Best basics for Memorial Day: Burgers, chicken, chops

News-DemocratMay 20, 2013 

It's time to get back to the basics. Fancy food magazines and TV shows regale us with exotic ingredients and recipes, forgetting that the average cook wants to do his or her best, serve up good food and make guests happy.

None of that requires a Ph.D. in culinary bombasity!

So, for your Memorial Day weekend party, stick to the basics: Excellent fried chicken, perfect pork chops, a great burger, a beautiful fruit salad, a few sides -- like vegetable kebobs -- and a classic dessert done three ways.


chile dry rub:

2 tablespoons sweet paprika

1 tablespoon kosher salt or coarse sea salt

1 tablespoon ground chipotle chile

1 tablespoon ground dried mild to medium-hot red chile, such as New Mexican, ancho or pasilla, or a combination of these chiles

1 teaspoon ground cumin

3/4 teaspoon sugar


4 bone-in center-cut pork chops ( 3/4-inch thick, 10 to 11 ounces each)

Vegetable oil spray

Favorite barbecue sauce (optional)

At least 2 hours and up to 8 hours before you plan to grill the pork chops, combine the dry rub ingredients in a small bowl. Coat the chops with the spice mixture, place them in a zipper-top plastic bag, and refrigerate.

Fire up the grill, bringing the temperature to medium.

Remove the chops from the refrigerator and let them sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

Sprits the chops with oil and transfer them to the grill. Grill, uncovered, for 20 to 23 minutes, turning three times while cooking. Rotate the chops a half turn each time for crisscross grill marks. The chops are done when barely white at the center with clear juices. (Don't confuse the colors of the rub and the juices.)

Serve the chops hot, with barbecue sauce on the side, if you wish. Makes 4 servings.

"100 Grilling Recipes You Can't Live Without: A Lifelong Companion" ($16.95, softcover, Harvard Common Press) by James Beard-winning authors Cheryl and Bill Jamison

Burgers with Sauteed Mushrooms, Arugula and Dijon Aioli

1 pound of lean ground beef

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons of unsalted butter

12 ounces of sliced baby bella mushrooms

4 ounces Fontina cheese, sliced

4 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, sliced

2 cups fresh arugula or other small, soft lettuce

1/2 lemon, juiced

4 whole-wheat buns, toasted

Mustard Aioli:

1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 large egg yolk

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard

1 tablespoon horseradish

Pinch of salt and pepper

Add ground beef to a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and mix it into the beef, then let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

While the beef is resting, add mushrooms to a large skillet over low heat. Add 1 tablespoon each of olive oil and butter, then add in mushrooms and stir to coat. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes until softened and juicy. Once soft, add a sprinkle of salt and pepper, turn off heat and keep covered.

While mushrooms are cooking, whisk together Dijon mustard, egg yolk and lemon juice in a large bowl until combined. Slowly stream in olive oil while continuously whisking until the mixture emulsifies and comes together completely. Whisk in whole grain mustard and horseradish, then taste and season with a little salt and pepper as desired. Set aside.

Toss the fresh arugula with the lemon juice and 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of butter. Form the beef into 4 equal patties, then add to the skillet and cook until they reach their desired doneness. For medium-well, about 5 minutes per side, but it will depend on how thick you like your burgers. In the last 1-2 minutes of cooking, top each burger with a few slices of both cheeses.

To assemble burgers, spread a bit of mustard aioli on the bottom of each bun. Top with the burger, then some mushrooms, some aioli and a handful of arugula. Yield: Makes 4 burgers.

Roasted Pepper and Basil Skewers

16 ounces mozzarella or Monterey Jack cheese, cut into 16 cubes

16 fresh basil leaves

2 roasted yellow peppers, each cut into 8 small squares*

16 cherry tomatoes

1/3 cup Italian vinaigrette

Thread all ingredients except dressing onto 16 small wooden skewers or toothpicks. Place in shallow dish. Add dressing; turn skewers to evenly coat ingredients with dressing.

Let stand at room temperature 20 minutes to marinate, turning occasionally.

Remove skewers from marinade just before serving; discard marinade. Serve.

*How to roast peppers: Preheat broiler. Place whole bell peppers or large chile peppers on foil-covered baking sheet. Broil, 4 inches from heat, 7 to 10 minutes, or until peppers are evenly blackened, turning occasionally. Place in paper bag; close bag. Let stand 20 minutes, or until peppers are cooled. Remove peppers from bag. Peel away blackened skins with small knife; discard skins. Cut peppers lengthwise in half; remove and discard seeds. Use roasted peppers as directed in recipe.


Skinny Ranch French Fries

3-4 small/medium potatoes

1 tablespoon dry ranch seasoning

1/2 teaspoon season all salt

Peel, wash and cut potatoes into strips. In a large ziploc bag place potatoes, ranch seasoning and season all salt. Zip up the bag and shake. When fries are coated place on a well-greased cookie sheet. (Olive oil cooking spray works well.) Spread out evenly. Place in the oven on broil for about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and flip the fries with a spatula. Place back in the oven on broil for another 4-7 minutes, depending on how crisp you want them. (They will cook faster the second time.) Remove and eat quickly. Keep your oven on warm to hold the fries until served. They cool quickly.

Pina Colada Fruit Salad

1 1/2 cups green grapes

1 1/2 cups seedless red grapes

1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

1 1/2 cups halved fresh strawberries

1 can (8 ounces) pineapple chunks, drained

1/2 cup fresh raspberries

1 can (10 ounces) frozen non-alcoholic pina colada mix, thawed

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup pineapple-orange juice

1/8 teaspoon almond extract

1/8 teaspoon coconut extract

In a serving bowl, combine the first six ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk the pina colada mix, sugar, juice and extracts until sugar is dissolved. Pour over fruit; toss to coat. Chill until serving.

Yield: 9 servings, each 3/4 cup with 196 calories, 2 grams fat, 12 mg sodium, 46 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 1 gram protein.

Simple & Delicious, May 2010

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