time the 5 of us could get together to celebrate at home. Readers might remember that for birthdays in the BCD family, the birthday girl/boy gets to pick his or her favorite menu (we all know Dad's favorite meal: lobsters), and the whole family works together create a fabulous birthday meal.
Since we butcher and age our own steaks, I thought steak would be a good protein to center the meal around. I also wanted to highlight some seasonal produce and have a nice, summery meal. Over the course of our discussion, the meal became distinctly Argentinian - steak, chimichurri, veggies, mojitos, etc.
Here was the final menu:
- Mixed berry mojitos with sugarcane swizzle stick
- Shrimp ceviche with avocado
- Green salad with Xani's famous vinaigrette and bleu cheese
- Aged rib steaks with chimichurri
- Vinegar-coarse salt chipotle roasted potatoes
- Coconut rice pudding
After Xani and I did a little Blackacre Bootcamp (wherein we run around the backyard and do push ups, crunches, squats, skips, kicks, etc. - hilarious if you're just watching, really hard if you're actually doing it), we got started on the coconut rice pudding. I had requested a dessert that was coconut-based, and we discussed coconut cake, coconut cream pie, and coconut gelato, but in the end we decided on rice pudding. We had never made it before, and it could be made ahead and served cold, so it would be refreshing and light (??) after our big dinner. We found it was pretty straightforward to make: put coconut milk, vanilla bean, arborio rice, sugar, unsweetened shredded coconut into a pot, bring to a slight simmer, stir often until it resembles loose oatmeal. We also made a coconut topping, which was essentially the makings of a macaroon (egg white, coconut, sugar, salt) but in a crumbly form. We set both of these aside and tried not to nibble them throughout the day..."tried" being the key word there.
After hanging by the pool for a bit, recovering from our workout (we were both hobbling around the pool - very sexy), and a round of pre-dinner naps, it was cocktail time! Mom and Dad had picked up a piece of sugarcane from our local Asian grocery store (H Mart), and we thought it'd be fun to incorporate it into that evening's cocktail. Dad cut the cane into long sticks, which he marinated in white rum. Then Xani muddled some raspberries, blackberries, mint, lime, and sugar together, added rum and home-made seltzer (thanks, Soda Stream!), and then we used the sugarcane as swizzle sticks! They were very refreshing, not too sweet, not too strong, and a great way to kick off our awesome meal.
Our first course was the ceviche. The recipe, by Rick Bayless, was a little unusual in that the shrimp were boiled/steamed in water and lime juice before marinating in more lime juice in the fridge, instead of the traditional method of cooking the shrimps in the acid alone. After the shrimps had marinated, we added cucumbers, white onion, hot sauce, ketchup, cilantro, and avocado (double the amount listed the recipe called for...yum) and let that sit for a few more hours. It was really flavorful from the lime, hot sauce, and creamy avocado, and a nice light starter for the gigantic cow that was the star of the next course.
BCD Dad tackled the two 2.5-lb rib steaks that were to become the main course. He seasoned them generously with salt and cracked pepper, then seared them in a screaming-hot cast iron skillet on both sides, then finished them in the oven. There was some curfuffle (sp?) regarding their doneness, as we are fully dedicated to using the instant-read thermometer to tell us the internal temperature (and therefore doneness) of our meats, and we were concerned when it told us that the smaller of the two steaks was overcooked. But alas, when the platter o' meat arrived at the table (we dined family style, instead of plating each course, for once), every piece was perfectly cooked! Not sure how he did it, but I was happy.
We served the steak with the traditional Argentinian condiment: chimichurri. It was a garlicky, herby, vinegary concoction that went wonderfully with the meaty (and fatty) steak.
Finally, we made these very interesting-sounding potatoes that BCD Mom had seen Ingrid Hoffmann make on the Food Network. Cubes of potatoes are tossed in red wine vinegar, spices, and chipotle peppers, and spread in a single layer on a baking tray. The pots are then drizzled with a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper, and baked for 40 minutes. Then slices of red onion are added and the whole thing is baked for another half hour or so. The result? Spicy, salty, crunchy potatoes, punctuated by the occasional sweet treat of the red onion. Divine. I think the trick here is leaving these guys alone - they get crunchy on the outside, and stay soft and tender on the inside. My only regret is not spraying the trays with non-stick spray - a few crunchy bits had to be sacrificed on the altar of aluminum foil.
In addition to the steak and potatoes, we had a green salad with Xani's amazing vinaigrette and some bleu cheese crumbles. She used shallot, mustard, and fresh oregano as her seasonings of the day. Check out this post for her full salad tutorial.
Finally, it was time for dessert (no pics, unfortunately - we were too excited to eat it, I guess!). We had let the rice pudding cool in the fridge for the last few hours, and only nibbled it a tiny bit during the day (c'mon, it's irresistable!). The pudding was creamy and thick, and the crunchy coconut on top was a great contrast in texture. Interestingly, with the exception of the egg white in the topping, this dessert was completely vegan - WEIRD. But so delicious! This is a great dish for any coconut lover (as I am), or any vegan, or any coconut-loving vegan, for that matter. It was such a success that we are thinking of trying out all kinds of rice pudding methods and flavorings...as our visits to Rice to Riches in NYC have shown us, the possibilities are endless!
I know we seem to say this all the time, but honestly this meal wasn't even that hard to put together. I guess when you get a lot of experienced cooks who are neurotic about time management in the kitchen together, it turns out alright!
It was a great birthday - thanks to everyone who made it special, especially my loving family! Here's to another year of great eats :)