If you want to go all out this Memorial Day and put on a spread that is out of this world – have I got some ideas to share with you!
You can approach these recipes one of two ways – make huge portions, assuming that everyone will have their fill of everything on the buffet table or make a reasonable amount of each dish, assuming that not everyone will eat everything.
And by everything, I’m talking King Crab Legs, Smoked Ribs, Corn on the Cob, Bacon, Ham & Gruyère Sliders, Macaroni Salad, Potato Salad, Texas Ranch Beans and a Red-White and Blue Berry Trifle. And just for good measure, you could even grill up some All-American Hot Dogs for the kids in the crowd or the picky eaters.
While the recipes aren’t all that complicated, they take oodles and oodles of time. So you’ll need to pace yourself, do as much as possible the day before or early in the morning. Both the potato and macaroni salads are even more awesome (if that were possible) on day two, so those would be great to make a day ahead.
Crab legs come to us already cooked (unless you’re using fresh, live crab), so all we need do is thaw them in the fridge overnight and warm them before serving. The typical ways to warm crab legs are either to steam them or boil them. Both these methods are easy and quick. Another great way to warm the legs is to do so on the grill (my personal favorite) but you’ll have enough food to grill as it is, and crab legs take up a ton of grilling space. So why not warm them in a slow cooker? This works best with a large, oval slow cooker. By slowly warming the legs, it allows the flavors of the garlic-butter to better penetrate the shells and seep into the sweet, delicate meat. Besides, using a slow cooker means no tending, just start it and forget it for about four hours.
The ribs are best if rubbed the day before. Then remove from the refrigerator while the coals are prepared. The smoked ribs are going to take about three hours to cook, with very little tending, so that’s good. It will free you up to make the beans. The Texas Ranch Beans are going to take about four hours from start to finish (not including an overnight soak). The prep work is minimal. Honestly, the most difficult part of the beans will be the periodic tending to prevent the beans from burning – not a lot of work, just a watchful eye. (Another alternative would be to buy a couple of large cans of Ranch Style Beans, and warm them in a slow cooker. They will taste wonderful, can be served right from the pot and everyone will rave about all the fuss you must have gone through. I won’t tell if you won’t tell).
Your sliders can be assembled ahead of time, then popped into the oven shortly before serving. This give time to clean up the mess before the guests arrive. If you use a nice warming tray, you can serve the sliders straight from the oven.
The corn is really cool. It’s cooked in a cooler – yep, a cooler. This allows you to make a few dozen ears at once, and the cooler will keep the corn warm for hours. Just be sure to have a medium-size cooler well cleaned and have a big stock pot for heating the water.
Plan to make the berry trifle in the morning. Then just keep it in the refrigerator until serving time. It will be cold and refreshing.
As for the hot dogs, you’ll have room on the grill because the ribs are “smoked” over an indirect fire, then “steamed” in the oven for about twenty minutes to get them super moist and tender. While the ribs are steaming, spread out the coals and cook up the dogs.
Before we get down to all the yummy recipes, one last comment from the voice of experience – make as many dishes as you can handle without making yourself crazy. Recruit the assistance of family. Give yourself plenty of time, it’s not a race to the finish line. Pace yourself and remember to take deep breaths.
Mema’s Macaroni Salad
6 Eggs, hard-boiled
1 lb Salad Macaroni
¼ Cup Green Onions, finely chopped
¼ Cup Red onion, finely chopped
2 Celery Stocks, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon Dill Pickle Relish
1 ½ Cups Best Food Mayonnaise
½ Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste
¼ Cup Chopped Black Olives (Optional)
Peel hard-boiled eggs and set in refrigerator to cool completely
Cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water according to package directions. Drain and rinse well under cold running water. Set aside to continue draining.
In bowl, combine onions, celery, pickle relish, mayonnaise and red wine vinegar. Whisk to combine. Taste dressing and season with salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste. Adjust seasoning according to personal tastes.
Chop 4 eggs. Add to dressing. Cut V marks in remaining 2 eggs to create tulip flowers. Reserve 3 “flowers” for garnish, chop remaining “flower” and add to dressing mix. Taste dressing a second time, adjust seasonings as necessary.
Place macaroni in a large bowl. Pour egg dressing over macaroni and toss to coat. Smooth out top.
Using the back of a spoon, create 3 indentations in the top of the salad. Place Egg flowers into indentations. If desired, sprinkle lightly with paprika. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until well chilled.
Mema’s Potato Salad
3 lbs Yukon Gold Potatoes
4 Eggs, hard-boiled
1 Red Onion, minced
2 Celery Stocks, minced
1 Tablespoon Bacon Drippings, warm (Optional)
¼ Cup Parsley
1 Cup Mayonnaise
1 Tablespoons Mustard
2 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar plus a sprinkling for potatoes
Kosher Salt & Fresh Black Pepper to taste
Peel and slice potatoes into large chunks. Place potatoes in a stockpot and cover with 1-inch of salted water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are just tender but not soft, about 10-15 minutes. Drain well. Sprinkle LIGHTLY with red wine vinegar and set aside in refrigerator to cool.
Using a thin needle, carefully poke a tiny hole into the smaller end of the egg-shell. Place eggs in a saucepan, add cold water to cover eggs. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and cover. Let sit for 12-14 minutes, then plunge eggs into cold water to stop cooking process. Set in refrigerator to cool.
In bowl, combine onions, celery, bacon drippings, parsley, mayonnaise, mustard and red wine vinegar. Whisk to combine. Taste dressing and season with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.
Peel and chop 3 eggs. Add to dressing. Cut V marks in 4th egg to create two tulip flowers. Reserve 1 flower, chop other and add to dressing. Taste dressing a second time, adjust seasonings as necessary.
Place potatoes in a large bowl. Pour egg dressing over potatoes and toss to coat. Smooth out top. In the center, using the back of a spoon, create a small indentation. Place Egg flower into indentation. If desired, sprinkle lightly with paprika. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until well chilled.
Dry-Rubbed Smoked Ribs
3 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons salt
1 Tablespoon Onion Powder
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 Teaspoon Chili Powder
1 Teaspoon Ancho Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Chipotle Spice
1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne Powder
2 Teaspoons Mustard Powder
2 Teaspoons Garlic Powder
3-4 lbs Baby-Back Ribs
Mix ingredients for dry rub, set aside. Trim excess fat from ribs and remove thin layer of skin from the back of the ribs. Lightly brush meat with a little olive oil (this helps rub “cling” to meat.
Generously coat meat with rub, then rub into meat. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for several hours or overnight for best flavor.
Soak about 4-6 cups of wood chips for about an hour in water. This will create a nice slow smoke for the barbecue. While wood is soaking, remove ribs from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature.
Fill chimney with charcoal, mixing a little dry wood chips into the coals. When chimney is ready, build an indirect fire to one side of the grill. Drain wood chips. Place about 2 cups of chips on a piece of foil large enough to make a well-sealed packet. Cut a few slits into the packet to allow smoke to escape. Make a second packet with remaining wood chips. Set aside until ready to use.
Place 1 packet on top of coals. Close lid, allow grill to get hot and smoke to begin to build. (Make sure vents are open).
Place ribs on rack over hot coals to sear outside, about 3-5 minutes per side. Transfer to opposite side of grill for indirect cooking. Close lid and let smoke for about an hour, check periodically to make sure grill continues to smoke. Remove ribs from rack, remove rack and wood chip packet. If necessary, add a little more coal to the fire. Place second packet on coals, return rack and ribs. Continue to smoke for an additional hour.
Heat oven to about 325-degrees. Remove ribs from grill. Place on a rack over a shallow pan of water. Seal well with foil and place into the oven to “steam” tender for about 20 more minutes.
Texas Ranch Beans
2 Cups Dried Pinto Beans
1 Teaspoon Olive Oil
1 Onion, Diced
6 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 Cup Water
¼ Cup Chili Powder
½ Teaspoon Cayenne Powder
2 Tomatoes, peeled and seeded
1 Teaspoon Brown Sugar
1 Teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
1 Teaspoon Cumin
½ Teaspoon Mexican Oregano
6 Cups Beef Broth
Salt & Pepper to Taste
Pick over beans, cover with water and soak overnight. Drain well.
In the pot the beans are to be cooked in, heat olive oil over medium heat. Sauté onions 3-4 minutes or until almost tender. Add garlic, sauté until aromatic about 30 seconds. Transfer onions and garlic to a blender or food processor. DO NOT clean pot; set pot aside.
To the onion mixture, add water, chili powder, cayenne powder, tomatoes, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, smoked paprika, cumin and Mexican oregano. Puree to a smooth mixture.
Add beans and beef broth to the pot. Bring to a boil, allow to boil 1-2 minutes, then reduce heat to simmer. Pour Chili puree into beans, stir to blend. Cover and simmer 2-4 hours (depending upon freshness of beans – may be tender in 2 hours, may take longer). When beans are tender and chili sauce has thickened, season with salt and pepper to taste. DO NOT add salt until the beans are completely cooked or they will become tough and undesirable.
Thaw and rinse the crab. The best way to defrost crab is to let it sit, covered, inside the refrigerator overnight.
Crab legs can also be thawed by running them under cold water for a few minutes. Even if you do not need to run the crab legs under cold water to thaw them, doing so could also help remove any remaining ice crystals or slime. Pat dry with clean paper towels before using.
Transfer the crab legs to a slow cooker. Arrange the crab legs in even layers inside the slow cooker. You will need to create multiple layers of crab legs, but these layers should at least be even.
Due to the shape of the crab legs, an oval slow cooker usually works better than a round one. You only need enough water to cover the crabs. Too little or too much could be result in crab legs that are too dry or not sufficiently heated.
Mix the butter and garlic. Melt the butter in a small bowl.
To add the flavored butter to the crab legs, simply pour the butter mixture over the legs in the slow cooker. Since the crab legs are being cooked slowly, the flavors of the seasonings have a greater opportunity to permeate the thick shell of the legs and flavor the meat beneath.
Try to spread the butter over as many of the crab legs as possible. You can toss them to coat the crab more thoroughly, but this is not necessary.
Add just enough water to barely cover the legs. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or until the meat is steaming hot and nearly melting inside their shells. Since the crab legs are being cooked slowly, the flavors of the seasonings have a greater opportunity to permeate the thick shell of the legs and flavor the meat beneath.
It you did not have time to thaw your crab legs and are cooking them straight from a frozen state, add another 30 minutes to the cooking time.
Once the legs are heated through, use tongs to remove the crab from the slow cooker. Transfer them to a serving platter and enjoy while hot.
If desired, you can serve the crab legs with additional melted butter or lemon wedges.
Ingredients for the sauce
1½ tablespoons yellow mustard
1 Stick butter, melted
1 Tablespoon finely minced onion (or 2 teaspoons DRIED diced minced onions)
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Poppy seeds, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Split rolls
Fry bacon crisp. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Cut bacon into four pieces. Set aside.
Split Hawaiian rolls in half. Spread inside lightly with mayonnaise. Set aside
Place 2 pieces of bacon on 1 slice of ham. Fold ham over to encase bacon. Place on bottom of Hawaiian roll. Top with a slice of Gruyère cheese. Place on high-rimmed baking sheet.
Repeat with remaining rolls, bacon, ham and cheese until all the rolls have been filled.
The sliders can be made in advance up to this point. Cover with foil and set aside until ready to continue.
Whip together ingredients for sauce. Drizzle sauce over tops of slider buns. Sprinkle with poppy seeds.
Cover sliders and bake 10 minutes or until cheese has melted.
Uncover and bake 2-3 minutes longer, to crisp tops.
Remove from oven, arrange on serving platter or serve directly from baking tray.
Cooler Corn on the Cob
12-24 Ears of Corn
Husk, clean and trim ears of corn. Place corn in a clean camping cooler. Bring several kettles or pots of water to a boil, enough to cover corn.
Pour boiling water over corn, close lid and let steep for 30-45 minutes.
Grilled Hot Dogs
1 Package All Beef Hot Dogs
1 Package Hot Dog Buns
1/4 Onion, chopped
Sweet Pickle Relish
Prepare the onions, relish and condiments and place into small ramekin cups. (If desired tie red and blue ribbons around ramekins for a festive “splash” of color.
Spread coals evenly in the grill. Cook hot dogs on the grill, turning as necessary until plump and blistered. Place dogs into their buns, pile high on a platter and serve with condiments on the side.
Memorial Day Berry Trifle
1 package (3.4-ounce) instant vanilla pudding
2 cups fresh berries strawberries, washed and hulled, plus extra for garnish
2 cups blueberries, plus extra for garnish
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
24 to 36 ladyfingers
To make the fillings, prepare the pudding according to the package directions and chill it.
Slice the strawberries, then toss all of the berries with the lemon juice and the 1/4 cup of sugar. Set aside for 30 minutes to allow the berries to release their juices.
In a medium mixing bowl, whip the cream, vanilla extract, and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar until soft peaks form. Set aside.
To make the layers, set a layer of ladyfingers (around 7 or 8) on the bottom of a large, clear serving bowl. Top with about a third of the berries, then with half of the pudding.
Add another layer of ladyfingers, another third of the berries and juice, and the rest of the pudding.
Add a final layer of ladyfingers and berries. Top with the whipped cream and a berry garnish.
Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.