Let’s Talk Food: Thursday is the Fourth of July

This Thursday is Independence Day, which means a spread of wonderful picnic food and fireworks. It is time to take out the red, white and blue decorations you have stored away for this special day.

If barbecuing, an instant-read thermometer is a must-have. I have gone through so many food thermometers, from infrared to super-fast therapens, and the most reliable ones are the relatively inexpensive instant-read ones that are less than $15. Eating Well recommends the Taylor Compact Waterproof Digital Pen Thermometer for $13.

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First, calibrate your thermometer by sticking it in ice water. It should read at 32 degrees. If not, check the directions from the manufacturer to re-calibrate it.

To check the temperature of the meat you are grilling, insert the thermometer in the thickest part of the meat without touching the bone.

Remove the meat when it is 5 degrees below the desired temperature. Let it rest on a clean cutting board for five minutes, as the meat will continue to cook about 5 degrees and the juices will redistribute into the meat, and not run out when you cut it

Safe cooking temperatures include:

• Poultry: 165 degrees.

• Ground meat: 160 degrees.

• Whole cuts of meat: 145 degrees.

Here is a recipe from Eating Well for chicken leg quarters. You can make the marinade today or two days ahead so you will have it ready for grilling Thursday.

Mexican Beer-Glazed Chicken with Grilled Summer Vegetables

Serves: 4

1 tablespoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican oregano

1 teaspoon ground pepper

3/4 teaspoon salt, divided

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

3/4 cup Mexican beer

6 cloves garlic, peeled

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

4 chicken leg quarters (about 2 1/2 pounds total)

2 medium zucchini, cut diagonally into 1/4-inch thick slices

2 medium red onions, cut into 1/4-inch thick rounds

2 ears corn, husked and halved

Sliced green onions or chives for garnish

Preheat grill to medium-high.

Mix oregano, pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt and cumin in a small bowl. Combine beer, garlic, brown sugar, crushed red pepper and 1 tablespoon of the spice mixture in a small saucepan. Bring to simmer over medium heat, reduce heat to maintain a low simmer and cook, stirring often, until the sauce is reduced to 1/4 cup, about 20-25 minutes.

Pat chicken dry and rub with the remaining spice mixture. Oil the grill rack. Grill the chicken, turning occasionally, until the instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part without touching the bone registers 155 degrees, 14-16 minutes total. Brush the chicken with about half of the beer glaze. Grill until slightly charred, 1-2 minutes.

Turn the chicken over and brush with the remaining glaze. Grill until slightly charred and an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees, about 2 minutes more. Transfer the chicken to a platter and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.

Toss zucchini, onions and corn with oil and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Grill, turning occasionally, until tender and lightly charred, 6-8 minutes. Serve the chicken with vegetables, topped with green onions or chives, if desired.

• • •

Watermelon is a must for the Fourth, whether served sliced or in the salad.

Watermelon and Gorgonzola Cheese Salad

Serves: 12

1 seedless watermelon

2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

4 ounces Italian gorgonzola cheese

Cut watermelon in half crosswise. Place each piece, cut side down, on a cutting board and cut in half from the top to bottom. Cut each piece lengthwise into three wedges. Cut off green skin, white skins and any hard outer parts. Cut each piece into 1/2-inch thick triangles.

Place watermelon triangles in large bowl. In small bowl, whisk vinegar, olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper; drizzle over watermelon salad. Add Gorgonzola cheese and toss very gently to coat.

To serve, divide among 12 large paper cups or small bowls, or place on large serving platter.

• • •

There is nothing better than a messy hot dog piled with a bunch of condiments on a bun. You needn’t worry about the mess, just let it drop on the ground!

Here are some toppings that go well with grilled hot dogs:

Pickle and Onion Topping

Makes: 2 cups

2 finely chopped pickles

1/4 finely chopped small white onion.

3 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley

2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard

Kosher salt

Black pepper

Stir together pickles, white onion, fresh flat-leaf parsley and whole-grain mustard in a bowl. Season with kosher salt and black pepper.

Tangy Horseradish Topping

Makes: 2 cups

3 tablespoons prepared horseradish

2 tablespoons sour cream

1 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoons mayonnaise

1/4 head finely shredded purple cabbage (2 cups)

1 finely chopped green onion

1 grated large carrot

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

Kosher salt

Black pepper

Whisk prepared horseradish, squeezing out excess moisture, with sour cream, white wine vinegar, mayonnaise and sugar in a bowl. Add purple cabbage, green onions, carrot and fresh dill. Season with kosher salt and pepper. Let sit, tossing occasionally, for 15 minutes.

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Happy Fourth of July to you all!

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.

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