Foodie: Card Party!

I never think of myself in that class of people called ‘collectors.’ I don’t have any particular object that lures me onto ebay for hours or days looking for the one perfect specimen – of anything. Though, I must admit that when in foreign airports, flea markets, or other places where the purchase of t-shirts or tchotchkes is apropos, there is only one thing that ever makes sense for me to buy. Playing cards.

Unlike the ubiquitous tourist t-shirt, baseball hat, doormat, or other place-branded item, there is something that I can actually imagine doing with playing cards. There are a couple of things I like about them in contrast to other gift items: they are discreet enough only to be seen when you want them to be and one is likely to look most closely at them with a drink in hand.

Now that I think about it, I do have some good ones. I’ve got the Iraq’s Most Wanted playing cards. I don’t think many of those guys are still around. I have a great set from Jamaica, of course Las Vegas and a really beautiful hand-painted set I found at a young designers’ market. I must say that I am currently lusting after a monogrammed set from Tiffany

I have about 20 good sets in my collection at this point, but I rarely use them and a conversation I had over the weekend made me realize that I need to have a Spades tournament – stat. I’d met my friend Ralph’s girlfriend several times and she’s always been sweet and wonderful. She seems like a nice, demure publishing girl you might confuse with a librarian. Until you get a few whiskies in her. Then she’s a saucy Southern girl after my own heart. I knew we had a connection when she stated very matter-of-factly that “you can’t play Spades if you don’t know how to talk shit.”

I guess Spades is like collard greens and fried chicken: everyone below the Mason Dixon line knows a little something about it. Now it’s official, I have to have a card party. And at a card party you have to have decadent finger food and I have to have whiskey. All vegetables are very optional. And I’ve opted them out of this menu. Sorry health nuts.

The menu for my card party will be: The Best Sliders Ever!, Buffalo Chicken Satay, Nacho Cups and Irish Mojitos. Enjoy!

The Best Sliders Ever!

2 ½ pounds ground chuck
1 tablespoons steak sauce
2 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
20 2- or 3-inch soft dinner rolls, split
2 Onions sliced ½ inch thick
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp prepared horseradish
¼ cup chopped chives
lemon juice
6 plum tomatoes sliced into ¼ inch rounds

Mix meat and next 6 ingredients. Divide meat into quarters and score each quarter into 5 pieces. Roll the meat into balls then squish it into small, thin patties, 3 inches across. You will yield 20 patties. To make a double batch or more, meat can be made into patties ahead and placed on cookie sheets to store 24 hours. These patties can also be baked on cookie sheets in preheated 400 degree F oven for 10 to 12 minutes. But, on a hot indoor or outdoor grill, these small burgers will take just 2 or 3 minutes on each side for medium doneness. Serve on dinner rolls with chopped lettuce, chopped onion and Special Sauce. I usually bake them to save time.

Caramelized Onions: ?Heat 2 tablespoons unsalted butter with 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add 2 onions, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook slowly until well caramelized, 15 to 20 minutes.

Herbed Horseradish Mayonnaise: ?Stir together 1 cup mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish, 1/4 cup freshly minced herbs such as parsley, basil, chives or scallion, 2 tablespoons olive oil, a little squeeze of lemon juice, and salt and pepper.

To assemble, lightly coat the bottom and top of buns with Horseradish Mayonnaise, place a tomato on the bottom half of bun, sprinkle with a bit of salt, top with burger, Caramelized Onions and lastly, the top of bun.

Buffalo Chicken Satay

8 chicken thighs, each cut into 3 strips
4 oz Frank’s Red Hot
1 stick of butter
4 wooden skewers soaked in water for at least 30 minutes
1 cup good prepared bleu cheese dressing (I use Marinelli’s in the refrigerated produce section)
20-25 celery sticks

Skewer the chicken thigh strips on the soaked skewers. Line them up on a sheet pan and sprinkle both sides of the strips with salt and pepper.

Melt butter in a saucepan or in the microwave. Add the hot sauce to the melted butter.

Set broiler to high and broil the skewers for about 3 minutes per side. Remove from the oven and dip skewers in hot sauce mixture.

Broil the skewers for another 3 minutes per side. Serve with bleu cheese dressing and celery sticks.

Nacho Cups

1 bag of nacho ‘chips for dipping’ (the ones that are manufactured in the shape of cups)
16 ounces of shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
8 ounces good prepared salsa
8 ounces good prepared guacamole
(Whole Foods and Fresh Direct both have good fresh prepared salsa and guacamole. And it will save you half an hour by buying it!)
8 ounces sour cream
¼ cup chopped black olives

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a large cookie sheet with wax or parchment paper. Spread the nacho cups on the cookie sheet so that all of the cups are facing upward. Sprinkle the cheese into the cups so that a shallow layer is on the bottom. Do not fill with cheese. Bake the nacho cups for 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Remove the nacho cups from the oven and sprinkle the cups with salsa. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes.

Put the guacamole and sour cream into pastry bags (or zip loc bags with a corner cut out). Squeeze a large dot of guacamole into the nacho cups, then squeeze a smaller dot of sour cream on top of that. Garnish with chopped black olives.

Serve the nacho cups separately on a platter so that your guests can eat them one at a time while playing cards.

Irish Mojitos

3/4 cup loosely packed mint leaves
1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2/3 cups simple syrup
1 1/2 cups Jameson’s Irish Whiskey
3 cups club soda

Use a mortar and pestle to mash up or “muddle” the mint leaves. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can use the back of a spoon to mash up the mint leaves. The point is you want to release the flavors and oil in the leaves as much as possible.

Fill the bottom 1/4 to 1/3 of the pitcher with ice. Toss in the muddled mint leaves and remaining ingredients. Fill the remainder of the pitcher with ice. Stir well and serve on the rocks garnish with lime slices.

Makes 1 large pitcher.

This is a twist on the rum mojito we’re all so fond of. I’m a whiskey girl and every drink tastes better with it, as far as I’m concerned!

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