With Memorial Day and the unofficial start of summer/ official start of the summer BBQ season just a few days away at the end of this holiday weekend, let’s get you ready for the big backyard BBQ Monday.
Appetizers: Being a fan of dips, hummus, salsa, and guacamole are pivotal. Take some pita bread or corn tortillas, fry them in hot oil, and call them chips, instead of the usual Tostitos variety. For the guacamole, make sure there are plenty of tomatoes and a cup or so of fresh lemon juice per avocado to be mashed together. For the hummus, purée 1/3 cup lemon juice, 1/3 cup Tahini, with a 15 oz. can of dried chickpeas. Feel free to add any embellishments. I’m a big fan of turmeric or curry powder added to the chickpea mix.
This year, try Melissa Clark of The New York Times‘ fun spicy/sweet/salty nuts mix to munch on. You can’t go wrong with anything goat cheese stuffed or bacon wrapped. Perhaps bacon wrapped prawns and goat cheese stuffed dates? Or bacon wrapped dates and goat cheese stuffed…that doesn’t work for prawns.
You certainly want some chicken wings too, perhaps with Sriracha based marinade to jazz up the BBQ. The centerpiece of the BBQ is obviously the grilled items. My usual recommendation is my Missouri style pork spare ribs, always a good decision when it’s grilling weather. Perhaps this year, you’re in a steak mood. Flank steak would be a terrific choice.
Or how about that Minneapolis staple, the Juicy Lucy? It’s a personal family favorite, pioneered by my brother. Marinade the top sirloin meat in soy sauce, liquid smoke, and honey. Then stuff the 8 oz. patties with Humboldt Fog bleu cheese or another Chèvre or a Gorgonzola. Grill the burgers over a hot flame to medium rare so that the cheese doesn’t melt too much inside, you don’t want it to be a sauce. Sauté some mushrooms to top the burger, along with fresh sliced Roma tomato and arugula. Now I’m hungry.
I’m a big fan of La Condesa in Austin, Texas’ Brussels sprouts with bacon and grapes and my obligatory family potato salad as Memorial Day staples. The potato salad marries plenty of mayonnaise and mustard, with chopped hard boiled eggs, pickles, and celery, all topped with lots of paprika. Baked beans should play a part as well. Since it’s too early for corn, you should lean on asparagus based sides, such as this asparagus with polenta from the Los Angeles chef Joe Miller. That dish gets double seasonal points from the English peas. How about some fava bean dotted quinoa for some seasonal, healthful cooking?
Now dessert. Is this a question? Pie of course, specifically berry pies for this time of year. I’m a blueberry pie kind of guy, but perhaps an apricot raspberry pie?
To drink, start with the usual standards of Sangria, Pimms Cups, or a Gimlet livened up with fresh basil. Personally, an Americano seems right at home to pique your palate pre- BBQ, with equal parts Campari and sweet vermouth, topped with soda.
It’s a BBQ, so beer should be on hand that isn’t exactly 11% ABV strength to make your afternoon turn into a lengthy siesta. Try a great session beer like the Victory Prima Pils or a Hefeweizen (my favorite is the Craftsman Brewing version from Pasadena, CA, but it isn’t available by the bottle. In that case, try the Franziskaner).
When it comes to wine, it’s all about Pinot Noir (run, don’t walk for the Penner Ash Pas de Nom), or beautifully fermented reds such as this week’s wine of the week, the Alvarelhao from Forlorn Hope Wines.
Then, close with some nice Michter’s Kentucky Single Batch Rye, or your favorite Bourbon…or Limoncello, always my favorite palate cleanser and digestif.
Whatever you choose to serve this Memorial Day, happy grilling and have a most wonderful holiday weekend!