Party Food!

Tacos with Chimichurri

Churrasco-style steak tacos with shredded cheese, red cabbage, and chimichurri on a flour tortilla. Accompanied by grilled sweet potatoes and Topolo Margaritas (thank you Rick Bayless)

These tacos are the epitome of party food. Smokey, salty, big beef flavor with the greatest savory sauce of all time. It is amazing, and while I combined a lot of great recipes from other folks (Cooks Illustrated Magazine for the steak and chimichurri sauce, Bobby Flay for the potatoes, and Rick Bayless’s Margarita), I do claim some talent in the combination and in making the steak and sauce into an approachable taco. All that said, I did alter the recipes with a few edits of my own.

People will worship you for this one – It will be awesome. I once took all of this stuff along with a tent, my family, and a couple of friends to the beach to celebrate my birthday and ever since my Mom asks for this to be on the menu during our visits.

Here are the essentials:
Buy thick steaks, the one pictured is a Prime NY Strip from Paulina Meat Market (if you are in Chicago and have not shopped here, DO IT). The steaks get a rub of corn starch and coarse salt, then placed in the freezer for 30 minutes. When grilling, it’s 2-3 minutes per side, flipped three times. Rest for five minutes and slice for tacos.

Chimichurri is flat leaf parsley, cilantro, garlic, red pepper flakes, rehydrated oregano, red wine vinegar, water, and olive oil. You may want to memorize this because once you’ve served this to someone, they will ask you for the recipe. This one came from Cook’s Illustrated Magazine.

The sweet potatoes are from Bobby Flay and are pretty basic. Peel and quarter the sweet spuds, toss in olive oil and throw on the grill. Serve with lime salt (finely chopped lime zest mixed with table salt to taste) and sprinkle with chopped cilantro.

Finally, Rick Bayless’s Topolo Margarita. Look up the link on his Frontera Grill Web site. After you do that, here are my changes. I make the limeade with a mix of simple syrup and honey instead of granulated sugar. I also specifically use Grand Marnier as my orange liqueur. You can use great tequila but I have found that Hornitos is pretty tasty in this cocktail.

This is a great combination and easy to scale for large and small crowds. It is pretty inexpensive – mostly depending on the steak and tequila. You can also serve this with a Rioja or Malbec.

Have fun. Enjoy!


Thank you Dr. Banerjee

Thank you Mr. Banerjee

Chai. I love that I know how to make it as good as when we were all in India. It is not terribly difficult, yet so many people mess it up.

Here is how I learned to do it: start with 1 and 1/4 cups of water in a pot, turn the burner on high, add 1/8th of a cup of sugar, whisk until sugar dissolves. Throw in two bags of black tea. Bring to a boil for 3-5 minutes. Squeeze tea bags and dispose of them. Remove pot from heat and whisk in 1 cup of milk and 1 teaspoon of masala. Stir and return to heat. Scald mixture, remove from heat and whisk. Now, you are either ready to drink or, if you want to kick up the spice of the masala, repeat the scalding move 1 or 2 more times. Allow chai to cool slightly and drink.

Grilled Corn and Kabobs

Grilled Corn and Kabobs

Sweet corn in husk (silk removed), store-bought and personally marinaded chicken kabobs (not pictured, growler of local hibiscus ale)

Last night and tonight we are enjoying a visit with Emily’s oldest friend. And, since I planned a great dinner for tonight (tomorrow’s post), I decided to go nice and easy last night.

Of course, easy does not mean bad. So my shortcut was to buy inexpensive products that I know the local grocer prepares well. I chose some great chicken kabobs from the butcher counter and some fresh corn on the cob.

Here is what I did to get things ready: The kabobs are seasoned liberally with salt and pepper on all sides before being placed into a ziplock storage bag with soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, and olive oil. Squeeze out as much air as possible, seal the bag and massage the marinade into the kabobs. Refrigerate. For the corn, I peel back the husks, remove the silks, and pull the husks back into their original position. Next, I soak the corn in water for five minutes. While that is going, I go light the grill. When the corn is done soaking, I take it to the grill and make a second trip with the chicken. Everything is ready in about twenty minutes.

Hibiscus ale is in season at my favorite neighborhood brewery and pairs nicely by adding a light floral taste to meal.

Bruschetta, cheese, charcuterie, and wine

Bruschetta, cheese, charcuterie, and wine

Baguette, basil, heirloom tomatoes, uncured salami, prosciutto, bordeaux, my knife and a cutting board. (not pictured, Emily had a crisp Pinot Grigio)

Urban life with both people working sometimes leads to later and more simple dinners. In our house we love bruschetta dinner. It lifts the spirits on the worst days and gives us a chance to enjoy very straight-forward food. For my bruschetta I mix heirloom tomatoes and ribbons of basil, layered with salt, and cooled in the refrigerator. As Emeril Lagasse says “I don’t know where you buy your produce but where I get mine, it doesn’t come seasoned.” A fundemental lesson for every cook. The last step before presentation is stirring in some good olive oil. Enjoy!

p.s. Whenever possible, I grill the bread.

Taking the Leap – Charity Donation

All year I had contemplated making a donation to my own agency’s silent auction that would be me as a personal chef, preparing a four to five course dinner for six people. I decided to go for it.

Two weeks ago the auction occurred and the dinner sold for $600. I was elated! More importantly, the winner was one of the four or five people I had hoped would win. Jacked up on pride and fulfillment, I went and thanked the donor – only to find that the second-highest bidder was there ready match the winning bid, for a separate dinner for her own. I think it took me half a second to agree.

The day after and just about every day since, I have felt this twinge of panic. I owe two generous people $600 dinners. In their homes. For their friends. Holy shit.

Well then, how to stem the panic and enhance the confidence that led to the original offer – write a blog to capture the joy of cooking that I experience almost every day when I cook for myself and my family. Snap food pics and put them someplace they should go, rather than into the abyss of my phone’s camera roll or even more fun for everyone – shared with the world on Facebook.

In addition to the benefits of journaling, I want to ask anyone who reads this to give me your reactions to the food I share with you. And, please keep in mind, I plan to share all of the culinary experiences I have – good restaurants I try, dinners and snacks I make, articles I read, even grocery lists and a list of the stuff I buy at the famer’s market (because those never end up the same).

All this means, if I do this right, you will get to know a lot about me and inevitably that means you will see info on cocktails and random other fun stuff as well, be introduced to members and characteristics of my family and friends, learn a little about the fundraising I do and efforts I admire.

My philosophy is that every day I take a look at my cutting board and it is up to me to treat what I find with enough respect to make it tasty. Sometimes we have to order out for pizza and other times things are barely palatable but always, I have choices about what is going to be served. I look forward to hearing from you and sharing whatever hits my cutting board.



Hi! I’m Andy. I am the Chief Development Officer (CDO) for a great charity in Chicago all day, every day and I really love that I get to have such a great and fulfilling career in philanthropy. However, this blog is really about my love of cooking and partying for and with my lovely wife, Emily, our family, and our friends. The purpose of this public journal stems from what family and friends have been telling me for years – Andy I love reading your recipes you should write a cookbook!