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Burning question: How can a host enjoy the BBQ?

A boneless, butterflied leg of lamb is perfect

A boneless, butterflied leg of lamb is perfect for the grill. (July 2010) Credit: MCT/Chicago Tribune

I'm throwing a barbecue for a crowd. How can I impress my guests while still enjoying myself at the party?

This question came from a friend who is an accomplished, enthusiastic cook but nevertheless does not want to spend the afternoon slaving over a hot grill. I gave him two pieces of advice: Grill only one thing, and make everything else in advance.

For the one grilled thing, we agreed on butterflied leg of lamb. One 4-to-5-pound leg will serve 10 to 12 people, and it's much easier to deal with than a whole slew of chops: Grill it for 25 minutes and then slice. The same theory applies to flank or skirt steaks -- easier to deal with than bone-in steaks. Or you could buy a couple of big coils of sausage from the Italian pork store. (Turkey or chicken sausage is a good option for red-meat avoiders.)

My friend likes the pace of a multicourse meal, so he is going to begin with gazpacho (made the day before), a chilled glass of which will be set at everyone's place before they sit down. Then, guests will be invited to a buffet, where the lamb will be accompanied by a number of dishes that were made over the last two days and are meant to be served at room temperature: roasted eggplants with yogurt sauce and pomegranate seeds, carrots with cumin, farro with roasted red peppers and black olives, a salad of green beans, snow peas and peas. Finally, cake and ice cream.

I recently noticed that Friendship cottage cheese lists carbon dioxide as an ingredient. Is this safe?

It is. If you've ever drunk soda, or sparkling water or beer, you've ingested CO2 (carbon dioxide). According to Paige Pistone, a brand manager for Friendship Dairies' parent company, Dean Foods, "the amount of CO2 in our cottage cheese is about 10 percent of what's in one serving of beer."

Pistone explained that for cottage cheese to have any kind of shelf life, it must contain something to inhibit the growth of mold. Friendship has always used CO2, rather than other added preservatives. "Carbon dioxide naturally occurs in cow's milk, she said, "but it's lost in the cheese-production process, so we add a little back in. Sour cream and buttermilk both retain their CO2, and so we don't have to add it to those products."

Pistone said cottage cheese manufacturers didn't use to include CO2 in their ingredients lists, but that over past few years, "FDA labeling requirements have gotten tighter." Around the time Friendship was bought by Dean in 2007, the inclusion was made.


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