Friday, July 1, 2011

July 4th Menu Ideas: What are our fave Chefs Serving?

Apologies to the original thirteen colonies...only had room for six lines of strawberries!

"It started in the thirteen colonies..." sang my teen son spontaneously when I showed him my invention...  Inspired by the flags and bunting going up around towns and cities the length and breadth of the U.S., I crafted a July 4th cake.  I used a rectangular slab of butter cake, repeated Keri's heavenly whipped cream recipe comprising heavy cream, mascarpone, vanilla essence and icing sugar (almost a dessert unto itself!) and got creative with local Jersey blueberries and strawbs.

July 4th is far and away one of our favorite holidays as everyone goes crazy with the red, white and blue decorations.  Aside from Thanksgiving, it's also the time when people throw open their doors and welcome friends and family to celebrate the holiday through food.  Chefs and amateur enthusiasts make a bee line for the grill, with the emphasis being on fast and easy food that maximizes the time in the sunshine or on the beach.

We asked some of our favorite local chefs what they'll be serving on this quintessentially American celebration, and here's what they said:

Michael Santoro, Exec Chief at Talula's Garden will be grilling ribs for his crowd.  He favors a charcoal/spit arrangement and uses a Memphis-style preparation--a dry rub on the ribs and a vinegar mop.

Chef Bill Beck of Beck's Cajun Cafe is planning a barbecued brisket.  He'll coat the entire brisket with his signature spice blend Devil Dust, and let the meat sit for a day.  After bringing it to room temperature, Bill grills the brisket slowly over indirect heat  at about 220 degrees for several hours.  When the meat is fork tender, it's done.  Don't have a huge crowd or long hours to prep this?  Cheat with a flank steak.  It still needs a slow cook, but not nearly as long as the thick, bulky brisket.

Chef Jack McDavid hasn't committed to a particular dish, but we know it will involve his justifiably famous signature barbecue sauce.

Chef Wallace McIlhenny
Chef Wallace McIlhenny is offering his guests a grilled pork tenderloin topped with peach salsa (below).  We're guessing he'll coat the pork with salt, pepper, and garlic, then wrap it in cellophane for a few hours.  To grill it, we'd bring the meat to room temp, sear it on a hot grill, then lower the temperature or move the meat to the side of the grill on indirect heat for even, thorough cooking.  The pork should be  turned frequently til cooked through--depending on its size, 20-30 minutes.  It should reach an internal temperature of 140 when done.  Let it sit for 5 minutes before slicing to lock in juices.  Slice on a slight diagonal and serve with peach salsa.

For the salsa:
6 peaches, peeled and diced
1 jalapeno, diced fine (include seeds and stem if you want extra heat)
2Tbs red onion, diced
2Tbs lime juice
1Tbs chopped basil
1Tbs chopped mint
1Tbs grated ginger
1Tbs sugar
A little salt and pepper
A  splash of EVOO
Mix all ingredients together and let stand one hour.   For some extra seasonal flair and color, you can also add 1/2 cup pitted chopped cherries.

As for me, I'll be serving Mexican pulled pork.  Ok, it's not exactly traditional American, but it's delicious, economical, simple to prepare, and crowd pleasing.
Mise in place for the Mexican Pulled Pork

Use the same preparation recommended for our Southern pulled pork, but substitute a generous coating of cumin, garlic powder, salt, and ground chipotle or ancho pepper for the seasonings.  Toss a few dried chilis into the pan.  For the braising liquid, squeeze a couple of limes over the meat and add a 1/2 bottle of beer.  After pulling, serve pork in warmed corn or flour tortillas with your choice of salsas if desired.  A simple green salad is really all you need to accompany this, but rice and beans pairs well with this dish.   For a real wow-zer, try this creamy cilantro lime slaw as a side.   (I often substitute red cabbage for the green--the color is beautiful and it really 'pops' on the table.)  I might try Chef McIlhenny's peach salsa with this dish....hmmmm sounds intriguing.
Cilantro-lime slaw.

Your guests will be impressed, I promise.

Happy Fourth of July!

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