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Each year around Christmas time, my in-laws host all of my father-in-laws family. Or at least those that are able to make it. Normally, the food would be provided by a caterer, but this year my mother-in-law asked if my husband and I would “caterer” (we had clearly impressed her with our new-found cooking prowess!). My husband and I looked at each other and said “Sure!” We were about to plan and cook food for round abouts 45 people. No biggie. Gulp!

While this wasn’t a meal, we still all really wanted to impress the extended family, so the food had to titillate a range of taste buds! My husband had wowed all of us with his slow cooker pulled pork, so we decided that had to go on the menu. We also really liked the beef brisket he had made, but thought that would be too similar in taste to the pulled pork and we only had one slow cooker (although the more we thought about it, the more we realized we would in fact need a second slow cooker just for the pulled pork).

What would be the other main? Since it had been cold, I had made my take on my Deda’s chili. The critics really enjoyed it, so it was now on the menu!

Again, this wasn’t going to be a meal, it was just food to serve everyone and keep people from getting grumpy, so we wouldn’t need loads of side dishes. With that said, in the end we whipped up a bit of coleslaw to serve with the dishes as well as rice to go with the pork or chili and buns for the pork.

We would make enough pulled pork for half of the crowd and enough chili for the other half. Each person would get a taste of one or the other and only get seconds or the other dish if there was enough and everyone was served. We had to be a bit “Soup Nazi” about the planning and execution of serving the food. We wouldn’t want anyone to get seconds while some hadn’t eaten!!!

Now, how much pork, ground beef, rice and ingredients would we actually need! Too bad we didn’t have the handy Marion, Kansas cookbook that had a chart on how much of certain things you need for specific numbers of people! Thank goodness for Google and a bit of luck with our guesswork (although we ended up with heaps of left over rice).

For the pulled pork we purchased two lovely boneless pork chops and four pounds of ground beef for the chili. All from a local butcher shop! The brown sugar, paprika, cumin, cayenne pepper, bell peppers, chili peppers, beans, onions and other ingredients filled our cupboards and the refrigerator up to the day we needed to start cooking.

We woke early that fateful morning. The pulled pork needed a solid eight hours of slowly, gently cooking to achieve the perfect tenderness. My husband brought out our very large slow cooker and then we had a cousin bring the one we were borrowing in from the car. It was a quarter of the size of the piece of pork shoulder that was meant to go in it! No need to panic! The crisis was averted by a quick run to the store to buy the proper sized slow cooker (thank goodness they had it!!and HUGE is the proper size.)

My husband mixed the spice rub and then we each took a pork shoulder and massaged the spice blend into it. He worked his magic and made the sauce. All was placed in the slow cookers. The slow cookers were turned on. And we were done!

The next step was to start chopping and sautéing all the vegetables that would go into the chili as well as browning the ground beef. That took a bit of time, but once all of that was added to the ginormous pot along with herbs and spices we were set to let that simmer away on a low heat until time to serve. I had to keep an eye on the chili and give it a stir every now and then. We wouldn’t want the bottom to burn!

In the interim we shredded the cabbage and carrots and made the coleslaw dressing.

By the time guests started arriving, everything was cooked and filling the house with savory aromas. We were the Jolly Chefs and were preparing a feast fit for kings! Some of the cousins, who were watching this unfold and had been laughing and joking with us during the day, had snapped a few photos of my husband and I making ridiculously “jolly” faces while cooking, this was the birth of the “Jolly Chef” photo series.

Anyway, we took the two pork shoulders out of their respective slow cookers and began pulling. We had left the rice to an aunt and that was taken care of. We were ready to begin.

The first dish requested was pulled pork. It was for the Matriarch of the family. After an agonizing wait, the verdict came back positive. I dished the chili and my husband the pork. A stream of cousins laden with dishes went in and out of the kitchen to serve the older generation, before sitting down and enjoying a bit of grub themselves.

The pulled pork was clearly favored over the chili (because there wasn’t any left!), but the chili had its share of rave reviews! The Jolly Chef’s had successfully catered for the Hoban Gathering!

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