A few weeks ago I celebrated a big birthday: the BIG 3-0. Living in the city, birthday celebrations are usually no more than ten guests, limited by space in apartments or chairs around restaurant tables. But this year, I wanted to invite all the friends and family who make my life so wonderful. Mom and Dad offered to host it at their home and even Sharon flew up from Atlanta for the occasion. So many people had a hand in creating this night I’ll never forget, but Mom and Sharon catered a party of epic proportion.
We called it “Block Party” because all the courses were served communally off one shared block in the middle of each table. Our family often eats this way because it’s fun and easy, but this was our first time trying it out on a crowd this size. We started with Steamed Local Asparagus with Prosciutto and Lemon-Shallot Dressing. Not only did people love this course, they particularly loved how it was served – interactive, shared, fun.
The weather was questionable so we moved the party indoors, squeezing more than 35 people into Mom and Dad’s living room. The rain let up so we took a breather in between courses four and five and went out to play games on the lawn – we had everything from horseshoes and volleyball to corn hole and badminton. Once the first four courses had settled we came back in for cheese and Sharon’s Carrot Cake as well as a rousing rendition of the ‘Happy Birthday’ song. It was the perfect birthday party for me: food served communally, wine poured liberally, family and friends sharing generously. Here’s to many more years of that!
- 1 large shallot, minced
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- Salt and ground black pepper
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1½ pounds (1½ bunches) thick asparagus, tough ends snapped off
- 6 ounces (about 12 thin slices) prosciutto
- Whisk shallot, lemon juice, mustard, vinegar, and ¼ teaspoon each: salt and pepper in a small bowl or 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Slowly whisk in 1 cup of the oil, first in droplets then in a steady stream to make thick vinaigrette; set aside.
- Meanwhile, place asparagus, a generous sprinkling of salt and ½ cup water in a large skillet. Cover skillet and turn burner on high; steam until bright green and tender-crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer asparagus to a paper towel-lined plate and let cool to warm or room temperature.
- When ready to serve, arrange asparagus and prosciutto on a cutting board, giving each person a small cup of vinaigrette for dipping.