I threw an epic bash on Sunday in honor of my boyfriend. He is modest about his birthday, but I can't seem to control myself when given an excuse to party. This year's theme was a Southern-style crawfish boil, and boy it didn't disappoint.
It all started with an email to our 25 closest friends and family. I would provide the crawfish and fixings (sausage, corn, and potatoes) if you contributed an appetizer, side, and/or dessert. Usually our friends show up with the usual tortilla chips, jarred salsa, and bagged salad, so I overcompensated by preparing a few of my own faves, as well.
Big mistake. It seems people really decided to step up their game this year. For starters, we had BLT dip, spinach bites, chicken chimichanga dip, and deviled eggs. Our "intermezzo" was bacon-wrapped quail jalapeno poppers &ndash and yes, they are even better than they sound. I could have stopped eating right then and there, but unfortunately there were 35 pounds of mudbugs ready to meet their maker. Oh, and did I mention the 10 pound pork shoulder I decided to braise "in case there wasn't enough food." Yeah, true story.
After a hilarious session of preparing and boiling the crawfish (each girl was required to put at least one live critter into the pot. Talk about squeals!), we hovered around the newspaper-lined table and peeled until our little hearts were content. Mid-way through the excitement I remembered the massive bowl of coleslaw and mountain of pasta salad waiting patiently in the fridge. I set them out and told everyone to dig in, but was quickly met with eyes of confusion and panic. Too much food, what?!
It was a good thing we had croquet and badminton to keep everyone's appetites going. That, and the heavy handed mint juleps and peach vodka lemonades. We needed all that food to fuel the fun! But the party didn't end there, because we hadn't even sampled dessert. And in true Southern fashion, we saved the best for last. In addition to my "famous" chocolate chip cookie cake, there was dump cake, key lime pie, chocolate fudge, and creamy berry tartelettes. Happy birthday to us.
The party continued into the wee hours, and I think it was a fabulous way to ring in his big 2-9. Unfortunately the aftermath made me realize why I only throw parties like this once a year. Talk about a mess! But man was it worth it. Only now it's going to be hard to top. What ever will I do for his thirtieth?
Here's a recipe for my tried-and-true buttermilk coleslaw. I think everyone needs a classic slaw recipe, and this one's guaranteed to please. It's the quintessential Southern side &ndash cool, creamy, and no fancy frills. Not only does it stand up well on its own, but it sings when piled atop barbecue pulled pork and drizzled with homemade vinegar sauce. It will be making an appearance at all of my summer throw downs, and hopefully now, yours too.
Classic Buttermilk Coleslaw
1 (16 ounce bag) coleslaw mix
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons good quality mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Combine all of the ingredients until mixed thoroughly. Adjust seasoning, if desired. Chill until ready to serve. This can be made about two hours in advance, but any longer and it will lose its crunch and may become tinted from the purple cabbage.
(Images: Nealey Dozier)