Like just about everyone in America, I look forward to Memorial Day – a three-day weekend with plenty of family, backyard barbecues or picnics and trips to the beaches, parks and forests that abound. Like most of us, I avoid the media bombardment of Blow Out Sales.
I think it’s important, while unofficially kicking off the summer season of family gatherings and grilled foods, to remember the roots of this National Holiday. Today Memorial Day represents a day of remembrance for all of those brave souls who sacrificed their lives in their service to protect and defend the United States of America. Did you know that Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day? It was a day set aside to honor those killed in the American Civil War. All across the land, in different ways designed to honor fallen soldiers from opposing sides of the conflict, communities came together to lay flowers, flags and ribbons on the graves of their fathers; brothers; sons and husbands. The Civil War was the deadliest struggle in American history, and the wounds to the spirit of a country so bitterly divided ran deep. Some of those wounds remain with us today.
The Civil War, which ended in the spring of 1865, claimed more lives than any other conflict in U.S. history. So bloody was the war that it required the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries. Since World War I, the holiday has gathered the nation together to honor all men and women who’ve lost their lives in conflict, from the American Revolution to the present day battles.
As we gather with friends and family, let us take a moment to join together as a Nation to remember the sacrifices of others, to bow our heads in silence and to truly give thanks.
MEMORIAL DAY MENU
Chicken: Spiced Rubbed Barbecue Game Hens *
Beef: Tri-Tip Barbecue with Gourmet Rub *
The Usual Suspects: Grilled Hamburgers & Hot Dogs (Your favorites)
Texas Ranch Beans *
Cooler Corn on the Cob *
Potato Salad *
Memorial Day Berry Trifle *
Patriotic Fruit Salad *
Red, White and Blue Cupcake (local Bakery)
* Recipes Follow
Spice Rubbed Barbecue Game Hens
4 Game Hens
6 tablespoons Mesquite Seasoning
4 tablespoons New Mexico Chili Seasoning
4 tablespoons Barbecue Seasoning
4 Cups Barbecue Sauce
Remove backbone from game hens. Turn birds over and remove breast bone. Snip wings from breast meat. Discard wings (or freeze for chicken stock). Remove breast from leg/thigh meat. You should have four pieces of meat per hen (two breasts, two dark meat quarters). Rinse well and pat dry.
Mix seasonings in a small bowl. Rub chicken with spices, rubbing both under the skin as well as the skin. Place chicken in a baking dish and let rest on the counter while grill is prepared. (About 30 minutes should do the trick to let the flavors marry and the chicken come to room temperature for even grilling).
Build a fire with a nice pile of hot coals for both direct and indirect grilling.
Grill chicken over hot coals about five minutes per side to sear. Move to indirect heat, close lid and let chicken smoke for about twenty minutes. Turn chicken over and continue to grill about ten minutes longer. White meat will cook faster than dark meat.
Check breasts after about 15 minutes and if necessary place on upper rack to prevent meat from drying out.
Pour barbecue sauce into a microwaveable glass bowl. Baste chicken generously with barbecue sauce. Let cook five more minutes, turn and mop with more sauce. Let cook for five minutes.
Remove chicken from grill. Tent chicken to keep warm. Heat any remaining barbecue sauce in the microwave for about 90 seconds. Serve warm sauce along side hens. Have plenty of napkins
Tri-Tip Barbecue with a Gourmet Rub
1 Tri-Tip Brisket, about 3 lbs
1/2 Tablespoon Fresh Ground Black Pepper
1 ½ Teaspoons Sea Salt
½ Tablespoon Smoked Paprika
¼ Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
½ Teaspoon Dijon Style Mustard
¼ Cup Red Wine
¼ Cup Olive Oil
6-8 Garlic Cloves, crushed
1 Teaspoon Onion Powder
1 Teaspoon Dried Rosemary, crushed
Mix all ingredients for gourmet rub. Rub into tri-tip brisket. Wrap brisket in plastic wrap, refrigerate for 2 or 3 hours minimum – the longer the better. Remove from refrigerator, let stand on counter for 45 minutes prior to grilling.
While the tri-tip comes to room temperature, build nice bed of hot coals. Open the bottom and top vents half way, place grate over coals and close lid to heat, about 5 minutes. Clean grate and oil paper towels dipped in vegetable oil.
Raise coals to high position (or lower grate, depending upon grill). Grill meat, fat side up, for 3-5 minutes or until nicely seared. Turn using meat tongs (NEVER stick a fork into it – the juices will run out, and that just makes for a dry hunk of meat) and sear other side.
Lower coals (or raise the grate, depending upon grill), cover and continue to cook meat 7-10 minutes longer. Check for doneness using an instant read thermometer. You’ll want the thickest part at the center to be about 140 degrees. A thick tri-tip might need to be turned for a final time and grilled 5-8 minutes longer.
The key to a juicy piece of meat is to let the meat rest 10-15 minutes after grilling to allow the juices to soak back into the meat rather than run all over the cutting board. Keep in mind that while the meat rests, it will continue to cook, raising the internal temperature as much as ten degrees.
When carving, go ahead and slice on the serving platter. That way, any juices that escape can be spooned over the sliced meat when serving for extra flavor.
Don’t forget the Hamburgers and Hot Dogs with all your favorite fixings.
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.
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.
Cooler Corn on the Cob
12-24 Ears of Corn
Boiling Water, enough to cover 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.
Corn can be pulled from the cooler when ready to serve and placed on a big serving dish on the buffet tables, or left in the cooler. Just don’t forget a tub of butter and shaker of salt for the finishing touch.
3 lbs Yukon Gold Potatoes
4 Eggs, hard-boiled
1 Red Onion, minced
2 Celery Stocks, minced
1 Tablespoon Bacon Drippings, warm (Optional)
1 Cup Mayonnaise
1/4 Cup Sour Cream
1 Tablespoons Mustard
2 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar plus a sprinkling for potatoes
Kosher Salt & Fresh Black Pepper to taste
¼ Cup Parsley or green onion for garnish
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.
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. Once cooled, roll egg on counter to crack the shell. Return eggs to cold water and let sit for about 15 minutes. This will help to make the eggs easier to peel.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine onions, celery, bacon drippings, mayonnaise, mustard, sour cream 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. Sprinkle top of salad with parsley or chopped green onion for added color. If desired, sprinkle lightly with paprika. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until well chilled.
This salad can be prepared a day in advance. Day old potato salad always seems to have that much more flavor.
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 (equally delicious with buttery pound cake or Angel’s Food Cake)
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.
Note: If ladyfingers are not available, a loaf of Pound or Angle Food Cake cut into cubes make a wonderful substitute. Okay to make late in the morning, but not the night before or the cake becomes soggy.
Patriotic Fruit Salad
16 oz of Strawberries, washed and cut in half
1 pint of blue berries, rinsed
3 bananas sliced in thick chunks
1/8 cup of honey
1 fresh lime
Wash and drain all of the fruit. Slice strawberries and bananas. Combine fruit in an attractive serving bowl. Add blueberries. Set aside
Microwave the for 10 seconds before juicing. This will cause the limes to render more juice.
In a small bowl whisk together the honey and freshly squeezed lime juice.
Drizzle the honey lime glaze over the sliced fruit. Gently stir with a spoon to combine fruit with the glaze.
Refrigerate to chill until ready to serve.
And from your favorite bakery . . . Red, White and Blue Cupcakes!