The best way to make a gentleman’s dinner is to invite someone who you want to impress. But let’s be honest, there are days when it seems impossible to find the perfect guest list. When you’re at your wit’s end and out of ideas for invitees that would suit well with each other, turn back time by planning ahead: start with a good meal and take advantage of happy hour specials in your area..
I gathered a dozen or so guys for an evening of food and fellowship a few weeks ago. Aside from steak eating, whiskey drinking, and cigar smoking, the primary purpose was to offer support for a buddy who had been stuck in a rut. Knowing that we had all tried to reach out to him on an individual basis without much success, I decided to gather the soldiers for a gentleman’s dinner. Besides, I was in desperate need of a steak.
The advantage of living in Tennessee during this el nio is that our typically chilly and dreary autumn nights have been pleasantly mild. We were able to congregate in a field rather than around a dinner table as a result of this phenomena. Call me crazy, but a meal cooked over a campfire while sitting on tree stumps and struggling with paper plates trumps a gourmet supper any day.
Though I was confident in my ability to handle the food for this gentleman’s dinner, I made sure to delegate responsibilities to each man in the group, instructing them to bring items to support the cause, such as tables, chairs, firewood, coolers, plates, cold beer, lights, music, a generator, and so on. It was a potluck of sorts, with each guy contributing to the overall event.
I knew we’d pulled together an event not just for a friend, but also for ourselves, with steaks frying on cast iron, the scent of charcoal perfuming the cold, crisp air, and Del McCoury’s tenor bluegrass voice rising into the night.
That night, I ran into pals I hadn’t seen in about a year. Friendships that last. It wasn’t that we’d lost contact; rather, we’d let the necessities of life (job, family, travel, etc.) take precedence over the importance of brothers.
Those of you reading this who are in high school, on sports teams, or in university will find such a situation difficult to believe. After all, you’re essentially obligated to be around your friends all of the time. So, how did you wind yourself living in the same city as some of your closest friends and never seeing them? Wait a minute, gentlemen; the real world occurs, and it happens quickly.
The fact of the issue is that friendship must always be a top priority. It’s all part of our never-ending path of masculinity to be surrounded by guys who push, encourage, mentor, and call you out on occasion. If you don’t seek such advice, you won’t be able to progress. And this supper was a step in the right direction.
We realized — after the support session for said buddy had been done — that maybe we all needed such an evening of “therapy” as we sat around the campfire that evening, drinking bacon-infused bourbon with our tummies uncomfortably full — that perhaps we all needed such an evening of “therapy.” Because we all needed the meeting as much as our suffering brother, we agreed to have one at least once a quarter from that point on.
Many of you may get the guys together once in a while for fantasy football, a card game, or a movie, but I advise you to break that habit every now and again. Instead, have supper. Grill some steaks, go outdoors, drink a few of bourbons, and enjoy each other’s company. Share jokes, laugh, and tell tales. Use these opportunities to build deeper, more meaningful connections.
In the end, I believe you will discover that we all want for genuine friendships just as much as we yearn for a delicious dinner. Below you’ll discover both the instructions for our gentleman’s supper as well as some dish suggestions for the occasion. This isn’t to say that you should do precisely what we did (though you certainly may! ), but rather to encourage you to do something similar that would suit with your group of brothers.
How to Host a Great Gentleman’s Dinner
1) Don’t be concerned about overcomplicating things. The objective of a meal like this is to enjoy each other’s company; wonderful cuisine is merely the cherry on top. Below is one of my favorite meals, which I often repeat since it’s so traditional and well-liked.
2) Everyone must contribute. Assign each guy a chore (a dish to share, an additional cooler, cleaning up, etc.) so that everyone contributes and bears some responsibility. There’s something more genuine about having everyone chip in rather than having one person do all the work or pay for everything.
3) Put the cotton in your mouth after removing it from your ears. Take advantage of this opportunity to learn more about people and sit next to someone you haven’t seen in a long time. Alternatively, you may just hold back some of your own experiences and interactions to allow others to shine. Of course, you may always end the night like George Costanza and leave on a high note!
4) Establish a reasonable objective for carrying on the tradition. Once a month is definitely achievable for people who are early in their professions and do not have families. Others may make it a quarterly or, at the very least, bi-annual ritual. Also, don’t get too wrapped up in selecting the ideal date. Life is unpredictable, and not everyone will be able to attend every event. Simply keep going.
5) Have a good time. I know that seems incredibly basic and foolish, but I’m serious. Turn off your phone. Take in the present. Relax and remember that these are rare opportunities that should be savored. Finish your evening with gratitude and humility, rather than regretting that you didn’t take that late-night business call that wasn’t all that essential.
A Gentleman’s Dinner Menu Suggestion
Angus Rib-Eyes Charcoal Grilled
Preparation time: 10 minutes Total time: 45 minutes 8 people
- 4 rib-eye steaks (12 oz. each), 1.5 inch thick
- 4 tbsp olive oil (extra virgin)
- 2 tbsp. black pepper, freshly ground
- kosher salt, 2 tbsp.
- Allow 30 minutes for the meat to come to room (or field!) temperature. Preheat the charcoal grill or smoker to 350°-400° in the meanwhile (medium-high). (The coals will be entirely ashy.) Brush both sides of the steaks with oil and season with salt and pepper.
- 3 minutes on the grill, covered with the grill lid. Cook for another 2 minutes, covered, after rotating the steaks 45 degrees to create excellent grill marks. Turn the steaks over and cook for 3 minutes longer, covered, or until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the steak registers 135°F (medium-rare). Cover loosely with aluminum foil and transfer steaks to a chopping board. Allow for a 5-minute rest period.
- Season the steaks on both sides with salt. Before serving, place steaks on serving plates or cut diagonally across the grain into thin slices.
Tequila-Lime Butter + Grilled Corn
30 minutes to prepare Total time: 37 minutes 8 people
- 8 ears fresh corn (husks removed)
- 12 cup softened unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon jalapeño pepper, seeded and coarsely diced
- 1 tablespoon lime zest
- 12 teaspoon lime juice
- 1 tablespoon tequila
- 12 teaspoon kosher salt (for butter)
- kosher salt, 1 tsp (for corn)
- Get the corn ready. Preheat the grill to 300-350 degrees Fahrenheit (medium). Pull the husks down while keeping them connected and unbroken; discard the silks. Pull the husks back up over the corn to cover it. Place corn in a large bowl or stockpot, thoroughly immersed in salted water, and set aside for 10 minutes.
- Prepare the tequila-lime butter in the meanwhile. In a small bowl, whisk together the butter and the following 5 ingredients with a wooden spoon until well combined. Place the butter mixture on plastic wrap and roll it up firmly to make a log. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Take the corn out of the water. Grill the husks in their husks, covered, for 15-20 minutes or until browned, flipping every 5 minutes. Fold back or remove the husks from the corn and place it on a serving platter.
- Cut the butter mixture into eight equal pieces. Spread 1 piece on each cob until thoroughly melted, then flip to coat each cob. Serve immediately.
Baked Beans from the Kitchen Sink
Preparation time: 10 minutes Total time: 60 minutes 6–8 people
- 1 tbsp olive oil (extra virgin)
- 12 finely diced Vidalia or sweet onion (medium)
- 12 finely chopped green bell pepper
- 2 minced garlic cloves
- 12 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 can (15 oz.) black beans, washed and drained
- 1 can great northern beans (15.8 oz.) drained and rinsed
- 1 (16 oz.) can drained and rinsed black kidney beans
- a third of a cup of ketchup
- 14 cup vinegar-based barbecue sauce (bottled)
- 14 cup sugar (dark brown)
- 14 cup molasses (mild)
- Worcestershire sauce, 1 tbsp
- 12 teaspoon mustard (yellow)
- 4 slices hickory-smoked bacon
If you’re in a kitchen, follow the steps below. If you’re cooking them outside, warm them up in a dutch oven over hot coals.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat for 1 minute, or until hot, then pour in the oil. Stir in the onion and the next three ingredients, and cook for 7 minutes, or until the onion is soft and transparent.
- Combine the black beans and the other 8 ingredients in a mixing bowl. Bacon pieces should be placed on top. Place skillet in oven and bake for 30 minutes at 350°.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F and bake for 18 minutes, or until the bacon is crisp. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Old Fashioned with Bacon
When it comes to bacon, we Southerners are continually coming up with new ways to prepare it. Adding bacon taste to bourbon, for example. That’s what gives this classic drink a new lease of life.
Adding Bourbon to the mix
- In a pan, cook 4 to 5 strips of your favorite hickory-smoked bacon, then devour that scrumptious bacon. Mmmm.
- In a 4-cup glass measuring cup, pour 1 complete bottle (750ml) of your preferred bourbon, as well as the bacon drippings from the pan (or other container). Allow to sit for 24 hours at room temperature.
- After that, place the container in the freezer for a few hours. Remove it from the pan and skim off the bacon grease (it will congeal and separate from the alcohol).
- To eliminate any particles, pour the ice-cold bourbon into a glass jar via a cheesecloth-lined strainer. Your bourbon now has a smokey bacon fat taste that you can use in all of your favorite drinks.
Old Fashioned with Bacon
- 12 tsp. granulated sugar or 1 sugar cube
- Angostura bitters, 2-3 dashes
- 14 cup bourbon laced with bacon
- Bacon strip, orange peel strip, or maraschino cherry as a garnish
- To release flavors and combine ingredients, muddle sugar, bitters, and 1 tsp water in an old-fashioned glass. Swirl the sugar mixture around the inside of the glass to coat it.
- Pour 1 big ice cube into the glass and top with bourbon.
- Serve right away.
Serve right away.
Matt Moore is the author of A Southern Gentleman’s Kitchen and a frequent contributor to the Art of Manliness.