Food & Drink: August 2023

By Abby and Kevin Tankersley

A Smashing Dinner Party

Each summer, the children at Calvary Baptist Church — which we’ve been attending for about 16 years now — have an opportunity to go to camp for a few days. And to make the trip to camp accessible to as many kids as possible, the children’s minister organizes a fundraising silent auction in which church members donate items or services to be sold to the highest bidder. Tables are set up in the church’s welcome center one Sunday morning in the spring, and folks have time before or after Sunday school or big church to browse and bid.

This year’s auction was on March 26, and some of the 44 offerings included art, pilates, swimming and magic lessons; babysitting services; books signed by their authors (we are a very scholarly congregation; you can’t throw a communion cup without hitting someone who has published at least one book); and food. Lots and lots of food. Cookies, pies, cakes, charcuterie, brisket … a wide range of culinary offerings.

This year, we donated a meal for six, to be served at our house. In the past, our offerings have included brunch; catered meals; dewberry cobbler for a couple of years when the berry was plentiful on picking trips to Bryan; and various cakes and breads.

Nichole Guthrie was the highest bidder for our contribution this year. So on a Friday evening in June, we hosted her and her husband Glen; Nichole’s sister and brother-in-law Rae and Drew Snyder; and John and Molly Hunt. We had moved some furniture out and set up a table for six in our living room, but our guests insisted that we join them for dinner. When we hosted one of these meals in the past, we had the winning bidder and guests in the dining room, which is open to the kitchen. We didn’t know any of them well, so we cooked and served and then just hung out in the kitchen while they ate, and it was somewhat awkward. We wanted to avoid that on this occasion, but we’ve known all these folks for years, and it was a much more pleasant experience. There was lots of story-telling and laughter and promises to get this group together soon. Nobody was in a rush for the evening to end.

For our auctioned dinner this year, we served pork tenderloin — and there are plenty of recipes out there for various ways to prepare that; we shared one in the June issue of this magazine — with smashed potatoes and a Peruvian green sauce that pairs well with both; Maque Choux, a New Orleans recipe; and watermelon-feta salad. For dessert, it was lemon ice cream (you can use your favorite flavor) along with Triple Ginger Cookies. For drinks, we had some White Sangria along with an after-dinner cocktail of limoncello and Prosecco.

The Recipes

Smashed Potatoes

  • 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • Salt, to taste

Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cover. Cook until the potatoes are fork tender, about 18-20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and transfer to a sheet pan.

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Using a potato masher, smash the potatoes until they’re about a 1/2-inch thick. Use a pastry brush to brush the butter evenly over the top of the potatoes. Generously sprinkle with salt.

Just before serving, set the broiler to high. Place the baking sheet under the broiler until the potatoes are golden brown. Serve immediately.

Makes about 4-6 servings.


Peruvian Green Sauce

  • 3 jalapeno peppers
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 medium cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Combine all the ingredients, except the olive oil, in a food processor. Pulse, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until fully mixed.

With the processor running, drizzle in the olive oil.

Makes about 1 cup.


Maque Choux

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup diced ham
  • 5 ears fresh corn, grilled (See note)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup red bell pepper, minced
  • 1/3 cup green onion, thinly sliced

Heat the oil in a large skillet set over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the ham and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the corn and corn milk and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 1 minute. Add the garlic, salt and pepper, and cook for 1 minute.

Stir in the cream, bell pepper and green onion and simmer until heated through, about 5 minutes.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Note: For the freshest flavor, use a sharp knife to carefully scape the corn from the cob. Then, using the flat side of the knife, run the knife down the scraped cob, capturing the milk from the cob.


Watermelon-Feta Salad

  • 4 cups watermelon, diced
  • 1 small package baby spring mix
  • 1/2 English cucumber, sliced lengthwise, with seeds scraped out
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped
  • 4 ounces feta, crumbled

For the dressing:

  • Zest and juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Add all the salad ingredients, except the feta, to a large bowl.

To make the dressing, add the lemon zest and juice, mustard, vinegar, sugar, olive oil and salt and pepper to a jar or other lidded container. Shake until well combined. Pour the dressing over the salad, to taste, and top with the feta.

Makes 4-6 servings.


Triple Ginger Cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3/4 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup sugar, for rolling

In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves and salt. Toss in the crystallized ginger, breaking up any clumps.

In a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter, brown sugar and fresh ginger. Pour in the molasses and beat well.

Mix the dry ingredients into the butter mixture until just combined. The mixture should be thick and somewhat sticky. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap, fold the plastic over itself, and pat into a 1-inch thick disc. Wrap it up and refrigerate until firm, 1 or 2 hours, or overnight.

Heat oven to 325. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Tear the dough into about 20 equal chunks, and roll each into a ball between your palms. Roll each ball in sugar, and return to the refrigerator to keep cool.

Place the balls of dough onto the baking sheet, spacing them at least 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake on the middle rack for 10-12 minutes, or until the surface begins to crack. For a crispier cookie, bake a few minutes longer. Let the cookies cool 3-4 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 20 cookies.


White Sangria

  • 1 lime, thinly sliced
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple brandy
  • 1/2 Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup strawberries, sliced
  • 1 bottle dry, crisp white wine

Add the lemon, lime and sugar to a large pitcher, and muddle to release the juices. Add the apple brandy and muddle again. Add the apple, strawberries and wine. Stir well. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator overnight.

Fill glasses with ice, then fill halfway with sangria. Top with sparkling water.

Makes about 4-6 servings.