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Call your friends, heat up the grill, and let's throw a party together in about 2 1/2 hours! Are you in?
We can all find some very good excuses for not hosting - "It’s expensive," "we don’t have the time,” "our house is too small," or “I do not know how to cook for a crowd.” Often these are more than mere excuses. In fact, most of the time they are probably quite legitimate. Entertaining can be expensive, time-consuming, and a challenge of juggling drink pitchers and baking sheets, but over the course of this summer I’ll be sharing some tips and tricks for bypassing those pitfalls and planning simple, crowd-friendly, and budget-conscious meals that will help us all achieve hostessing success. And, while I cannot put an addition on your home, I work in a 8x10 kitchen, so if I can do it I know you can. Let's use what we have and fill our homes with the people we love, and maybe even a few we are just starting to.
For each meal, I will break down the timeline, costs lists, and throw in a few handy pointers to save us all some anxiety this summer.
My June menu celebrates the official beginning of summer with a fresh take on steak frites. It is all kinds of wonderful for your palate, sanity levels, and wallet. We are feeding six people on $40 - let's get to it.
Dessert comes first for this meal. Ideally, you would begin the dessert about 2 1/2 hours before you plan on serving dinner. This simple, lime and coconut trifle benefits from some extra time in the fridge. Trifles are such a fantastic dessert for summer because they can be made in advance and are so refreshing on warm evenings.
This particular trifle features layers of lime custard, coconut whipped cream, and store-bought coconut butter cookies (yep, you do not even have to preheat the oven). I wish I could accurately describe how truly incredible this dessert really is, but all adjectives fall short. It may just be my favorite recipe I have made this year.
Once the custard is cool and the ingredients have been layered, it is time to cover and refrigerate so that the flavors can meld and the cookies can soften to an almost cake-like consistency.
Now, for the fries, or frites, or whatever you would like to call them. Yukon gold potatoes are the way to go because we do not have to worry about pulling out that vegetable peeler. If these fries sound familiar, they are in fact the same fries I shared on Monday sans truffle oil, though you could definitely drizzle in a bit if you're feeling it. Cutting the fries is likely the most time-consuming part of this dinner, so take the opportunity to crank up your favorite Spotify station and take some deep breaths before company time.
Once the fries are cut, we can turn our attention to the steaks. Skirt steak is the hostess’s secret weapon because it feels a bit more elegant than chicken, but is just about as affordable, making it the ultimate choice for a crowd.
Lay the steaks out onto a cooling rack and sprinkle generously with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Allow the steaks to rest for 20-30 minutes before you take them to the grill. This will give the salt a chance to break down those muscle structures a bit which will, in turn, lead to a juicier steak.
While the steak is grilling (you can bat your eyelashes at the mister to help out with that part), and the fries are baking, prepare the chimichurri.
Chimichurri, also known as the “clean-out-my-herb-drawer sauce" is your summertime best friend. Wondering what to do with that half-used bunch of parsley or overabundant oregano plant? Chimichurri to the rescue. Gather any collection of herbs you like and start chopping.
This uncooked sauce will double as a garnish for our steaks and our heirloom tomato salad.
This time of year tomatoes do not require much fussing. Just dress them with a clove of garlic, some torn basil, a drizzle of your favorite olive oil, and a heavy sprinkling of salt.
Once the steak has rested, slice (against the grain, please), drizzle with your prepared chimichurri, and toss those fries with a bit of parmesan and a good dose of black pepper.
Cocktails are not always in the budget, so fancy up that pitcher of water with some slices of cucumber, lime, and a handful of fresh mint.
Dinner is served.
(All the recipes and the cost breakdown can be found at the bottom of this post!)
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- 2 1/2 lbs skirt steak $16.30
- yukon gold potatoes (5lb bag) $3.58
- heirloom tomatoes $4.09
- parmesan $4.12
- fresh herbs (3 of your choice) $3.07
- lemon $0.50
- coconut cream $2.04
- limes $2.04
- heavy cream $1.73
- cookies $4.09
Total = $41.56 - Pretty close to our $40 goal.
assumed pantry items
- salt & pepper
- olive oil
Skirt Steak with Chimichurri
for the steaks
- 2 1/2 lbs skirt steak
- sea salt
- freshly ground pepper
Lay your steak or steaks out onto a cooling rack and sprinkle liberally with sea salt and ground pepper. Allow the steaks to rest for 20-30 minutes before you take them to the grill. This will give the salt a chance to break down those muscle structures a bit which will, in turn, lead to a juicier steak.
Pat the steaks dry and sprinkle each side with additional salt and pepper.
Set your grill on high heat and grill the steaks for 3-4 minutes on each side, until the outside is crisp and the internal temperature reads between 135-140 degrees. Allow the steaks to rest for 10 minutes before slicing into strips.
for the chimichurri
Cook's Note: You can use any selection of herbs you like. My favorite combination right now is oregano, basil, and thyme.
- 1 heaping cup fresh herbs (about 1/4 cup once chopped finely)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
In a small measuring cup or pitcher, combine finely chopped herbs, garlic, and salt. Use a fork to slowly whisk in the olive oil and lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Stir just before serving.
Drizzle the chimichurri over warm steak and tomato salad.
Parmesan Oven Frites
Cook’s Note: I love using yukon gold potatoes because they are just slightly sweet and we do not have to bother about peeling!
- 4 lbs yukon gold potatoes, washed well
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- sea salt
- 1/2 cup finely grated good quality parmesan
- freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Cut potatoes into thin sticks. We are aiming for 1/4-inch in thickness.
Rinse the fries under cold water and pat dry with a tea towel, removing as much water as you can.
Place the fries evenly onto two baking sheets, allowing a bit of space between each fry so that the edges can brown. Drizzle each pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and salt liberally.
Cook’s Note: If you cannot fit both baking sheets in your oven side-by-side, just place one pan on the lower rack and rotate the pans every 10 minutes or so.
Bake on the top rack of your oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the fries are evenly browned and crisp. Transfer the fries to a large bowl and toss with parmesan and black pepper. Serve immediately. Enjoy!
Heirloom Tomato Salad
- 1 lb miniature heirloom tomatoes, quartered
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3-4 leaves fresh basil, roughly torn
In a small bowl, toss tomatoes with olive oil, garlic, kosher salt, and basil. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
Lime & Coconut Trifles
makes 6, 7oz servings
for the lime custard
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/3 cup cornstarch
- 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
Place egg yolks in a medium measuring cup, and whisk until thick and slightly lightened in color.
In a heavy bottomed 3-quart saucepan combine cornstarch, sugar, water, and kosher salt. Place the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring often, until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and slowly whisk in 1/4 cup spoonfuls of the cornstarch mixture into the egg yolks until about half of the mixture has been added. Then, add the tempered egg yolks to the pan and return to heat and cook, whisking constantly, for 1-2 minutes more; until thick.
Remove the pan from the heat and strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Whisk in the lime juice and butter and allow to cool until just warm. While the custard cools, prepare the whipped cream.
for the coconut cream
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2/3 cup coconut cream
- 2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
Place heavy cream in a large bowl and use an electric mixer to beat on high speed until soft peaks form. Add coconut cream and confectioner's sugar and beat slowly until well combined. Refrigerate until the custard has completely cooled.
- 36 thin coconut butter cookies*
- (optional) lime slices and crumbled cookies for garnish
Cook's Note: I used the Coconut Thins from Trader Joe's for this recipe, but you could substitute any wafer-like cookie you like.
Gather six 7-ounce juice glasses and add a heaping spoonful of the lime custard to the bottom of each glass. Roughly crush three cookies and sprinkle over the custard layer; repeat with each glass. Cover with a spoonful of whipped cream. Repeat these layers so that you have two layers of each element in each glass. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
Serve cold. Enjoy!