Even with the nail-biter of a TV-watching evening that this Election Night is shaping up to be, one thing is certain: You’ve got to eat something — at least to keep up your strength for flipping from Wolf Blitzer to Judy Woodruff to Chris Matthews, and, of course, to all that The Washington Post will offer online.
Curling up on the sofa with leftover Halloween candy just won’t do, especially if you’re having a few friends over or hosting an official party.
Susan Lacz has been catering for 26 years, with plenty of politically centered events to her credit. We asked the Bethesda maven to share tips on how to gauge for a long night of eating and drinking and watching and worrying.
“Since this is on a school night/week night, people are coming from work. They’ll be hungry,” she says. “I like to go with comfort foods that are low-maintenance.”
Things to keep in mind:
* Check out political-themed invites on evite.com.
* Set up TVs and/or laptops and monitor screens in multiple rooms, tuned into different network coverage. Distribute bowls of nuts and snacks in each room.
* Designate one room as the “quiet” one for cellphone calls (and small prayers).
* For a group of 25, figure on about 40 plates with 40 to 50 setups (cutlery settings). Plates should be dessert or salad size. “People will put down a plate and often not pick it back up,” she says. “I have no problem mixing china with plastic and paper.”
* Keep the bar in a central area, like the kitchen; make it self-serve for a group this size.
* Because this is happening on a weeknight, figure on allowing for three glasses of wine or three beers per person. Based on research Lacz has gleaned from the Wine Market Council, she’d serve a hearty cab at a GOP party, and maybe a
sustainably produced, organic shiraz at a Dems’ party. “Buy more red wine than white,” she says. “I’ve noticed that shift for the past several years. And buy more wine than you think you'll need. It won’t go bad.”
* Put out dips and soups first. Soups can go into mugs.
* For a main course, Lacz likes to serve a long, free-form meatloaf (see recipe below) surrounded by baked french fries and onion rings. Other favorites of hers: turkey chili with lots of separate toppings; pumpkin muffins with ham; honey-roasted and flake salmon rolled into wraps with lettuce and crisp vegetables; roast beef on croissants with horseradish mustard and brie. Figure on three smallish sandwiches per person.
* Hold off on setting out desserts till about 9 p.m. Figure on 4 or 5 pieces per person.
* Keep desserts simple and hand-held so no plates are required. Lacz likes to have fun with red, white and blue sweets: jelly beans; donkey- and elephant-shaped cookies; store-bought chocolate truffles skewered with colored lollipop sticks.
What do you plan to eat or cook for Election Night? Share in the comments below.
20 to 24 servings
Warm or cold, this is comfort food built for a crowd. Adding the Sriracha in the mix is optional; for even more flavor, apply the glaze for the last 15 to 20 minutes of oven time. Serve with french fries and/or onion rings, and a salad.
Adapted from Bethesda caterer Susan Lacz.
For the meatloaf
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 pint sliced fresh mushrooms, brushed clean
1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound ground veal
1 pound ground pork
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper
5 cloves garlic, smashed then minced
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup fresh plain bread crumbs
2 to 3 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
2 to 3 tablespoons Sriracha hot sauce (optional)
2 cups cooked, cooled brown rice
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
For the glaze (optional)
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup teriyaki sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil (optional)
1 cup corn oil
For the meatloaf: Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and stir to coat; cook for a few minutes until softened, then add the mushrooms. Cook until they have released their moisture and begin to brown. Remove from the heat and let cool; reserve a few of the cooked mushrooms for a garnish.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Combine the beef, veal, pork, salt, black pepper (to taste), garlic, eggs, bread crumbs, mustard and Sriracha sauce (to taste), brown rice, soy sauce and parsley in a large mixing bowl. Use your clean hands to incorporate the ingredients until well blended.
(At this point, if you would like a preview taste, you can reheat the saute pan over medium heat. Pinch a walnut-size piece of the mixture and flatten it slightly; cook in the pan until lightly browned and cooked through. Taste the sample; adjust the seasoning of the remaining mixture as needed.)
Transfer the mixture to the lined baking sheet, shaping it into a loaf that is not wider than 4 1/2 inches and no taller than 3 inches. Use the reserved mushrooms to decorate the top.
If desired, make the glaze: Whisk together the soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, sesame oil, if using, and corn oil in a medium bowl.
Bake for about 45 minutes, then apply the glaze, if desired. Bake for 10 minutes or as needed until the internal temperature of the meatloaf registers 150 to 155 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
Serve warm, or cool completely and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Bonus dish: AWCE asked Rosa Mexicano to share the recipe for its Fall Guacamole that’s now on the menu at area restaurants. It’s a colorful starter with unexpected ingredients.
4 to 6 servings
This is best served the same day it’s made. You’ll need a molcajete or mortar and pestle to pound the onion, cilantro, jalapeno and salt into a paste.
1 medium Bartlett pear, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium crisp-tart apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons minced white onion
5 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 teaspoons seeded, minced jalapeno pepper, or more to taste
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
Flesh of 3 to 4 medium ripe but firm Hass avocados, cut into large chunks
3 tablespoons diced plum tomato
1/4 cup pomegranate arils (seeds)
1/4 cup toasted, chopped almonds
Preheat the oven or toaster oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Spread the cubed fruit on the baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil and toss to coat evenly. Roast for about 10 minutes until lightly browned on the edges and somewhat softened. Transfer to a mixing bowl.
Meanwhile, combine 1 tablespoon of the onion, 3 tablespoons of the cilantro plus the jalapeno and the teaspoon of salt in the bowl of a molcajete or in a mortar to form a pastelike consistency.
Transfer to the mixing bowl.Gently fold in the avocado, keeping the pieces as large as possible. Add the tomato, the remaining two tablespoons of cilantro, the remaining tablespoon of onion, the pomegranate seeds and the toasted almonds; fold in gently.
Taste and add salt as needed.
Serve right away, or place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole and refrigerate for up to 3 hours.