Friday, July 16, 2010

Cook for Independence!

Mmmmm. Fourth of July. Aaaaand instantly I'm thinking of smoky, tender barbecue and sweet summer pies.

Fourth. Of. July. Shhhhh.... relish the images for a second.

July 4th also happens to be my dad's birthday, so there's usually a small gathering of some sort at my parent's house in Jersey.

I think I should take a small detour right now to define a small gathering. To my dad, that means somewhere between 30 and 50 people. Blame it on the Italian heritage, but to my dad, everyone is like family and the table can always fit one more. Before any holiday where family gets together (which is basically all of them), my mom swears up and down that "it's going to be small this year, last year was too much work! We made too much food! We just want it to be us." And somehow, "us" always turns out to be neighbors, cousins, coworkers, second cousins, friends with nowhere else to go and whoever else my dad runs into at the supermarket.

Enter Jon and me. Finally! An opportunity to make copious amounts of food for all of those hungry guests/lab rats. Cooking for a big group of people is the ultimate test for your food. Sure, you can swear up and down that your food is amazing, but it's when you have 50 people (you know, just us) drooling over your collard greens, that you know you're on the right track.

The Fourth of July is EXTRA exciting because we get to make real, true barbecue! We have a smoker that was passed down to me from my uncle. I am not too sure how keen the Borough of Manhattan is about using one of these babies on your fire escape, so we are forced to leave it out in the 'burbs and wait for those special summer weekends to use it. It's like Christmas. In July.

So after days of menu planning, we pack up most of our spice rack, the fancy knives and the cats/furry children and ditch the city. We make the necessary trip to Fairway for a week's pay worth of goodies, then, let the cooking party commence!

4:30 am in Jersey. Jon's in the corner, starting up the smoker.

This year's feast included:
smoked whole turkey breast with simple seasonings
grass-fed beef brisket rubbed with toasted Costa Rican cocoa nibs
pork ribs with citrus ginger barbecue sauce- mom's specialty!
root beer baked beans
chipotle cole slaw
corn on the cob with honey chipotle butter
smoked jalapeno cheddar cornbread
sweet cherry pie
a partridge in a pear tree

(we went light this year)

The brisket and turkey had amazing flavor- just the right amount of smoke, spice and lovin'. We were saving the cocoa nibs for a smoked brisket and they were perfect. The meat cooked a little faster than Jon expected, so it was pretty dry, but was all devoured by happy eaters nonetheless. 

We smoked some jalapenos and habaneros and used the jalapenos in the cheddar cornbread. Devoured.

Root beer beans and cole slaw were spicy and delicious.

But the winner of the day were my mom's ribs. Her and I collaborated on the sauce- it was her usual kick-ass orange marmalade sauce and then I added in some Reed's ginger beer, Chinese five spice, and some other goodies. She broiled them and finished them on the grill... they were addictive! Over 70 ribs were gone. GONE. Soooo good. 

Then mom challenged Jon to a rib-off. I ofered to be the judge. 

Fortunately for the cooks but unfortunately for my camera, most of the food was out of the smoker and ovens, cut and served before I could snap photos of the pretty finished products. I did get the baked goods though.

Lemon poppy seed muffins with glaze

Sweet cherry pie


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