Thursday, May 23, 2013

Birthday Party!

If you are a regular reader of TERP, you know I have a big family, made up of some big eaters, and we love big celebrations.  We love any excuse to get together and eat.  I love any excuse to cook for people.  It always comes together.

I don't host nearly as many family parties as I used to because over the years I learned the logistics of having a double-digit number of guests in my apartment are way too tricky.  These days restaurants or the bigger homes of other family members have been the way to go.  I'm often relieved, but there are times when I ache to host a big family party, particularly when I'm hoping to serve a particular food.

Mom's birthday is in May and it's always a big reason to get together and celebrate.  For the past few years we have had to go to restaurants because no one can accommodate a house party anymore.  This year, although we wanted very badly to have the whole gang over, my mother-in-law and her side of the family inconveniently went on vacation during the weeks of Mom's birthday.  She's spending the time in Italy (Sicily and the southern regions - I think she got the better deal), so while we missed her, we envied her too and wished her well for her trip.  With the guest list a little smaller this year, I decided to host a party.

My theme for this party was "Indoor Picnic".  I wanted to make a dinner on a beautiful spring day feel like a barbecue.  I served all kinds of traditional picnic foods.  You know how my posts have mostly been about foods meant to help me on my body transformation quest?  Well, if you're tired of those kinds of foods, you will find this post a welcome relief.  This birthday party was a major fat and carb fest.

It turned out to not be a beautiful spring day.  It was chilly and rainy, but the spirit was there. 

On the buffet was potato salad, mac & cheese (my brother provided), cole slaw (bro also provided), homemade biscuits, rolls (store bought), tarragon chicken salad, and the piece de resistance, a Latin-American-inspired pork shoulder with a little chimichurri to spoon on top.

I always seem to forget to charge my camera battery.  I grabbed the camera and saw the battery was dead.  I had to use my phone.  Sorry for the poor photo quality.

We finished it off with chocolate cake covered in chocolate-hazelnut flavored frosting.  The recipe was My First Chocolate Cake baked in layers instead of a sheet.  I frosted it with homemade Swiss meringue buttercream mixed with a generous lump (I'd say about a cup) of Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut butter (a little less sugar and no trans fat, unlike Nutella).

Mayo-Free Potato Salad

I just used the recipe for my Pickle-y Potato Salad, but left out the pickles this time in case any of the picky eaters (in other words, the under-21 crowd) didn't like pickles.


  • 8 small potatoes
  • 2 Tbl olive oil, divided use
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 Tbl lemon champagne vinegar
  • 2 Tbl dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cook potatoes in boiling water until tender. Remove from heat and cut into chunks. Toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Whisk together wine, vinegar, mustard and remaining olive oil. You can serve it warm or cold as you see fit.

Tarragon Chicken Salad

I would also think some sliced toasted almonds would be good in this, but I didn't know how the pickier eaters in the crowd would react to them.  The kids probably had a hard enough time with the grapes.


  • 4 Chicken breasts, roasted, skinned, boned, and cut up small
  • 1 cup halved grapes
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1-2 Tbsp fresh chopped tarragon
  • ¼ cup toasted sliced almonds
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all of the ingredients together. Taste for seasoning. 

Roast Pork Shoulder

I served this with a basic chimmichurri I found online.  For the pork roast itself, I played with a few different recipes to come up with my own.  I roast my pork in my clay pot.  It always comes out nice and moist that way.  You can use your preferred roasting pan though.

  • 1 6 lb picnic shoulder
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Juice of 3 oranges
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 4 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1 Tbl salt
  • Few grinds black pepper
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp tumeric
Mix together the juices, onion, and minced garlic.  Place in a large plastic bag with the pork and marinate overnight or longer.

Remove pork from marinade and scrape off excess.  Drain marinade and boil for a few minutes.

Cut several slits all over the pork.  Place the sliced garlic in them.

Mix together the salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and tumeric.  Rub this all over the pork.  Allow pork to sit out for an hour to come to room temperature.

Heat oven to 275 degrees (unless you are doing what I did and using a terra cotta pot, in which case, don't preheat your oven).

Place pork in a roasting pan with the marinade.  Roast for about 6 hours or until it is falling-apart tender.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

New Marinade, New Way to Cook

One inconvenient aspect of living in an apartment is I can't grill.  I hate seeing delicious grilling recipes online and in magazines when I can't make any of them because I don't have a grill or a yard to put one in.  I can use the sauces and the marinades, but what I cook won't have that same chargrilled quality.

Recently I saw a recipe for a Thai style grilled chicken that sounded so delicious, and while I knew I could replicate the flavors, I knew ordinary roasting wouldn't give me that caramelized flavor you get when the sugars in your marinade take on the heat of the grill.

I started to wonder how much of that quality I could obtain if I tried using my oft-neglected broiler.  I've never tried broiling chicken before.  Would I end up burning it to a crisp, or would I have something closer to the taste and texture I'm looking for in a grill recipe?

Still keeping the magazine recipe in mind, I devised my own "Thai" marinade.  I stuck some skinless chicken thighs (I was never in the habit of ripping skin off chicken, but I am making more of an effort to do so these days, which sometimes feels like ripping out my own heart) on a broiler pan and hoped for the best.


(Sorry folks.  There is a photo.  For some reason Blogger will not allow me to upload it.  I'm afraid this is a photo-less blog.  After trying for two days straight, I decided I really just wanted to get this blog posted, so sorry for the lack of photos.)

I was pleased with how these came out.  I definitely had some nice browned (but not burned) edges and the marinade kept everything from drying out.  I served them with forbidden (black) rice, which complemented them nicely.

Thai Style Broiled Chicken Thighs

  • 8 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 2 Tbl chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 Tbl gluten-free soy sauce
  • 1 Tbl rice wine vinegar
  • Few drops sriracha (or to taste)
Combine coconut milk, cilantro, ginger, soy sauce, vinegar and sriracha in a non-reactive bowl.  Place chicken in the marinade.  Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight.

Preheat your broiler.  Place your oven rack 5-6 inches from the heat source (the top rack position of your oven should do just fine).  Remove chicken from marinade and shake off excess.  Place on a broiler pan and broil 12 minutes.  Turn thighs over and broil 12 minutes more.