Memorial Day Menu 1 – A Simple Backyard Barbecue

Oh my goodness, where has the time gone?  Next weekend is Memorial Day – the unofficial “official” start of the grilling season! It’s time to get busy. I’ve got menus to prepare, recipes to try out. Love it when the creative juices start to flow.

memorial day decorating ideasThis first menu is simple, straight forward and fun. It’s been a classic in our house for Memorial Day Backyard barbecues for years. There’s nothing like a simple family barbecue “down on the farm”. Good burgers, wedge cut fries and a simple home-made French Vanilla Ice Cream topped with succulent berries – blueberries and strawberries will bring that Red, White and Blue theme to the menu. The nice thing about this particular menu is that there isn’t a lot of work. The ice cream is started the day before, so that’s one less thing to do on the holiday itself. Burgers and oven roasted fries are simple. You can prepare all the garnishing early in the morning, then bring it out just before serving. Even the potatoes can be prepped early in the day.  Once the potatoes are cut, simply leave in a bowl of cold water until ready to bake. All that is left to do is decorate, to set the mood so to speak. It’s amazing how simple decorating can be – the internet is bursting with all sorts of clever ideas. Red, white and blue abound in the party supply stores, craft aisles and grocery markets.

As always with my menus and recipes, the point is to have fun. Add your own spin. Embrace your creative side and go with it.

French Vanilla Ice Cream
2 1/2 cups half-and-half cream
8 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
4 teaspoons vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 pint Strawberries, hulled
1 pint Blueberries, rinsed well

DAY BEFORE:
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the half & half until very hot but not boiling, stirring often. Remove from heat, set aside.

Place egg yolks and sugar in mixer bowl. Whip using whip attachment on low/medium speed 30 seconds or until well blended and slightly thickened.

Continuing on low/medium speed very gradually add the warm half & half and mix until blended.
Return mixture to the saucepan over medium heat stirring constantly until small bubbles form around the edge of pan and the mixture is steamy. DO NOT BOIL.

Transfer the half-and-half/egg mixture to a large glass bowl and stir in whipping cream, vanilla and salt. Cover with plastic wrap and chill thoroughly, at least 8 hours.

DAY OF:
Pour into your ice cream maker and process as directed or until desired consistency.

To serve soft, immediately transfer to serving dishes. For harder ice cream, freeze in an airtight freezer container at least 2 hours.

Garnish ice cream with fresh berries and enjoy!

Deluxe Burgers for 8
2 lbs Lean Ground Beef
2 lbs Ground Chuck
4 Teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
3 Teaspoons Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
8 Slices of Sharp Cheddar Cheese
8 Kaiser rolls or other hearty buns

Garnish Bar
8 Green or Red Leaf Lettuce Leafs
2 Beef Steak Tomatoes, sliced
1/2 Cup Dill Pickle Chips
Mustard, in a squeeze bottle or small bowl
Mayonnaise, in a squeeze bottle or small bowl
Ketchup, in a squeeze bottle or small bowl
1 or 2 Large Red Onions, sliced and grilled
2 Avocado (firm but ripe)
Lemon juice (optional to prevent avocados from turning brown)
Olive oil

Special Equipment
8 Bamboo Skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes

THINGS TO DO IN ADVANCE:
Place 2 lbs of ground beef in a large bowl. Add Worcestershire Sauce and seasonings. DO NOT MIX. Top with remaining 2 lbs of ground beef. This puts your seasonings in the MIDDLE of the meat, making it easier to fully incorporate everything.

Use your hands to mix seasonings in well into the meat. Divide meat mixture into two halves.

Form 1st half into a large ball, then quarter the ball for even distribution. Form each quarter into a hamburger patty. Patty should be thicker on outer edge, thinner in middle to allow for even cooking.

Repeat with remaining ground beef. Burgers can be formed in advance, place waxed paper between burgers and refrigerate. The patties can be made the morning of or even the day before. Wrap well with plastic wrap and place on a plate in the refrigerator.

Prepare a platter with lettuce leaves, sliced tomatoes and small ramekins or bowls with mustard, mayonnaise and/or Ketchup. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Scrub potatoes, dry and cut into “wedge” style potatoes (8-10 wedges per potato). Place wedge-cut potatoes in a large bowl of cold water and let soak for several hours before proceeded. This allows plenty of time to decorate or just relax.

Soak bamboo skewers in water for at least 30 minutes. (Try to find thin skewers if possible).
Slice red onion into 8 thick slices; plate and set aside. (Think of the onion slices as lollipops – later you’ll want to thread them onto the bamboo skewers for grilling.  It’s important to keep that in mind when slicing the onions – too thin and they will break apart when skewering).

Cut avocados in half, remove pit. Slice soft part of avocado into wedges without cutting through the skin. Brush with lemon juice and set aside until ready to grill.

THINGS TO DO AT GRILLING TIME:
Build a nice bed of coals. Let burgers come to room temperature while grill is heating, about 20 minutes.

Thread sliced onion onto each skewer, pushing the skewer carefully toward the center of the slice (again, think lollipop). Brush onion with olive oil to prevent sticking.

Brush avocado wedges with olive oil to prevent sticking.

Place burgers and skewered onions on grill. Grill burgers 5-6 minutes per side, turning once. Grill onions with burgers, turning as needed to prevent burning.

Brush avocados with olive oil and place skin side up on warming tray of grill or off-side for indirect cooking. Grill for about 5 minutes, turning once.

When burgers are cooked through, transfer to a platter, top with cheese (if desired) and tent loosely. Allow to rest 5 minutes to retain juices.

Remove onions and avocados, CAREFULLY remove from skewers and skins, then set on platter with other condiments.

Brush buns lightly with olive oil. Grill buns, cut side down, until golden, 2-3 minutes. Plate buns & call everyone to build their burgers. Serve with Wedge Cut Garlic Fries.

 

Wedge Cut Garlic Fries
4-6 Large Baking Potatoes, Scrubbed, Dried and cut into “wedge” style potatoes (8-10 wedges each)
Olive Oil for drizzling
Salt & Pepper to Taste
6 Tablespoons Butter
4-6 Cloves Garlic, chopped
A handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 teaspoon Smoked Paprika

30 MINUTES BEFORE GRILLING TIME:
Preheat oven to 425-degrees. Arrange the potato wedges on 2 baking sheet and toss to coat lightly in olive oil. Season liberally with salt and pepper and roast for 40-45 minutes, until deeply golden and crisp, turning once.

When the fries are done, melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat until it foams. Add the chopped garlic and swirl it around for a minute or two to infuse the butter. Toss the fries in large bowl with the garlic, butter, parsley and paprika. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve. Potatoes can be held in warm oven.

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