It’s here – the much-anticipated weekend of July 4th, 2011! It’s a weekend to entertain or be entertained. My homage to the birth of America is to celebrate with an all-American do-ahead menu. To begin, start with chips and dips of your choice.
Red, white and blue potato salad laden with fresh herbs and a tasty vinaigrette can be prepared up to a day ahead. Traditional American summertime favorites include burgers and ribs on the grill. If it’s burgers for the Fourth, season them with finely chopped shallots, a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce for a pound of ground chuck, salt, pepper and a splash of cream – yummy with sautéed onions and a dollop of ketchup. For long and slow-cooked ribs on the grill I turn to Steven Raichlen’s The Barbecue Bible (Workman, 1998), for his baby back ribs. Memphis style. Unless you’re a barbecue guru I highly recommend that you reference Raichlen’s techniques for foolproof grilling. Quench your thirst with ice tea and/or local beers from Southampton Publick House.
Chilled watermelon to cool and clear the palate is always welcome, but take the sweet ending to another level with a parfait of white chocolate mousse and fresh local berries. And have a Happy Fourth!
RED, WHITE AND BLUE POTATO SALAD
Yield: about 8 cups or 10 to 12 servings
2 1/2 pounds white, red and blue fingerling potatoes or an equal mix of Yukon gold, new
red and purple potatoes, scrubbed clean
2 to 3 tablespoons dry white wine
1/2 cup diced red onion
2 teaspoons grainy Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh chives
1. Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with cold water by and inch or two. Cover pan and bring to a boil over high heat; stir about 1 tablespoon salt into the water. Adjust heat to medium-high and cook the potatoes at a brisk simmer for 16 to 18 minutes until tender when pierced with a knife. Drain in a colander and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle with white wine and toss gently to mix. With fork and sharp knife cut the potatoes into bite-size pieces (I do this right in the bowl).
2. Meanwhile soak the onion in cold water in a small bowl for about 20 minutes (this softens the “bite” of the onion). Drain and dry in a clean kitchen towel. Add diced onion to the potatoes.
3. Whisk the Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar and olive oil in a separate bowl and add herbs, salt and pepper to taste. Scrape the dressing into the potato mixture and stir gently to mix with a rubber spatula. Taste for seasoning and transfer to a covered container; refrigerate. Can be prepared up to one day ahead. Bring to room temperature and taste for seasoning before serving.
BABY BACK RIBS, MEMPHIS STYLE
Steven Raichlen wrote the ultimate cookbook on barbecue!
Serves 6 to 8
4 to 6 pounds baby back ribs
1/4 cup paprika
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoon each celery salt, cayenne, garlic powder, dry mustard, ground cumin
1. Remove the thin papery skin from the back of the ribs by pulling it off in a sheet with your fingers, using the corner of a kitchen towel to gain a secure grip, or with pliers. Combine the ingredients for the rub in a small bowl and stir to mix. Rub two thirds of this mixture on both sides of the ribs, transfer to a Pyrex (lasagna-size) dish, cover and refrigerate for 4 to 8 hours.
2. Set up grill for indirect grilling by placing a large drip pan on the bottom center grate. Place charcoal or wood chips in the bottom of a chimney starter (most favored by grill buffs) and pile a few sheets of crumpled newspaper on top. Place the chimney on the upper grate. Touch a lit match to the paper and soon the coals will be blazing. When the coals are ready – this could take about 20 minutes – lift the chimney and dump out the coals on either side of the drip pan. Place the food on the grate. If using a charcoal grill, preheat to medium. If using a gas grill, pre-heat grill to high: when smoke appears, reduce the heat to medium.
3. If using wood chips such as hickory or mesquite presoak chips in a smoker box (for gas) or aluminum loaf pan (for charcoal) for 20 minutes, then place over the ashen coals. For charcoal preheat grill to medium and toss half the wood chips on the coals. For gas, preheat grill to high: when smoke appears, reduce heat to medium.
4. Arrange ribs on the hot grate over the drip pan or unheated side if gas. Cover the grill and smoke-cook the ribs for 1 hour.
5. Toss remaining chips on the fire if using charcoal or wood chips. Continue cooking the ribs until tender and almost done, about 1/2 to 1 hour longer for baby back ribs, somewhat longer for spareribs. If using charcoal, keep adding a few coals to the side of the grill until meat is completely tender and has shrunk back from the ends of the bones. Transfer to a cutting board and slice between the ribs for serving.
The Fourth of July means picnics, parties and tasty treats. If parfait glasses are not available
simply top the berries with the creamy white chocolate mousse.
3 to 3 1/2 ounces fine quality white chocolate
1/2 cup thick crème fraîche
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup fresh strawberries, hulled and rinsed
1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed
Grated rind of 1 lemon
1 to 2 teaspoons brandy, optional
Extra whole strawberries for garnish
1. Break up the chocolate into small pieces and put into a mixing bowl large enough to straddle a saucepan. Put about 1/4 cup water in the saucepan and place the bowl with the chocolate over the pan. Place over low heat to melt the chocolate. Watch carefully as chocolate melts, then stir to a smooth cream. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
2. Whip the crème fraîche with the sugar until fluffy. Add the cooled chocolate in a thin steady stream whisking until smooth.
3. Slice the strawberries and mix with the blueberries. Add lemon rind and brandy, if using, and gently stir to mix. To assemble the parfaits, alternately layer the mousse with the mixed berries in parfait glasses or top berries with the mousse. Garnish with whole strawberries, if desired.