A Moveable Feast
A Family Affair
Add some personality to your annual wienie roast
Damn. Just as you start to relax after making it through Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, yet another less-than-meaningful holiday is upon us. The Fourth of July and all its quasi-patriotic entailments are giving you the stink eye. It’s time to scrape last year’s gunk off the grill, knock the dust off the mismatched patio furniture and fill your Frigidaire with cheap beer.
So this year, let's pledge to serve food that is just as colorful as the people who will be eating it. You know what I’m talking about. Every holiday cookout brings together those people we wish we didn’t know: our families. That strange hodgepodge of personalities that throws to the wind everything we know about genetics will be gathered in our backyards, setting off more fireworks than the local amusement park and eating everything in sight. For your amusement and pleasure we have put together the finest offerings from those all too common family types that will be lowering the bar at your star-spangled shindig.
“I Swear I’m Not Gay” Crudités
We all have a relative that's so gay Rupaul’s greatest hits play as he walks by. Still, he does his best to play it straight at these family functions, so as not to offend the delicate sensibilities of the older generations. They consider his eccentricities to be the predictable result of his codependent, overbearing mother. Of course, you love him dearly for who he is and not just because he always brings the best dishes to family get-togethers. You also love him for the entertainment factor he contributes when he quick-as-lightning plucks cousin Bubba’s unruly eyebrows into beautiful St. Louis Arches.This flamboyant veggie tray requires a little more work than the usual chop-and-serve method, but it'll knock the stockings off your guests. The multicolored beans are unexpected and, to many people, unknown. Look for them at specialty or gourmet stores, or check out your local growers' market.
Makes 8-10 generous servings
For the dip:
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the Crudités:
1/2 pound green beans
1/2 pound wax beans
1/2 pound purple wax beans
3 bunches mixed red and white radishes with greens attached
1) In a bowl, combine the parsley and garlic, mashing to a paste with kosher salt. Stir in mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese, anchovy paste, lemon juice and pepper, and season with more salt if needed. The dip can be made up to a week ahead, refrigerated. 2) Trim beans and prepare an ice bath (large bowl of ice and water). In a large pot of boiling, salted water, blanch the green and wax beans separately for 2 minutes each, or until crisp-tender. Immediately drain and transfer to ice bath. Purple beans should not be blanched or they will lose color. Drain beans and pat dry. 3) Trim radishes, leaving some small green leaves attached for appearance.4) Arrange crudités on platter around dip and serve.
Cousin Bubba’s Black and Bleu Burgers
No matter how hard you try, you can’t hate cousin Bubba. He’s crude. He’s coarse. He’s always in a sleeveless shirt. He regales your uptown friends with bar fight stories, illustrated with private showings of his latest war wounds. But put him in front of a grill, and he transforms into a culinary virtuoso. These burgers turn backyards into a five-star al fresco dining experience. By placing the Gorgonzola butter in the middle of the patties, you end up with a moist, flavorful burger that beats anything you can get from a drive-thru window. Try topping them with thinly sliced orange and yellow heirloom tomatoes and arugula, and please skip the catsup.
Makes 4 burgers
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
4 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1 pound ground Black Angus beef
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
4 hamburger buns
1) In a small bowl, mix together butter, Gorgonzola cheese crumbles, balsamic vinegar, garlic and parsley flakes. Chill for 10 minutes. 2) In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, scallions, salt, pepper and dry mustard. Set aside.3) Form butter mixture into 4 balls, about 1-2 tablespoons each. (If bleu cheese makes you uneasy, use 1 tablespoon. If you're a big fan of bleu, go for 2 tablespoons.)4) Divide meat mixture into 4 portions. Form into patties around the butter balls: Place a butter ball in the center of each portion, then roll the meat around the butter and flatten. Brush both sides of the patties with olive oil.5) Cook the patties on a hot grill until desired degree of doneness is reached (approximately 5 minutes on each side for well-done). 6) Place burgers on buns and garnish as desired. Butter mixture that didn't come in contact with the raw meat can also be used as a burger topping.
Mommy Dearest’s Red, White and Blue Potato Salad
Mommy Dearest is a special kind of mother. She believes she single-handedly holds the family together by striving for perfection in everything she does, but we all know it’s the Xanax-Prozac cocktail that’s keeping her together. Her borderline personality disorder has her convinced that she must keep up appearances because all eyes are on her. She's half right. Everybody rolls their eyes as she endlessly rearranges the relish tray and mutters under her breath, “What would these idiots do without me?”This potato salad recipe uses three varieties of potato (red, white and blue) with a vinaigrette dressing that will serve to remind your guests why it is they're standing around your backyard drinking warm Pabst Blue Ribbon while Mommy Dearest frets about what the neighbors must be thinking.
Makes 8 servings
1 cup dry white wine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound small red potatoes
1/2 pound small white potatoes
1/2 pound small blue potatoes
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons grainy mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1) Place the wine and garlic into a large saucepan. Wash and slice the potatoes into 1/4-inch-thick rounds and add to the saucepan along with kosher salt. Add cold water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat then lower heat and allow potatoes to simmer. Cook potatoes until tender, about 5 minutes. Avoid overcooking—mushy potatoes will fall apart in salad. Drain the potatoes and return to the pan. Do not place pan back on burner. 2) In a large bowl combine the vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in the oil to make a smooth dressing. 3) Add the warm potatoes to the dressing and toss very gently to combine, taking care not to break up the potatoes. Add the celery and parsley, stir gently and serve.
Aunt Betty’s Bourbon Apple Pie
Aunt Betty is a lovable old drunk who finds nothing wrong with slipping a nip or two of scotch to her rambunctious little nieces and nephews. She's never far from the bar, and if the booze runs dry, no need to panic. She packs a bottle of her favorite cough syrup for just such an emergency. After plying her with gin she slurred her secret apple pie recipe to me. Turns out she accidentally spilled her hooch in the apples one year and turned a ho-hum pastry into a loaded, deep-dish delight. Even sober, making a pie from scratch can be a daunting task. No one will know if you cheat a little and snag a pre-rolled pie crust from your grocer’s refrigerator.
Makes 1 pie
For the pastry:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup vegetable shortening
3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter
4-6 tablespoons ice water
For the filling:
3 pounds mixed sweet and tart apples, unpeeled, halved, cored, and cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch slices
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
10-15 gratings nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
4-6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup fine Kentucky bourbon
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1) Preheat oven to 400°F. To make the pie pastry, stir together flour and salt in a bowl. Add half of the shortening and butter and cut in with a pastry blender or fork until the mixture's consistency is a coarse meal. Add remaining shortening and butter and cut in until pea-shaped particles form. Add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing and turning mixture lightly with fork to moisten dough evenly. Use only as much water as necessary for the dough to come together. 2) Gather the dough into a ball, divide in half and flatten each half into a thick disk. Wrap separately in plastic wrap. Chill for about 1 hour.3) To make filling, place apple slices in a large bowl. Sprinkle evenly with sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Toss to evenly coat the apples.4) In a large frying pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add apple slices and cook, turning as needed, for 5-10 minutes, or until apples begin to turn golden. Add bourbon and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until apples are soft and liquid is reduced to light syrup. Stir in orange zest. Let cool.5) To assemble and bake pie, place 1 dough disk on a lightly floured work surface and roll out to an 11-inch round, about 1/8-inch thick. 6) Drape flattened round over a rolling pin and transfer to a 10-inch pie pan, gently easing it into bottom and sides. Trim overhang so it extends about 1 inch beyond rim of pan, then fold edges under. Roll out the remaining dough disk in the same manner for top crust.7) Spoon filling evenly into pie shell. Drape second pastry round over a rolling pin and let it fall gently over the filling. Trim overhang so it extends about 1/2 inch beyond rim of pie pan, fold edge under and flute attractively. Cut a few small vents in top, then sprinkle surface with sugar.8) Bake for 10 minutes. Decrease heat to 350°F and continue to bake for 50 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Serve warm.