Over the weekend we had our monthly Saturday dinner with the Freckers. It was our turn to host and I didn’t even pick the menu till Friday! It’s rare for me to fly by the seat of my pants like that!

I browbeat Jay all week to help me come up with something. Thursday night he decided to work out of Bobby Flay’s Boy Meets Grill. While the recipes in there are delicious, there aren’t many options for sides in the book. By Friday we really hadn’t had the main dish narrowed down, and I didn’t really want to think too hard about it, so I looked at The Southwestern Grill cookbook. We are huge fans of TexMex and I was pretty sure I could find a whole meal in there.

Flipping through I saw a recipe for Mexican barbecue sauce with adobo. Jay wanted to do chicken so I figured that would work well. This cookbook is one of the types where you have to make another recipe to finish one recipe and as you flip through, you start feel like you’re in a choose-your-own-ending type of book.

The barbecue sauce recipe led me to the potato salad, and the aioli recipe for the salad was in proximity to the chipotle vinaigrette, (which we had made before) so ten minutes later, I had the menu.

I had been wanting to make sugar cookies for just about every occasion in the past year, but hadn’t gotten around to it. I thought, what a delightful treat this will be for me and the kids, to decorate the cookies together. Ha ha. You can imagine the mess and amount of cookies I had to set aside because Julia wanted to lick just about every single one.

Of course, I have no pictures of the cookies or food from the actual meal, but Jay did remember to take a pic of the leftovers. I HAVE to remember to take pictures. Must take pictures. Must take pictures!

Jay did almost the cooking this time, which was awesome. I think I did cut up the potatoes and make the cookies, but that was about it. The chicken was spicy but not too hot. The potatoes were good, but could have used a bit more flavor. And the salad (mixed greens, goat cheese, craisins, red peppers, and cukes) was delish with the chipotle dressing. Allen said he felt a bit naughty eating salad with a spicy dressing. As if the juxtaposition was somehow illegal. Ohhh la la.

On a side note, for some reason I sorta skipped over St. Patrick’s Day entirely by making Easter-themed cutout cookies. But then I bought Harp and Murphy’s beer for black-and-tans. I didn’t even realize till later that I had my holidays all in a lump.

Also, we accidentally discovered how to keep the black on top of the tan. On the second round, I went to pour the Harp in the beer glass and didn’t even bother to try to take my time. The result, as you might imagine, was a glass full of foam. Allen went ahead and poured the Murphy’s on top and because of the foam, it stayed there. I’m sure there are scientific words for this, but they are not in my vocabulary. So let’s just say we got the black on the tan, missionary style.

Jay wanted to guest blog since he was the guest chef. Saturday night at midnight, I told him no, to get his own thing. I’ve since sobered up and changed my mind. However, he isn’t here and I wanted to get this posted. So next time… Till then.

All recipes from The Southwestern Grill by Michael McLaughlin

Potato Salad with Roasted Garlic Aioli
Serves 6-8

3 lbs of well-scrubbed, small red-skinned potatoes, quartered
1 1/2 cups Roasted Garlic Aioli (recipe follows)
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions, tender tops included
Freshly ground black pepper

1) In a large pan, cover the potato quarters with salted cold water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Partially cover, decrease the heat slightly, and until they are just tender while still holding their shape, about 12 minutes. Drain and cool to room temperature. (Th potatoes can be prepared several hours in advance. Cover tightly and hold at room temperature. )

2) Shortly before serving, toss the potatoes with the aioli and onions in a large bowl. Adjust the seasoning and toss again.

3) Serve at room temperature.

Roasted Garlic Aioli
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

2 very large bulbs regular (not elephant) garlic (about 1/2 pound total)

2 tablespoons dry sherry2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup mayonnaise

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, such as Tobasco

1/4 teaspoon salt

1) Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees

2) Remove the loose, papery outside peels of the garlic bulbs. with a sharp knife, cut off the top one-quarter of the garlic heads, exposing the cloves inside the peels. Partially enclose each garlic bulb in a packet of heavy-duty foil. Drizzle the garlic heads evenly with the sherry and olive oil. Seal the packets tightly, set them on the oven rack and bake until the garlic is fragrant and tender enough to pierce easily with a paring knife, about 1 hour. Cool, then squeeze or scoop the softened garlic out of the peels.

3) In a food processor, combine the garlic, mayonnaise, lemon juice, pepper sauce, and salt. Process, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl, until smooth. Adjust the seasoning.

4) Serve immediately or cover tightly and refrigerate for up to three days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Chipotle Vinaigrette
Makes about 1 cup

3 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo, chopped

2 tablespoons adobo sauce from the chipotle can

1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

1) In a food processor or blender, combine the sherry vinegar, balsamic vinegar, garlic, chipotles, adobo and its sauce, and salt. Process until smooth. With the motor running, gradually add the oil through the lid; the dressing with thicken. Season  with pepper and pulse to blend. Adjust the seasoning and pulse again just before using.

2) Use immediately or cover tightly and refrigerate for up to three days. The dressing may separate; return to room temperature, then rewhisk to blend.

Mexican Barbecue Sauce (Adobo)
Makes about 3 cups

1 large bulb regular (not elephant) garlic

1 tablespoon dry sherry

1 tablespoon dry sherry

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 plum tomatoes (about 12 oz)

1/2 small onion

1 1/3 cups mixed dried red chile puree (we couldn’t find the chilis that they said to put in the puree so we used more chipotles)

1/3 cup sherry wine vinegar

2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon salt

1 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cumin (preferably from toasted seeds)

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled

pinch ground cloves

1) Position the rack about 6 inches from the heat source and preheat the oven to 400.

2) Remove the loose, papery outside peels of the garlic bulb. With a sharp knife, cut off the top one-quarter of the garlic, exposing the cloves within. Partially enclose the garlice in a packet of heavy-duty foil. Drizzle evenly with the sherry and olive oil. Seal the packet tightly, set it on the oven rack and bake until the garlic is fragrant and very tender, about 1 hour. Cool, then squeeze or scoop the softened garli out of the peel.

3) Position a rack about 6 inches from the heat source and preheat the broiler. In a shallow metal pan, like a cake tin, broil the tomatoes and the onion half, turning them once, until well-charred, about 15 minutes total. Remove from the broiler and cool. Coarsely chop (do not peel) the tomatoes and the onion half.

4) In a food processor, combine the chile puree, tomatoes, onion, garlic, vinegar, sugar, salt, oregano, cinnamon, cumin, pepper, thyme, and cloves.