Folks, the Fourth of July is just a day away. What are you doing this year? Are you planning a festive party? Are you attending a picnic and need to bring a covered dish? Or, are you just staying at home, having a little cookout before you make your way to State College for the Fourth Fest fireworks spectacular?
No matter what you do, I have some recipes that will burst with flavor, just like those fireworks you’ll be watching.
Hosting a party? As I’ve said before, let the stores help you. Purchase those veggie and fruit trays, chips and barbecue sauce — anything that makes less stress for you. Don’t forget the stores will have great desserts that are festive and will be one fewer thing you need to worry about.
One great idea for a party is to have a hot dog bar. Cook the dogs, set them on a plate and have a plethora of toppings for your crowd. Everybody will love making their own creations.
Don’t want to go the traditional route? Make a nacho bar — people still have fun making their own and even the adults will be acting like kids in a candy store.
Another tip: Just buy red, white and blue solid-colored napkins, cups and plates. They will cost less than the Fourth of July-themed items and if you have leftovers you can reuse them for Valentine’s Day, Christmas, etc.
Now, let’s get to my great crowd-pleasing recipes. These are those heavy hitters that will have everyone asking you for the recipes.
BIG BANG POTATO SALAD
Start to finish: 30 minutes
1 pound red potatoes cut into 2-inch chunks
1/2 pound green beans, clean and trimmed
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon dill weed
Juice of 1 lemon, plus 1 teaspoon grated zest
Freshly ground pepper
Cover the potatoes with cold water in a large pot and salt the water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
After 6 minutes, add green beans and cook until crisp-tender. Drain in a colander. Run potatoes and green beans under cold water to stop cooking and pat dry.
Mix the mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, dill, lemon juice and zest, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and pepper to taste in a bowl. Add the potatoes and green beans; season with salt and pepper and toss.
Serve at room temperature
FIRECRACKER RED HIGHBALL
Start to finish: 10 minutes
2 cups watermelon cubes
2 tablespoon sugar
1 cup vodka
Juice of 2 lemons
1 1/2 cups unflavored sparkling water
1/2 cup pineapple juice
Blend the watermelon cubes with the sugar in a food processor or blender. Strain through a fine sieve once blended.
Add strained mixture into a pitcher with vodka, pineapple juice and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Stir to combine.
Pour mixture among 4 highball glasses. Add 3 to 5 ice cubes to each. Fill each to the brim with sparkling water. Stir to combine.
Feeling festive? Use a lemon to wet the edge of the glass and rim it in blue sugar.
FIRECRACKER SHRIMP OR CHICKEN
Start to finish: 30 minutes
1/2 pound large shrimp, peeled with tails on and deveined or 1/2 pound of chicken breast sliced to the size of shrimp
1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Dash of cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons garlic, grated
1 teaspoon cornstarch
12 egg roll wrappers, cut in half into 2 triangles
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons cornstarch
oil for frying
sweet chili sauce for dipping
Marinate shrimp or chicken in mixture of sweet chili sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and cayenne in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Shake any excess marinade off of the protein. Wrap in the egg roll wrappers, leaving the tails out if using shrimp, and seal the wrapper with a mixture of the water and the cornstarch.
Fry the stuffed egg rolls in small batches in oil over medium-high heat until golden brown, crispy and cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes for shrimp and 3 to 6 minutes for chicken, depending on the thickness. Set aside on paper towels to drain.
This will be a firework explosion of flavor and, trust me, it seems a whole lot harder than it actually is.
Happy Fourth of July!