In the past few weeks, I’ve co-hosted no less than three barbecues, which, as you know, is pretty atypical for me. I live in Manhattan, which means I have zero space in general, and even less space outdoors. However, I’ve recently discovered that across the Narrow Sea (aka the East River) lies Brooklyn, and there, one can get a little patio space or even *gasp* roof access. Aside from the views, which are plentiful and gorgeous, there are also patios! And roof access! And a grill bought for $10 from a neighbor that can feed 3-4 people at a time!
So, I’ve learned a few things about hosting cookouts. And since odds are high that you’re going to either host or attend some sort of outdoor food situation this weekend, here are some of my favorite tips, recipes and thoughts to help you survive (and enjoy!) this Fourth of July.
Last weekend, I co-hosted a barbecue for 30 people. Since our grill is pretty small, I opted to cook some of the food in the oven. (I’d highly recommend this if you’re cooking for a crowd or if you’ve got a smaller grill, since it takes the pressure off your grillers to get the fire started and feed hangry people immediately.)
These chipotle BBQ shortribs are a tried-and-true fave, and I still dream about these
oven-roasted spareribs, but this time around, I tried Smitten Kitchen’s oven barbecue chicken. She uses the same recipe that she uses for oven spareribs (her recipe, like mine, draws from Harold McGee’s NYT masterpiece), but applies them to chicken. I made 30-ish drumsticks, and finished them on the grill rather than in the broiler, and they disappeared in SECONDS.
It’s always helpful to have some hot dogs or sausages, which require prep work to cook, but I like to make my burgers by hand. My go-to (it’s blasphemous, I know) is 2 tablespoons of Worchestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder and a good heaping of freshly ground black pepper per pound, mixed gently into the meat. Form hockey puck-sized patties with a slight indent in the middle, then refrigerate. SALT ONLY RIGHT BEFORE YOU PUT THEM ON THE GRILL. Serious Eats explains why, but when you salt can make a huge difference in the juiciness of your burger.
Skewers are a great way to add vegetables to the menu. I love these chicken and pineapple kabobs, but in case you have some picky eaters who don’t believe grilled fruit can work with savory items (AHEM, mom!), I’ll be over your place to try Southern Living’s spicy glazed shrimp skewers, thank you.
No barbecue comes together without a good array of sides. And surprisingly enough, my total aversion to mayo hasn’t really stopped me from enjoying summer side dishes. No globby white potato or pasta salad here! Only a bright green pesto potato salad with green beans, a rainbow-hued coleslaw that’s spicy and bright and enough grain salads to get you through summer and beyond. A few of my favorite picnic sides:
Greek-style orzo salad
Fresh corn salad (grilled corn would also be BOMB here)
Summer lentil salad
Mexican-style quinoa salad
Shrimp and avocado salad
Mango salad with black beans (serve this with tortilla chips!)
Unfortunately, I’ve had to offload all dessert responsibilities on friends while hosting. Fortunately, my friends know exactly what I like. Namely easily transportable fruit-based desserts, like these:
Red White and Blue Berry Yogurt Cake
Berry Hand Pies
Lemon Bars with Olive Oil and Sea Salt
Strawberry Rhubarb Tartlets
No-Bake Macadamia Key Lime Pie Bars
Piña Colada Cheesecake Bars
Mini Berry Yogurt Cheesecakes
No barbecue is complete without booze. I’m sure there will be beers aplenty, but impress your guests with a cocktail or two. These blackberry brambles are heavenly on a hot day, but this champagne sangria is the real winner — a total crowd-pleaser AND you don’t have to make cocktails for a crowd.