NO ONE REALLY NEEDS an occasion to have a few friends over and fire up the grill. With cold weather right around many of our corners, this weekend seems like the perfect time for a cookout.
Really, it doesn’t have to be this weekend. But take this idea and file it away for later use. Your friends will appreciate it, and it’s always fun to be the grillmaster, right?
Now, hosting your friends — especially if your on a tight budget — doesn’t have to break the bank. You could go the old burgers and hotdogs route, but for my cookouts, I usually take it to the next level for about the same price.
Firstly, tell your friends they’re being invited over for steaks, and they’re more likely to offer to bring something (and really mean it, not the old “Can I bring anything?” where they’re hoping you say no). Have a couple of them bring chips, and I’m sure we all have a friend or two to whom “bring something” always means beer.
I’d always provide about the amount of beer for an acceptably good time, and any friend-brought beer would be used to turn things into exceptionally good times.
Now, back to the meat. Anyone ever grilled a London broil like it was a steak? It’s a beautifully-cut piece of meat that grills true — as in, it’s easy to cook rare for the bloody steak lovers, medium for some and (ugh) well done for those who just don’t like their meat red at all.
I’ve found that I can usually get a two-pound London broil for about $8-10. You can cut that into four steaks. That take your meat budget to just over $2 per person — not bad, right? Seriously, TWO FREAKIN’ BUCKS! You can afford that.
Now on to the hot side item: Buy a sack of potatoes.
You’re not making baked potatoes (you’d then have to provide toppings) or home-made fries (too time consuming). Instead, just chop the spuds into cubes about the size of a, well, sugar cube. Chop up enough to fill a bake pan, drizzle on olive oil and spice it to taste (I prefer dried red pepper, some cajun season-all, salt and pepper). Cook the potatoes for about 35 minutes on 350. Toss ‘em in there about the same time as you start the steaks, and you’ll be ready to serve it all at once.
The meat and potatoes — combined with whatever sides a friends or two might bring — will provide a pretty hearty meal for your pals.
For an added bonus — and if your back yard is set up for it — take the coals from the grill (while they’re still hot — and pour them into an in-ground firepit. Toss in some newspaper (anybody still read those?) and some medium-sized sticks and wait for the flames. Have some firewood ready to feed the flames as afternoon turns into night.
A few of your closest friends will likely stick around as long as the fire goes. When you want your house (or back yard) to empty out, let the fire die, and your friends will get the hint.
The Weekend Plans feature will run each Friday – bright and early, so you have time to make plans in the last few on-the-clock hours of the workweek if you so choose – and will offer a combination of out-of-the-ordinary to often-forgotten classic ideas to liven up your weekends.