Summertime BBQs may be my favorite way to entertain. They’re casual and less structured than a winter dinner party, and I’m not constrained by how many chairs I can fit around a table inside our home. Ours is a charming house that’s over 100 years old – which is pretty old in California, but it’s dollhouse small. Luckily we have a large deck off the kitchen that ushers you into the backyard. So when I want to have a lot of people over, summer-time BBQs are the best way to go.
Meal planning, cleanup, and food preparation are different when planning a large BBQ – assuming you want to spend time with your guests and enjoy your own party. I’ve lost count of the parties I’ve thrown that I wasn’t able to actually attend because I had chosen a menu that tied me to the stove while everyone else was outside having fun.
I finally wizened up and gathered a bunch of tips that have worked well:
- The more people, the simpler the menu. Resist the temptation to offer every dish you love to make for BBQs.
- Think salads that can be made ahead of time. For salads with multiple ingredients, prep them earlier in the day and layer in a serving bowl with the lettuce on the bottom, interleaved with paper towels. Make the dressing earlier in the week, and slice the avocado, dress and toss the salad at the last minute.
- Vegetables dishes are winners because they can be served warm, cold, or at room temperature. If you plan on serving them warm, feel free to spice them up. But if you want them at room temperature, use citrus.
- Cook grains and legumes ahead of time, but be careful with starches like pasta and potatoes. Starches often don’t fare as well when cooked ahead.
- For meal planning, plan on ½ lb protein per person, and remember that each teenage boy equals two people. At least. Plan for 10% more people than you have – there’s nothing worse than running short on food.
- Have three different appetizers to provide variety without excessive leftovers.
- Make dessert the morning of the party while you’re still fresh – particularly if it involves baking. Even better, make it the day before, particularly cakes.
- The general rule for drinks is 2½ – 3 glasses per person, but you know your crowd best.
- For large parties, the last thing you want is mountains of dirty dishes with leftover food on them toppling over in the sink, with dirty silverware spilling down the disposal. Set up a couple staging areas with crates or boxes lined with plastic bags, labeled for food waste, recycle, and other. Have a small bin lined with plastic for dirty silverware, and two for stacking plates scraped of food.
- Set up a bar area stocked with wine, beer, non-alcoholic drinks, a pitcher of water with sliced cucumbers and lemons, and ice. Have a red and white wine already opened, and glasses lined up, making it easy for guests to serve themselves all evening.
This grilled pineapple shortcake is perfect for your next BBQ. The shortcake can be made the day before, and pineapple slices can be thrown on the grill while you grill up the rest of dinner. You can even throw the shortcake slices on the grill if that’s how you roll.
Coconut Shortcakes with Grilled Pineapple
- 2.2 ounces 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1.1 ounces 1/4 cup coconut flour
- ½ cup finely shredded coconut for baking
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/8 tsp salt
- ½ cup sugar
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter room temp
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup whipping cream
- 1 tsp raw turbinado sugar
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 4 pineapple slices
Lime Whipped Cream
- 1/3 cup whipping cream
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- zest of one lime
- Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Butter four 5 1/2" tart molds.
- Combine the flours, coconut, baking powder, and salt and thoroughly mix.
- Cream together the butter and sugar, mixing on medium-high for about 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat another 2 minutes.
- Add the flour mixture, alternating with the cream, in thirds to the bowl. It will be very thick. Spoon the dough into the tart molds. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
- Bake at 325˚F for 15 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Melt the butter and mix with the honey. Baste the pineapple slices with the honey-butter and grill on high heat, 2 minutes per side.
- Whip the whipping cream using a mixer until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and lime and continue to whip on high for 30 seconds, I like mine with medium stiff peaks - just be careful not to over whip!
- Slice each coconut shortcake in half to form a 2-layer shortcake. Place the grilled pineapple in the middle and top with whipped cream.