This is Not a Meatwave
No one probably even noticed this, but throughout the spring, summer, and now fall, I was continually adjusting my 2020 Meatwave schedule, holding out hope that a day would come where we could throw at least one cookout this year. Alas, we never felt comfortable enough to host more than a few people at once, and this year became the first since 2004 without an official Meatwave. I did, however, keep cooking and churned out a ton of new recipes, some of which were enjoyed with friends and family. It felt too weird to go an entire season without one Meatwave recap, so I decided to chronicle the latest grilling session I had with friends, which ended up being the most Meatwave-like because I managed to do five unique recipes in one fell swoop.
In all the year's of The Meatwave, I've never had a proper entertaining space. We've always made whatever outdoor space I had work, but they were never designed to comfortably host the crowds I ended up getting. Ironically, in the one year I couldn't have crowds, that finally changed and we did a backyard remodel that greatly increased our patio space, put in built in seating by terracing our hill, and added a pergola where we now a permanent speaker and lighting solution installed. I'm super excited to get this space into full blown action, but for now, spending time in our new outdoor digs has provided me some needed respite from the daily craziness of the world and work,
Now, saying I made five unique recipes doesn't quite mean the same thing it does as a normal Meatwave. I billed this as a grilled cheese party, and three of the five dishes were merely grilled cheese variations. The first of those to come off the fire was this apple and cheddar grilled cheese, which added in a Dijon sauce and arugula to a previous attempt I made on this sandwich to much improved results.
The second sandwich was a French onion grilled cheese, which made the list primarily because I had some caramelized onions in the freezer I've been looking to put to good use. And good use this was with those super sweet onions pairing perfectly with super flavorful and sharp gruyere cheese, a sprinkling of thyme, and that same Dijon sauce that adorned the apple grilled cheese. Taken altogether with the crusty bread, it certainly delivered a flavor akin to a French onion soup.
The last sandwich was a repeat from earlier in the summer, but the one I was most excited to make. See, I had developed this grilled halloumi and shisito sandwich for my buddy's 40th birthday, but I was unable to celebrate in person with him at the time. So I finally got a chance to make his birthday sandwich for him and get the full experience this salty, fruity, and unique combo was meant to deliver by actually eating it alongside him.
I turned most of my recipe ambitions to the side dishes on this day, the first of those being this grilled butternut squash with an Aleppo pepper yogurt sauce. I wasn't quite sure how the sweet roasted squash would pair with a tangy, lightly spicy sauce, but the two ended up being a great odd couple. The sauce certainly gave the dish a more savory quality while the squash made good on its seasonal fall promise to make it taste very welcoming on the crisp and cool day it was enjoyed on.
I didn't really about think how these kimchi brussels sprouts would taste served with grilled cheese and squash, and they ended up feeling like the odd person out when considering the meal in its entirety, but they were also my favorite thing I cooked that day. I married the crisp-tender grilled sprouts with a gochujang and soy sauce based sauce and a healthy helping of chopped kimchi. The end result was a super savory side with a nice heat and funk to make it taste not quite like anything I've made before.
If I were considering this a Meatwave, it actually wouldn't have been the least attended one—we did have four visitors to feed, they were just all a single family unit. We have here Jenny, Bryan, Annabel, and Benji cozying up as the sun dropped and we began an outdoor screening of my favorite seasonal movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas. You can see Kris on the left, well distanced and well stocked with popcorn as we partook in our first true hangs and movie night in our new backyard, throughly taking comfort in time with friends, which is something we now know can't be taken for granted. There may be a couple more get togethers like this in 2020, which is how The Meatwave was defined during the pandemic—not the mass gatherings of before, but more intimate moments where we continued to share good food and better company, keeping its driving spirit alive.