Let’s be honest — I love bars. The drinkin’ kind, the eatin’ kind, even sometimes the candy kind. Matthew and I have teamed up several times to offer food bars for guests. For our “One-Night-Only” foray into the world of catering, we did a Grits Bar. And for Halloween, I did a “Create-Your-Own Crostini” Bar. But leave it to my sister Jennifer to come up with something fun and different.
We were planning my Dad’s 60th Birthday Bash, and had the menu pretty much figured out when Jen suggested we do a Slider Bar. My first thought was, “Are you freaking nuts???” I did some party math: 30 guests X 3 sliders apiece = 90 sliders…HOLY %#@!!
But after awhile, I must admit that the idea grew on me, and sounded a lot more fun than our delicious (but predictable) plans for pork tenderloin. So, we rolled up our sleeves, joined forces, and prepared to make one kick-ass Slider Bar.
Slider Bar Prep: Day 1
We got 10 pounds of meat (seven of ground sirloin, three of chuck), and followed this basic recipe from Southern Living. We then used a measuring cup to scoop out a scant ¼ cup of the meat mixture to create uniform sliders. Once all the sliders were patted out and layered in a Tupperware container between sheets of wax paper, they went into the fridge while we focused on the toppings.
We decided on three options for the Slider Bar. Here’s what we came up with:
The Southern: Pimiento Cheese and Bacon
My Mom made some delicious pimiento cheese with sharp cheddar, and added some green chiles for a kick. We bought Oscar Mayer’s pre-cooked thick-sliced bacon to go with. Normally I’m not a fan of pre-cooked bacon (it looks more like a dog treat than people food), but for a burger bar, it’s a great go-to solution.
The Parisian: Caramelized Onions and Blue Cheese Spread
I’m not a fan of blue cheese, but I know most folks are, so I created this “cheat.” I mixed one container of crumbled blue cheese with one 8 oz container of low fat cream cheese and one 8 oz container of regular cream cheese. Salt, pepper, and a little stirring yielded a creamy, blue-cheesy tasting spread that got the message across without a pungent slap in the tastebuds. And the onions…wow. I sliced six HUGE onions and we took turns cooking them low and slow. Ninety minutes and three cases of carpal tunnel syndrome later, we had a delicious batch of thick, golden-sweet caramelized onions.
The Fiesta: Guacamole and Pepper Jack
You’re thinking, “Guacamole on a hamburger? What?” I’m telling you, it’s really good. Guacamole is like chicken salad, everyone has their own preferred recipe. I stick to the green family for mine, combining avocado with lime, scallions, cilantro, jalapeño, and of course, salt and pepper.
All of the specialty toppings were divided into the Villa Stoneware Bowls, covered with plastic wrap, and stashed in the fridge. Slider Bar Day 1: Done!
Slider Bar Prep: Day 2
The next day, my sister commandeered the grilling process, just because she knew it would make me crazy. Again, my stress was baseless. She successfully grilled 94 sliders, and we even got to relax and have a glass of rosé during the process. First rule of entertaining: Take some time to treat yourself.
While Jennifer grilled, Mom sliced tomatoes and onions, and I corralled the condiments. Now while it’s perfectly okay to throw bottles of ketchup and mustard on the table, we decided to step it up and decant the condiments into ramekins. It’s a little pretentious, yes, but it looks so much better!
Everything was done and ready to go, but something was missing. Having constructed two “Build-Your-Own” bars at past parties (grits and crostini), I’ve found that folks appreciate a starting point. So, I wrote the slider names on the marker board, placed it in the center of a charger, then made a sample of each burger and put them in front of the sign. We made a quick announcement to introduce the process, then we let the guests dig in.
Folks seemed to have a great time exploring the Slider Bar. And while many guests tried the recommended sliders, they had fun creating their own. I saw some Bacon and Blue Cheese, some BLT sliders, even some Guacamole and caramelized onions! People got adventurous, even mischievous…and it was really fun to watch. It took a little effort, but we honestly had fun cooking together, and of course, Dad is totally worth the effort!
Anyhoo, I would definitely recommend trying this at your next get-together. It’s a fun way to introduce your friends and family to new flavors while dressing up an old standby. You can easily adapt the idea for regular burgers if you want to cut down on your patty-patting.
Have fun this Labor Day Weekend, and be sure to make some mischief in the kitchen!
In addition the the Slider Bar, we made mini cupcakes for Dad’s birthday. Mom made the most AMAZING caramel icing. It was absolutely RIDICULOUS it was so good. And the best part — I got it on video! We’ll edit it together and do a post, that is…if I can re-create the recipe without scalding myself or burning the house down! Should be fun!
With all of the craziness, we didn’t get a pic of Jen. Probably because she was napping. Heh heh heh…just kidding. Seriously, she came up with a great idea, and she worked hard (to my surprise, because she has a history of convenient napping when it comes time to chop or clean) to make the Slider Bar happen. Thanks, Sissy!