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Salsa Verde – The Very Versatile Green Machine Sauce

Salsa Verde – The Very Versatile Green Machine Sauce

Listen to the applause circle the globe as I am FINALLY posting the recipe for the Green Machine Salsa Verde.  This recipe starting making the rounds with the Fajita Pot Lucky two years ago and has appeared in various iterations ever since, most recently at the All American BBQ Pot Lucky. Requested on the reg, I found when trying to share the recipe that I had continually been reinventing the ratios and ingredients. This is finally the definitive formula which I tested again just this week for another Pot Lucky, to be posted very soon. 

Salsa Verde Fajita

The Green Machine, while technically a Salsa Verde that can be used on its own in the traditional green sauce way, is so named because it’s a workhorse. Check out the laundry list of possibilities below. I’m not suggesting you try all these things at once – that’s for professionals, kids! – but this fajita above has the Salsa Verde as a marinade for both chicken and veg; it’s mixed with sour cream for the grand dollop, and it’s kicking up the guacamole. Try any one or two at a time, but pace it out. 

Salsa Verde

What is Salsa Verde? 

Unless you are living under a rock, you have no doubt come across this delicious dazzler. Every country has its own version: Italy has pesto, but also a parsley-based verde with capers and anchovies; Mexico’s includes cilantro and chilis; in various Asian countries you will find green curries; and of course, Argentina’s famous chimichurri is chockablock with parsley. The name chimichurri came with the arrival of the Basques in the late 19th century and their word tximitxurri, meaning a mixture of things in no particular order. This, too, is a sort of no rules recipe!

The recipe featured here is Mexican-based. Lots of cilantro, roasted chilis, tomatillos and lime juice. I used Hatch chilis, which are just starting to come into the market right now. They are exclusive to the Hatch Valley in New Mexico, and if you are lucky enough, your local store may have a few days or a week of offering them, most likely from the good people at Melissa’s Produce. Check their site to see if there are any stores near you. (They are at D&W in Grand Haven today!) The chilis, which have an earthy taste and varying degrees of heat, mature in a very short window in late August and September. My store roasts them for me, but I clean off the char and pull out the seeds and stems before zipping to freeze. It makes it infinitely easier to just pull out a few at a time all winter to throw into soups and stews, and, yes, more Salsa Verde, should I run out.

If you don’t get them, feel free to roast some poblanos or even use fresh jalapenos should you be grill-averse after a summer of BBQs.  

How do you thicken Salsa Verde?

Some versions of this yummy sauce may have you reducing down the mixture on the stove to thicken. Me: “Just say no!”  I feel that kills all those bright and beautiful greens and turns it to a dull olive drab.  I have two hacks to help with this. First I add a ripe avocado to thicken things up, and second I add a slow drizzle of olive oil with the processor running to emulsify the sauce. The avo may shorten the life a skosh, but you will go through it quickly so that’s never been a problem. You can also divvy it up into smaller containers and freeze small batches of it. You might even consider an ice cube tray to create portioned cubes of the saucy wonder. I have some in my shop that make large cubes and are covered for both easy stacking and keeping the freezer burn at bay. 

Caprese Verde

Salsa Verde Uses

Here are just a few of the many ways you can mix this green goodness into your daily life:

  • On the table as a condiment (photo below) – amazing with grilled meats
  • As a drizzle on cheeses (above on a Caprese) How about a burrata drizzle?
  • Mixed with sour cream for a dip or dollop (Mexican condiment tray at bottom)
  • Stirred into guacamole for a kick up
  • Mixed with yogurt as a spread (I just used it on steak sliders)
  • Marinade for vegetables, chicken, fish, or meats (vegetables below)
  • Glaze to brush on dishes just before they come off the grill
  • Pizza sauce
  • Spice up a tortilla soup …..or any other soup or stew
  • Eggs, hell yaas! How about that Mexican egg layered number, the chilaquiles?
  • Salad dressing – mix with buttermilk and make it creamy
  • Drizzle on a citrus salad? Grilled fish! Sauteed scallops! Steaks!
  • Anything tortilla based – Tacos, burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas, y mas! 
  • Cocktails! Shake it up with some lime juice and tequila! How about adding an oyster shooter to that combo? Oh yeah!

Salsa Verde Tableside

However you chose to use it, please report back. Comments and shares keep this blog going. I know you are going to love this and can’t wait to hear how you put this to use. Enjoy!

Vegetables Marinated in Salsa Verde

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Salsa Verde Fajita: white plate with a flour tortilla, grilled vegetables and chicken, sauced with salsa verde and accompanied by an arugula, corn, tomato and avocado salad

Salsa Verde – The Very Versatile Green Machine Sauce


  • Author: Katy Keck
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 1 quart 1x

Description

The Green Machine, while technically a Salsa Verde that can be used on its own in the traditional green sauce way, is so-named because it’s a workhorse. Check out the laundry list of possible ideas from marinade, to dip, to dressing, to cocktails.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 roasted Hatch or poblanos chilis, seeds and ribs removed
  • 3 cups arugula, tightly packed
  • 1 bunch of Italian parsley, bottom stems discarded
  • 1 bunch cilantro, bottom stems discarded
  • juice of 4 limes (1/2 cup)
  • 3 medium tomatillos, husks removed and quartered
  • 1 avocado, scooped from the skin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup olive oil plus 1/4 cup water

Instructions

With the motor running, drop the garlic in the work bowl of a food processor until minced.

Add the chilis, arugula, parsley and cilantro in batches, pulsing as you add to create enough room and to chop finely.

Add the lime juice, tomatillos, avocado and salt. Pulse all ingredients until pureed.

With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil and water. Scrape down the sides as needed.

Taste to adjust seasonings, adding salt and pepper, lime juice or olive oil to balance the flavor. Final seasoning will depend on the chilis used and the “flavorfulness” of your herbs and arugula.

Notes

If you don’t have roasted Hatch chilis in your freezer (autumn is the time to buy them fresh, possibly already roasted by your local store, and stock your freezer for the coming months) nor feel like firing up the grill to roast poblanos, substitute 1-2 fresh jalapeños, ribs and seeds removed

Serve as a dressing, marinade, salsa or sauce. If needed, you can thin with additional lime juice or water. Mix with sour cream or Greek yogurt to make a sauce or dip. Add to guacamole to kick up the guac heat. If using as a marinade, use 1 1/2 Tablespoons per chicken breast or per half-pound of meat.

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Category: Sauce
  • Method: Blender/Processor
  • Cuisine: Mexican

Keywords: Salsa Verde, Green Sauce

Condiments with salsa verde

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Pot Lucky: All American BBQ Edition

Pot Lucky: All American BBQ Edition

It isn’t summer without a Pot Lucky or two….or three. And just in time for Labor Day, here’s some inspo for the All American BBQ!  I rounded up the troops – you must subscribe to the blog and you MUST be game to try something new – and as usual, they did not disappoint! Let’s kick it off with just three of the meats………..are you hungry yet?

Smoked Chicken, Asian Pork Popsicles, Gilligans RibsMeat, meat and more meat: Hickory smoked chicken with Alabama white BBQ sauce, Asian pork popsicles, ribs with Gilligan sauce (a lot of Ginger and a little Mary Ann).

It was a perfect storm. Beautiful house, beautiful hosts, amazing food and a fun group of Pot Lucky-ers with overactive imaginations. Culinary A game. A+!!

All American BBQ

What’s a Pot Lucky?

If you are new to this, a Pot Lucky is my take on what I fear might be a culinary wasteland – the dreaded pot luck. Let’s put the LUCKY in Pot Luck, I say. I create a theme – All American BBQ this time – and ask guests to curate their dishes around it, avoiding the store-bought. Now, with a number of these under my belt, I’m finding more and more dishes that require an alarm set for 1 am to get the chicken out of the brine. Or one that gets started on Monday with sous vide so the ribs are smoked by Thursday. We are talking commitment here! I am not saying you can’t have a super simple Pot Lucky, but no matter your preference – simplicity or extravaganza – having your guests help with the heavy lifting can result in a stunning spread.

We’ve done about a dozen or more Pot Luckys so far with a good list of more to come. Some of my favorites include the salad paloozafajitas, sliders, and a nautical theme. For details on how to host your own, link here. Depending on the party (8 kinds of meatloaf or 6 flavors of soup), you can plan on leftovers for your freezer. But for other themes, like the tropical-styled Swish Kabobs aka Food on a Stick, it’s more likely that the last pineapple will be licked right off the plate. The All American BBQ could have gone either way. Lots of food, lots of leftovers…..or A+ menu, A++ appetites. It was closer to the latter. 

Loading Up

Atmosphere was easy to come by. Between the hosts’ Lake Michigan views and a smattering of red, white & blue on the tables, all was set. Add some killer BBQ, and you have yourself a party. 

Sassy Sides

Black Bean & Corn, Potato Salad & Epic Slaw

Avocado, Corn & Black Bean Salsa, Classic Potato Salad, & Epic Slaw

As is now my tradition, I use this app to track the menu and help guests decide on a dish not already claimed. The categories for this were Meat, Meat, & Meat; Sassy Sides, All about the Sauce, and Blue Ribbon Desserts. Since there are always last minute changes, I let guests create their own signage on arrival. This time I found some little chalkboards on a stand………..and I think they will be showing up again in the future.

stuffed pesto tomatoes & roasted shrimp orzo

Stuffed Pesto Tomatoes and Roasted Shrimp with Orzo

Also new to this round was a Best of Show Award. Who’d a thunk a salad could win this meat extravaganza? But that’s what happened! I let people decide what the category was they were voting for – presentation, use of theme, taste, all of the above – and aside from some sassy and irreverent votes (see the bottom of this post), the clear winner was the Grilled Peach, Blueberry, & Goat Cheese Salad. I think the red, white & blue ribbons tied around the bowl’s pedestal helped tipped the balance. While I say it was a clear winner, truth be told, there were three tied for a very close second. They were all winners in my book. 

Winning Salad

Winning! Grilled Peach, Blueberry, Arugula & Goat Cheese Salad

Meat, Meat and More Meat

Bretts Butt, Lemon Chicken & St. Louis Ribs

Brett’s Butt, Lemon Chicken, and St. Louis Ribs

A special thank you to those that brought the meat. There is no shortage of ideas here and we are always long on laughs. Brett’s Butt! For real?? I loved the presentation on the lemon chicken tenders, and huge props to the four-day sous vide and smoking St. Louis (you are reading that as St. Louie, right?) ribs prep. That was some real commitment. At the top of this post, I shared a snap of the hickory smoked chicken (with 1am alarm to remove from the brine), the Asian pork popsicles, and the Gilligan sauce on the classic ribs  – lots and lots of Ginger, with a dash of Mary Ann and the Professor. 

All about the Sauce

I thought this feast would be all about the sauce, but things have a way of morphing. There were some really delicious offerings, says the woman who brought two. 🙂 If you had the Mango Habanero BBQ that I brought to the party, don’t judge. I have completely redone it since then. In my haste to pull this together, I didn’t quite get what I wanted. But that is the way it is in cooking. You learn from your mistakes, or improve your near misses. Nobody will complain about the one listed below. Just the right amount of heat and sweet. Brush that on anything – toward the end of your cooking, though, so the sugar doesn’t burn. The other sauce I brought was the Green Machine Salsa Verde. It’s officially my most requested recipe and it will be in a second post later this week. Stay tuned. The Alabama White BBQ Sauce came with the smoked chicken, and there was also an Asian Orange Sesame Sauce, that was marked Agent Orange by some ne’er do well.

Lotsa Sauce

All about the Sauce: Green Machine, Alabama White BBQ  & Mango Habanero BBQ  

Bringing people together to break bread like this is one of the great joys of entertaining, perhaps life. Spirits are  high and friendships are forged. How amazing when you get a chance to meet someone new. In fact at this very party, I made a new friend from SF that I had long known about through NY friends, who was also a friend of a Michigan Pot Lucky charter member. Funny how that all comes full circle. Nobody is stealing our joy!

sharing a laugh

Save Room for Dessert

Even with the bountiful meat feast and all those sides, save room for dessert. And, since it’s summer in Michigan, berries are the….”super stah”. 

Summertime Desserts

Blueberry  Creme Brulee, Becca’s Famous Cheesecake and Peach & Blueberry Cobbler. Yum!

And the Grand Prize – a bottle of  “saucy” BBQ Sauce, the coveted blue ribbon and bragging rights – goes to Gayle for that lovely salad. Who will win the title next time??? 

Award Winning Salad Chef

The Vote is in!

There’s one (or two, judging by the handwriting) in every crowd!!!!!  And we are so grateful for them!

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Mango Habanero BBQ Sauce in a mason jar with a wooden spoon wrapped with beads

Pot Lucky: All American BBQ Edition


  • Author: Katy Keck
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 3 cups 1x

Description

Having an All American BBQ? Give this Mango Habanero BBQ Sauce a whirl. The char of deep molasses is a perfect counter to the sweet mango and the heat of Ancho and Habanero. Slather it on your meat, chicken, fish or veg toward the end of the grilling time so as not to burn the sugars.  It’s a real crowd pleaser!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 8-ounce pack chile spiced mangos (At Trader Joe’s, they are called Sweetened Dried Mango with Chile Seasoning)
  • 8 ounces chopped frozen mango (fresh, if ripe)
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons molasses
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon Mango Habanero spice
  • 2 teaspoons Ancho chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried minced garlic, or four cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice

Instructions

Add all ingredients, except lime juice, to a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring.

Set aside. When cool enough, transfer to the work bowl of a food processor and puree until smooth. Add the lime juice and puree until incorporated and smooth.

Store in an airtight container, refrigerated.

Notes

I used the chili spiced mangoes from Trader Joe’s, but you can use any dried mangoes. They are similar in texture to a dried apricot, not a freeze-dried or dehydrated fruit. If you can’t find the chili mangoes, consider adding a bit more (to taste) Ancho powder to make up for plain dried mangoes.

The Spice Hunter makes a terrific Global Fusion Rub in Mango Habanero. Just be sure to take a deep breath and hold before opening the jar. It’s wonderfully potent. Avoid sniffing!!

  • Prep Time: 15
  • Cook Time: 10
  • Category: Sauce
  • Method: Cooktop
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: BBQ sauce

BBQ Final Planning Note

Some Pot Luckys, like the one for pizzas or burgers, get cooked at the party. This time, since it wasn’t my house, I asked for the food to be ready-to-serve. Either way you need to be clear about expectations. Be sure to let your guests know that quantity is not a concern, because there are so many dishes from which to choose. I try not to focus on head count as a guideline, because I know with all that food, not all guests will try each dish, especially when you have 20+ items. I just ask that they fill their serving dish. But then again, there are those who will try every single one. Why are you looking at ME? It’s my job. 

Going Whole Hog

Thanks to all my Pot Lucky-ers for continuing on this journey and being intrepid voyagers. Are you game to try your hand at a Pot Lucky? Let me know how it goes. Tag me with #PotLucky  & #PalatePassionPurpose. And as always, I love to get your comments below. 

Happy Campers

© Copyright: KatyKeck.com 2019. All rights reserved.

 

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Asian Marinated Pork Tenderloin & Ginger Plum Salsa

Asian Marinated Pork Tenderloin & Ginger Plum Salsa

Asian Marinated Pork

So many plums, so little time. The countdown is on for the end of the stone fruit season, but right now you can find perhaps a dozen plum varieties at both your local farmers’ market or supermarket. A recent stroll down the grocery aisle revealed Pluots of the red, green, and dinosaur varieties, as well as Sunrise Reds, Midnight Moons, Damson, Greengage, Mirabelle and Stanley Rubies. The colors both outside and in reflect the rainbow. I love buying a few of each so that chopped and mixed you can create a colorful salsa with tastes that run from tart to sweet, then pump that flavor further with fresh lime, crystallized ginger and loads of fresh mint. 

Plum Varieties

Plums are an essential flavor in many Asian cuisines, but especially Japanese and Chinese. While neither the salsa nor the pork marinade are authentic, they reflect my modern update on classic cuisines using the palate of flavors and pantry staples that represent their birth regions. I first traveled to both Japan and China shortly after my year-long stint in four kitchens in France, where I drilled down on classic techniques. That travel, more than anything else in my life, transformed both my palate and thoughts toward technique, opting for less reliance on fat-first flavor and relying more heavily on quick cooking techniques and bold aromatics, like ginger. It has been said I am a fiend for ginger. That is no lie. 

Grating Ginger

I found this bamboo ginger grater on one of my trips, and it is much easier to clean and gives a higher yield of grated ginger than a microplane. If you ever see one, snag it. The two recipes in this post rely on crystallized ginger for the salsa (love the little texture contrast that crystallized gives when mixed with fruit) and fresh for the marinade. Fresh ginger is also a terrific meat tenderizer, so this marinade works well with less primo cuts of meat. 

Asian Marinade Ingredients

Asian Marinated Pork Tenderloin

This marinade recipe in its first iteration came about from a bet with the great Josh Wesson, lord of all things food and wine pairing. Once during Aspen’s Food & Wine Classic, he smugly dared me to serve up blue fish in any possible way that would EVER pair with a wine. Once thought to be too oily to be wine-friendly, the pesky poisson was handily tamed by this robust marinade. I WON. I don’t remember where we landed for the wine, but believe it was a Gewurztraminer or something in the Alsatian family.  The marinade went on to earn me a spot in the Gourmet Magazine Healthy Menu Awards final round, and in yet another reboot it was featured  in Great Women Chefs. Until I saw the parade of plums this week, I had not thought of the marinade in quite a while, but dusted it off and tweaked a few ratios and ingredients, and it’s just as full of flavor (and simple to prepare) as I remember. And as is required to qualify for my list of favorite “dump and stir” recipes, this Asian marinated pork lets some of the store-bought ingredients like black bean garlic paste and hoisin do the heavy lifting, flavor-wise.  

Marinating Pork

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Asian Marinated Pork Tenderloin

Asian Marinated Pork Tenderloin & Ginger Plum Salsa


  • Author: Katy Keck
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6

Description

With all the plums in season right now, it’s the perfect time to whip up a little Asian-inspired Ginger Plum Salsa. And what could be better than serving that with this flavor-rich and a snap to prepare Asian Marinated Pork Tenderloin?


Ingredients

Scale

Ginger Plum Salsa

  • 2 cups pitted and diced plums (assorted varieties, about 4 or 5 plums)
  • 1/2 cup diced, peeled cucumber
  • 2 Tablespoons minced red onion or 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • Juice of one lime (about 2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice)
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tablespoons chiffonade (thin ribbons) of fresh mint

Asian Marinade

  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 2 Tablespoons grated ginger
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon hoisin
  • 1 Tablespoon black bean garlic paste
  • 1 Tablespoon molasses
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

2 1-pound pork tenderloins, trimmed of silver skin and fat


Instructions

Make Ginger Plum Salsa

Combine the plums, cucumber and red onion (or scallions) in a small bowl. 

In another small bowl, whisk together the fresh lime juice, honey, crystallized ginger and red pepper flakes.  Pour over the fruit and stir to combine.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Add the mint just before serving.

Makes 2 1/2 cups

Make Asian Marinade

Combine all marinade ingredients and marinate the pork at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.  If you are marinating for more than 1 hour, refrigerate, covered.

Grill Asian Marinated Pork Tenderloin

Remove meat from marinade and pat dry.  Start over a hot grill to mark, then cook on a cooler part of the grill (with the lid down) about 20-30 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 145oF.  Alternatively cook in a 425oF until meat reaches temperature, 20-35 minutes.

Remove from the grill or oven and let rest 10 minutes before carving.

Serve alongside ginger plum salsa. 

  • Prep Time: 20 minutes (plus marinating time)
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Category: Main
  • Method: Grilling
  • Cuisine: Asian

Ginger Plum Salsa

Fresh mint and lime juice really elevate the flavors in the salsa and brighten the whole plate. 

Asian Marinated Pork Tenderloin and Ginger Plum Salsa

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© Copyright: KatyKeck.com 2017. All rights reserved.

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Chipotle Fig Glazed Chicken & Fajita Fiesta – Olé!

Chipotle Fig Glazed Chicken & Fajita Fiesta – Olé!

Chipotle Fig Chicken Fajita

If it’s summer, it’s grilling time and what better way to get a little entertaining help than a Pot Lucky. After the success of last year’s Slider Grill-a-thon, I picked Fajita Fiesta for a theme.  I also had a brand new jar of Balsamic Pepper Fig Spread land on my doorstep and immediately thought of chipotle. To be specific, Chipotle Fig Glazed Chicken Thighs! Are you feeling me? On a grilled tortilla with some refried beans, maybe a little guacamole, pineapple salsa, cilantro sprigs and perhaps a grilled veg or two?  Well don’t stop there! We got so many wonderful contributions that the pairings and combos of flavors were virtually endless.

Margaritas

But let’s get this party started properly. Normally my potlucks are a BYO event (leaving me time to focus energy on coordinating culinary contributions, trying to weed out duplicates). But this time one couple decided to bring her dad’s signature and award-winning margarita in lieu of food. Score! They also brought that darling baby that appears further down this post. The cocktail recipe itself is a secret, but I have it on good authority that there is a certain blue collar beer in the mix. Nobody seemed to remember Hop Skip & Go Naked, but that was one of my earliest (college) blender memories. Starting with frozen lemon or limeade, all other “liquids” added used the juice-can-as-measure technique. Beer was definitely in the mix. Anybody?

Dinner's Done

Readers have asked how to host a Pot Lucky, as I have taken to calling the Curated Pot Luck. ICYMI, I have a deep-seeded fear of pot lucks. Shivvvvvvvvvvver. One too many frilly picks atop Velveeta cubes atop Slim Jims. True fact: I ate that last summer. I was THAT hungry. So it occurred to me a couple years ago to help people help themselves. By creating a theme (which makes it easier for guests to focus on their contribution to the menu), suggesting categories, and having a Sign Up for Your Dish List, you can create an amazing feast.  We’re pushing our tenth Pot Lucky, all covered in this blog, but a few of my favorites are sliders, pizza, meatloaf, and nautical style.  Like any good mother, I can’t really choose.

Here’s the 101 Crash Course on how to host a Pot Lucky. Doubtless there will be additional thoughts coming in subsequent posts, but let’s start with the basics.

The 411 on Pot Lucky 101

Like most things in life, the devil is in the details, and I am a firm believer in plan, plan, planning. Make a master list for any gathering and create sections for who is coming, what they are bringing, your shopping, prep, and set up.

Create a Theme

Creating a theme to curate your Pot Luck around is step one to giving menu directions. This is the best possible insurance against Velveeta with a frilly pick on a Slim Jim. Because unless your theme is Junk Food (I actually did that theme for a Chefs’ Night Out after the James Beard Awards, because let’s get real – that’s what chefs crave) or White Trash, there is a high likelihood you can avoid this culinary treasure. I have done sausage making, pizza toppings, soup swaps, sliders, nautically themed, Thanksgiving family treasures, meat loaf and more. What about a clam bake? Salad Palooza (my next Pot Lucky), American BBQ classics, fondue, Chinese New Year’s, Indian street food? So many possibilities.

Who is Game?

Most times when you entertain, the cast of characters is pre-ordained. An office party? Family gathering? School reunion? But if this is just a time to pull folks together around this menu, consider who would enjoy it. I’m all about being inclusive and fully believe everyone can whip together something using ready-made components – I have offered to give tutorials to those that might feel a teeny twinge of stress over this – but what you don’t want is take-out. That is a whole other party. Calvin Trillin used to host an annual dinner in NYC to benefit the NY Public Library and he had minions scattered all over Chinatown to scoop up and swoop in with military precision, delivering NY’s Best Chinese Take Out.

Look for people that think this is fun. It might not be everyone you know, but you might be surprised how many people jump on the bandwagon and show up with papier mâché marionettes wearing sombreros.  Be prepared to yield a wide berth for exceptions and provide a hall pass to anyone happy to pitch in in other ways. Do you do dishes? You are absolutely most welcome!

Set Expectations

I always provide detailed descriptions of the evening’s flow from arrival time to what to bring (already plated with serving spoon).  I also like to include a list of everything I am providing.  And then I plan for contingencies for that one person that shows up with the bowl, the ice, the cocktail sauce and no shrimp. I might not have shrimp to make that dish whole, but I will have a backup appetizer to fill the void.  A day or two before, I provide a general head count for everyone so they know how much to bring. Nobody has to make enough to feed the total crowd because there will be so much food. 2 or 3 cups of a salsa goes a long way when sprinkled on a fajita. But I usually specify quantity on proteins (2-3 pounds each for the fajita mains; 2 dozen 2-ounce sliders for the burger party) and ask the people bringing lower priced or less time-intensive items to bring 2 or 3 items. And, some Pot Luckys are geared toward sharing the food beyond the night. So make sure folks bring containers to nab portions of the many meatloaves that were sampled, but not finished.   

Provide Sample Menu with Categories

I put some time into coming up with categories and then list a smattering of ideas under each category.  Don’t assign particular dishes to guests, unless it’s their signature and you must have it (Deb’s shrimp burger as a slider is an example.)  Everyone comes from different places – work, home, yet another soccer game – so let them figure out what they are comfortable with making that fits their skills, palate, schedule, and budget.

Track the Menu

As much as I would like to say your job is done, I want you to avoid the all-pork-tenderloin dinner party. Every Pot Lucky has one item that is the highly coveted I MUST MAKE THAT. For fajitas, it was pork tenderloin. By asking guests to reply to you directly (no need to clog everyone’s inbox), you can track what is already taken. And if you got this email and want to bring one particular thing, reply ASAP!! You can also set up a private event page online and let people sift through all the comments to see what is already nabbed, or better yet, use an app that tracks commitments by whatever categories you specify.

Set the Table

Whether the event is at my house, on a boat, or at the park, I always pack extra serving spoons and forks, some condiments and seasonings, and plates, silverware, and napkins.  For smaller groups, it may be a sit down with linens and table décor. For portable events, I try to consolidate, but still throw in a tablecloth and a pot of herbs for décor. Sometimes people show up with their own decor ideas, and you might turn around to find a prayer candle for the Virgin of Guadalupe and a big sombrero right where you left your chip basket. Get creative, but be organized with a master list of what you will need.

Organize Arriving Food 

Once the food starts arriving, try to categorize it by how it will be used. For pizzas, that means putting all the sauces in one area, the cheeses in another, the scattering-type toppings in yet a third. For fajitas, put the tortillas at one end of the table and the cilantro sprigs at the other. This is your chance to be restaurateur for the day, so make a plan to lay out all contributions in a logical order. There may be some things that are for noshing now, so you can stage them in a separate area to clear space for working and setting up your buffet.

Be Flexible

This is like point number 7 on every Girl Scout badge – after Be Prepared, there is Be Flexible. Even the best planning will go off the rails at some point or in some way, but just roll with it. Extra people? No problem because I have extra plates! Forgot your spoon? Got it handled – because I pulled out extras. Didn’t read the part about having the soups to swap in individual containers for take away? Done and done! We will wash all the containers from the tasting portion and repackage with the soup that needs to be portioned.  At the end of the day, this is a party and the only rule is to have fun. Be inclusive. Be gracious. Share! Generosity of spirit covers a multitude of mistakes (that nobody but you needs know about).

Zero Footprint

Let’s leave this place better than we found it.  That goes for the host and also the participants. Whether the party is in your own home, someone else’s or at the park, enlist help to return to pre-party conditions. Too often we don’t want to break the spell by doing the mundane, but many hands make light work. Don’t be a martyr – this is a community party so it’s a great time to get some extra hands to hand back platters and serving utensils, pack up the dirty things and make a trip to the recycle bin. That leaves you free to wake up tomorrow and bask in the memory of a great party, not to face a mound o’ mess!  

Meanwhile back at the fiesta….

here are some of the amazing dishes that arrived for the Fajita Fiesta. One section of the table was reserved for the more app-type contributions to nosh on while the grill was firing up – chips & salsas: pineapple, pico and mango, and guacamole. 

Pineapple Salsa

And there were so many toppings, among them grilled onions, squashes, and peppers. Pickled and fresh jalapenos, cilantro & lime, tomatoes, scallions, lettuce & arugula, sautéed mushrooms.  Oh my! Cheeses ranged from goat to queso fresco, and Monterey Jack to habanero cheddar. Corn and flour tortillas were given a quick pass on the grill to warm up and slightly char. Dan brought his legendary refried beans and there was a tomatillo cilantro rice.

Surveying the Feast

I kind of left Sauces & Salsas open, with only a few ideas offered, and the range of things that came in did not disappoint. A red chili sauce, the roasted Hatch chili salsa verde, a yogurt cumin sauce and several chunky salsas, including black bean & corn, mango coconut and pineapple.  Lots and lots of guacamole.

What I love is that everyone is into working the theme into the décor. Props showed up by the boat load (literally – across the lake by boat with a serape and maracas). Look how great these sauces are in the Mexican terracotta.

Decor

Sauces

Next up the mains: In addition to the chipotle fig glazed chicken thighs, the main event included pork tenderloin, fish, shrimp, sirloin, chorizo, pulled brisket and shredded pork.

Give me some meat!

Chipotle Fig Chicken Fajitas

My contribution was this sweet heat chipotle and fig glazed chicken thighs. The chipotle fig marriage lands this chicken dish squarely in Mexican territory and the sweet and heat combo makes it a fiesta! Olé! Throw some tortillas on the grill, stuff with chicken, avocado, cilantro and a big squeeze of lime and you are on your way to a party in your mouth. 

Grilled tortillas

Balsamic Pepper Fig Spread

Grilled Chicken in Chipotle Fig Sauce

Grilled Veg in Salsa Verde

 

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Chipotle Fig Chicken Fajita

Chipotle Fig Glazed Chicken & Fajita Fiesta


  • Author: Katy Keck
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 8 as a main, more if making fajitas 1x

Description

The marriage of figs and chipotle lands this dish squarely in Mexican territory and the sweet and heat combo makes it a fiesta! Olé!


Ingredients

Scale

Marinade:

  • 10 ounce jar Balsamic Pepper Fig Spread
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 chipotle peppers in adobe sauce
  • Juice of two limes
  • 1 Tablespoon molasses
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt

2 pounds boneless chicken thighs


Instructions

Make the marinade:

Place all ingredients in a small bowl and stir to combine. Makes 1 2/3 cups.

Prepare chicken:

Using about 1/4 of the marinade, combine with chicken and refrigerate, covered, for 1-2 hours, up to overnight. The remaining marinade will keep, refrigerated and covered, for several weeks.

Remove the thighs from the marinade, shaking off any excess marinade. Grill over a medium-hot fire (or bake the chicken at 350oF) until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Internal temperature should reach 165oF.

Let the chicken rest for ten minutes, then cut in strips if making fajitas.

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes (plus marinating time)
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Category: Mains
  • Method: Grilling
  • Cuisine: Mexican

 

Baby Young

At first I thought this little doll was eyeing the margaritas, but I realize now she was on to the cake. The cake on the left – Feliz Cumpleaños – was brought because, yes!, there has been yet another spin around the sun, and the other lovely was a wonderful Tres Leches.

Considering having a Pot Lucky of your own? Let me know in the comments or pick my brain at [email protected].

Cake!

Cake for Everybody!

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Sriracha & Chipotle Spicy Grilled Shrimp

Sriracha & Chipotle Spicy Grilled Shrimp

Salt and Pepper Grilled Shrimp

Even though #NationalShrimpDay is meant to be a 24-hour thing, I feel it’s more like a birthday and should really be celebrated for a week, a month, or even a season! I mean if Bubba can do it, you can too. “Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it. There’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan-fried, deep-fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That…that’s about it.” Wait, Bubba, Wait!! You missed Sriracha & Chipotle Spicy Grilled Shrimp!

Spicy Grilled Shrimp

Sriracha & Chipotle Spicy Grilled Shrimp

It’s time you rip that cover off the grill and crank up a hot fire. This dish – loosely translated from a visit to the Rhode Island cousins – is great in pretty much any meal category. To paraphrase Bubba, shrimp appetizer, shrimp salad, shrimp entrée, and who doesn’t like shrimp for in lieu of dessert?  Especially if it comes with a crisp Pinot Gris!!! Summer wine, I’m coming for you. Serve this with a fresh green salad and, if you’re game, roll back one blog post and whip up a batch of the Edamame and Chickpea Fritters with chili dipping sauce, conveniently linked below. This all simply screams “winter is dead to me!”

Dinner is Done

I like to keep things simple, especially as the days get longer and the temps heat up. Less time in the kitchen means more time for enjoying the meal.  So here we have a classic dump and stir recipe. And like all sea and stream creatures, marinating is kept to a minimum – no more than 30 minutes. If you are building a charcoal fire, the timing is perfect. Start the marinade, then build the fire. When the coals turn white, you are good to go.

Marinating the Shrimp

Use whatever size shrimp you prefer, but please leave the shells on. Sriracha & Chipotle Spicy Grilled Shrimp is a lick-your-fingers-while-you-peel-the-shrimp kind of dish. Cooking with the shells on not only helps retain moisture, but it adds depth of flavor. Timing will depend on the size of shrimp and strength of your fire, of course, so keep an eye on them. They cook quite quickly, 3 or so minutes per side.  

Crack open a loaf of tangy sourdough and pour another glass of Pinot Gris and you are all set. Enjoy!

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Spicy Grilled Shrimp

Sriracha & Chipotle Spicy Grilled Shrimp


  • Author: Katy Keck
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4

Description

You can’t help but lick your fingers as you peel the shrimp and pop them in your mouth. They have that I-want-more-ish quality about them, so make extra.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon Sriracha
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco chipotle pepper sauce
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound 21-25 (or 26-30) shell-on, deveined shrimp

Instructions

Combine all marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Add the shrimp and set aside to marinate for 30 minutes.

Grill shrimp over high heat for 3-4 minutes per side. Peel, eat, enjoy, repeat!!!

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Category: Appetizer or Entree
  • Method: Grilling
  • Cuisine: American

Sriracha and Chipotle Tabasco Marinated Grilled Shrimp

This dish is great served with Farm Fresh Summer Squash & Arugula Salad

Summer squash with spice blend

 and Edamame and Chickpea Fritters with Chili Dipping Sauce.

Edamame & Chickpea Fritters

© Copyright: KatyKeck.com 2017. All rights reserved.

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Sugar Steak

Sugar Steak

Nothing goes better with late summer corn and tomatoes than the slightly sweet crisp char that makes a sugar steak. This is a phenomenon (hardly any other word will do) that I never ran across until I ended up with a house on Lake Michigan. I have since heard that my Dad and a salty local perfected their technique, timing their meat-flips with the end of each martini. It was no doubt the 50s and they either ate their meat really well done or they drank a helluva lot faster than I do.

Let it be clear, this is not my creation.  But I do (self-) proclaim myself as the media spokesperson on the subject.  Amanda Hesser featured it on Food52 a few years back and within the last month or so America’s Test Kitchen came calling.  Amanda used bourbon and flank steak, and around here we would NOT consider that to be a sugar steak. She ran my recipe alongside it. One (genius) comment favored my recipe, along with a cocktail made from Amanda’s bourbon. Amen to that.

I just saw Cook’s Country Magazine (owned by America’s Test Kitchen) ran a recipe giving credit to Bastien’s in Denver.  Wrong. Theirs is only an inch thick and mostly salt with the sugar – plus it wasn’t even on their menu in the 70s. West Michigan traces to at least the mid-50s.

The directions (let’s not go so far as to call it a recipe) below are my interpretation of many old-timers that have been cooking it for years.  They have generously shared a wide range of tips on technique and ingredients. Some use sirloin, some use rib-eye, I have even used CAB (on sale @ $3.99/lb) top round – most agree whatever is cheapest. Also some use white sugar, some use brown, some use both.  The one thing that is agreed upon is thickness: 3-4” thick, or ‘6 inches if it’s a special occasion.’

I have distilled this down to a fool-proof technique.  I have a Weber and this is one of the few times I don’t use the lid.  Nor am I stingy with the charcoal. It’s really impressive when you get 3 steaks going at once (total 14 pounds of meat) though I nearly set the porch roof on fire. Rip-snorting is the official temperature for the grill.

steak-finished-web

 

Sugar Steak

  • One 3 or 4-inch thick slab o’ beef, trimmed (about 4 pounds) (see above for cut)
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • Any spice rub (I love the South African Cape Herb Company’s “Mexican Wave” and of course I have my own secret blend for some occasions)
  • Honey Bear (it’s all in the drizzle)
  • One pound brown (light or dark) sugar.

Prep                                                          

Put the meat on a small serving tray (avoid heavy plates b/c you will be flipping two plates and 4 # of meat – I love the small melamine trays).  Rub with salt and spice. Drizzle with honey (1-2 Tablespoons).  Pack about half the brown sugar on the top side of the meat.

Place a second tray on top and flip meat onto the second tray. Repeat the above process, using all the brown sugar. Not necessary to do the sides as it will fall off anyway.

raw-steak-web

 

Let this sit about 30 minutes or until sugar starts to liquefy.

Flip the tray onto the hottest fire you can build (charcoal or wood preferred) and scrape the stuck sugar onto the (now) top side.  Grill until it releases enough to flip, about 7 minutes.

Continue flipping every 7 – 8 minutes, until desired doneness, about 30-40 minutes for 4 pound steak. (My dive watch has a sugar steak bezel.)  If you try to do a martini every flip, you’re on your own here.

Remove and tent lightly with foil on a tray to catch juices. Rest for 10 minutes.

Slice thinly across the grain and drizzle with the jus.

Serves 8 – 10 with a few leftovers

This deliciousness cries out for Everything but the Farmer Farmer’s Market Salad and sliced tomatoes with maytag blue. YUM!!

table-final-web

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steak finished 2a