We celebrated a birthday in the house this weekend, and hosted a few friends to eat ribs on the deck. Besides planning out the party, my present was to actually be present for the whole thing and not hide in the kitchen finishing up tasks while our guests enjoyed bourbon punch without me. So I planned out a Southern menu where most everything is prepped in advance (and tastes better that way) for minimal stress and maximal birthday celebration.
- Pimento cheese dip with celery sticks and cucumber slices.
- Bourbon punch
- White wine punch. I called this a sangria but revisiting now I don’t know if it qualifies. I added some peach schnapps and blueberries to white wine, and topped it with seltzer.
- Assorted beers
- Oven ribs
- Baked beans
- Zucchini cornbread
- Dilly beans and zucchini pickles (canned last summer, both recipes from Food in Jars)
- Blueberry lemon pie with whipped cream (from Flour)
Overall, I was super please with this menu. Everything was meant to be prepared way in advance or just tossed together right before eating, so the majority of the work was done before noon the day of the party.
When I mixed the cheese dip by hand it was a little too textured for my tastes, so I threw it all in the food processor. I didn’t have harissa powder, so I used some spicy paprika.
I don’t have a blender, and didn’t want to go through the extra effort of blending the drinks when guests were here. I diluted it a bit by adding 2 cups to tea instead of one and then just served over ice.
I was limited with the ribs because we don’t have a grill, but I think these are probably the best ribs you can make without one. The meat doesn’t quite get to the fall off the bone texture, but they are still tender and flavorful, especially with the “sauce.” If you have a grill, Alton’s ribs are an excellent option. But really, I just want to buy a smoker. The beans and the ribs do have slightly different cooking times, but I put them both in the oven together at the ribs’ temp.
I’ve made the slaw and beans before, and both are real winners. Next time I will probably add a little more vinegar to the dressing for more zip in the slaw. And these baked beans are the bomb. My one fluke in all the planning was I forgot to soak the beans overnight, but right when I got up Saturday I boiled the kettle and poured that water over the beans and let them soak for an hour, then proceeded with the recipe. The dried beans stay nice and firm even after cooking for so long, and the sauce is just the right thickness. I used less bacon than was called for, and you could leave it out for a vegetarian side.
Even though this meal was Southern themed, I am a Northerner and I prefer some sweetness to my cornbread. Will declared this the best cornbread he’s ever had, and he is a more critical cornbread consumer than I am. Super moist from the zucchini with a toothsome crunch from the medium grind cornmeal and just the right sweetness. Heavenly with butter and mopping up the baked bean juices.
The only flaw in this plan is I don’t have two ovens so the cornbread wasn’t ready right as the ribs were coming out of the oven. I sacrificed an earlier dinner time to have just from the oven cornbread on the table, but you could also make it the night before or in the morning if you aren’t making an oven hogging pie.
I think if I was doing this all over again the only thing I would change would be the pie. It was a whole lot of work (including making the crust the night before, rolling it out, chilling in the pan, blind baking, making the filling, and then finally baking the pie for an hour and a half), and I didn’t feel like I got the full return on my effort. I’m more of a cobbler/crisp fan anyways, and they are just so much easier.
Schedule of Events
- Pick blueberries (ok, you could just buy these, but there is a PYO farm a few miles from me and it is SO much cheaper)
- Make rib rub
- Soak beans
- Shred slaw ingredients
- Make slaw dressing
- Make pate brisée (crust)
- Mix corn bread dry ingredients
- Make bourbon drink
- Make beans (50 min on stovetop, 6 hours in oven at 225F)
- Put ribs in oven (6 hours total, 4 at 200F, 2 at 175F)
- Bake pie (chilled rolled crust for 30 min, bake bottom crust for 30 min, bake whole pie for 1.5 hours)
- Make pimento cheese
- Slice veg for serving with pimento cheese
- Bake cornbread (1 hour at 350F)
- Reduce rib jus to make sauce
- Dress slaw
- Cut ribs and broil quickly to char
- Whip cream for pie