Monday, June 17, 2013

Tricks of the Trade for Entertaining Groups: Oven "Smoked" BBQ Pork Butt for Easy Summer Entertaining

People are always asking me when I host a group of thirty people or so for a party in NYC, "how can you cook all this food?" or "It must have taken you hours to do all this!!" The truth is a well done dinner party for more than 4 takes some planning but is actually not all that hard when you keep several rules of thumb in mind.

The first rule for easy summer entertaining is keep it simple. Over the years I have cooked for a lot of groups. And I have to say that unless they are paying you to make lots of different foods, simple is better. Let me tell you why. First is the "This is overwhelming and driving me crazy rule". That is the more you have to make to make  the crazier you will make yourself. No better lesson than the one I learned from Stuart and Mine's first underground dinner for On the Plate. Indeed, we planned a 5 course meal, cooked too much food even with all of our collective chefing experience drove ourselves nuts. All because we perceived that value was based on volume and not on quality. In show business you learn always leave them wanting more. In cooking while you want to satisfy, you don't want people overwhelmed. So fix a meal just like you would for 4 people but amp up the volume. A protein and 2 sides. Maybe bread and that's it.

The second rule actually drives the first. It is the "No one is going to appreciate all the crazy it took you to make the dinner cause they are only here to eat and have fun... but mostly have fun!" How many times does someone throw a dinner party and get stressed out over the food prep and presentation and serving. Just relax. The rule of a good party is gathering good people providing good food and or drinks and letting them ENJOY themselves and your company. People want to eat but mostly they want to relax and have a good time. And most importantly if you are stressed you are not going to have a good time. And remember at the end of the's all about you having a good time too.

The "Why" is the third rule "People like to eat but, they especially like to eat good food done well and not necessarily the Smorgasbord of the Universe that they never expected you to cook." I remember a party I threw years ago when I made so many different items. It was not expected and it was not appreciated. Well, that's not totally true. It was appreciated but not as much as I thought it should have been given the effort I put into it! But that was the problem. I did not follow rules one and two and then got into trouble. And then got upset. Really all my fault!
Delicious is where it is at. Pick three things and prepare them in appropriate volume. Make sure they are delicious and your job is done. Room temperature foods or foods that are easily prepared in advance and are put out warm to be shared are your friends, and they help you to follow rule numbers one and two.

The last rule is "Make a list". Being organized is the other factor that can make entertaining easier. No one knew this better than my Mother. She is the most list savvy person I know. Even her lists have lists. But boy is she on top of her life! Always has been. This was never more true than when she entertained. Years ago my father's job required that they throw parties. I can remember helping. Now these were not summer casual BBQ's but full on 1970's style house work parties. You know shrimp cocktail to Steak Diane with all the trimmings all done on a buffet table and served up with a full bar. My brother an I would help my Grandmother and Mother all day and sometime days before shopping, prepping, peeling, cleaning, and organizing. It was fun but the most fun was getting to stay up for the parties! But it all started with those lists of to do's and they made everything easier.

So following these simple rules you can tackle the most difficult group entertaining tasks. Remember for outdoor entertaining keep it simple and fresh, keep it less but delicious and make a list to organize and to do ahead everything you can so you can enjoy the party too. Oh and have fun, lets not forget that! Because isn't that why we entertain to start with!

So here's an easy recipe for a crowd. It's done in the oven, it's done before the party starts, it's casual and easy for people to help themselves. It is as all American as can be and will make people think you worked really hard. But it's as easy and 1,2,3. SO Enjoy Ya'll.

Oven "Smoked" Pork Butt BBQ with Sesame Seed Buns, Pickles and BBQ Sauce
serves 30

Take 16 pounds of  pork shoulder bone in

Mix together
1 1/2 cups yellow mustard
1/4 cup garlic powder
3 teaspoons liquid smoke
1/4 cup salt
1/4/ cup pepper
1/4 cup water

Slather all over the pork shoulder and place in the fridge for at least three hours to overnight

Preset oven to 220 degrees

Place shoulder in roasting pan fat pad side up and cover with tin foil

Roast overnight for 12 hours ( easy while you sleep cooking start at 8pm done by 8am with your coffee)

Remove from the oven and cool, reserve drippings

Remove the fat pad. Shred pork and remove bones, skim fat off the drippings and use about 2 cups to moisten the pork

Mix well with the drippings and place in a oven proof pot with a lid

Before serving mix in 1 cup BBQ sauce of choice ( can be store bought) and heat in the oven till warmed through at 300 about 1/2 hour or so.

Serve with more sauce, sliced dill pickles and sesame seed buns.

Boy aren't you impressive!

Enjoy the compliments.

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