Another Summer Picnic

When I just can't come up with a clever subject line ... again.

There’s a holiday weekend coming up.  For most Americans, it’s another one of those “let’s have a picnic!” holidays, though perhaps more appropriately so than the one on the other end of the summer.  Because summer holidays mean picnics with friends.  Or they did, before all this. 

So, this week’s menu is a BBQ picnic.  It can be a backyard BBQ, a beach BBQ, or if you’re like me and sweating away on an absurdly humid 93-degree day in Ohio,  sitting in a darkened air conditioned room BBQ. For some of us, it may be hard to get together with friends this coming weekend.  That doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the same messy delicious foods.

In the dark. Where it’s air conditioned.

A side note: if you enjoy The Weekly Menu, please share - whether with friends or family, or on social media. If you cook something you love, take pics and pass them along or tag me! I love to see and hear how things went.

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Spicy Bread and Butter Refrigerator Pickles

Look, more cucumbers!  I realized I’ve had some sort of cucumber dish in most of my menus of late.  I would say that it’s because you know, summer, and that cucumbers are a great summer produce and … all of that would be a lie.  It’s not that it’s not summer or that cucumbers aren’t great summer produce – it’s that I add them to the menu because Kate likes them a lot.  Also I almost always use hothouse “English” cucumbers because the tough waxy American garden cucumbers can be tough and waxy.

Unlike the cucumber recipes I’ve included in other menus, I can actually eat this one – pickles not only don’t bother me, I love ‘em.  Gimme all the pickles.  Like that meme where they keep piling more pickles on a burger.  Then more.  Then more.       I would eat that burger.  I would love that burger.  That would be pickle burger happiness.

These are simple spicy refrigerator pickles that are a great accompaniment to BBQ, and you can adjust the spiciness to your preference.

1 large English cucumber
2/3 cup water
1/3 cup white distilled vinegar
2 large cloves garlic
2 whole cloves
4 whole allspice berries
2 tbsp red chili flakes
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
½ tsp black peppercorns
½ tsp coriander seeds
4-6 small sprigs fresh dill

Remove the ends of the cucumber and discard.

Slice the cucumber into ¼ inch thick disks.

In a non-reactive bowl, toss the cucumber with 1 tbsp granulated sugar, and 1 tsp kosher salt.

Allow the salted and sugared cucumber to rest for 15 minutes.

Peel, trim, and finely mince the garlic.

Bring 2/3 cup of water and 1/3 cup of vinegar to a boil.

Add the garlic, cloves, allspice, chili flakes, mustard seeds, coriander, and peppercorns to the liquid and cook for 2 minutes.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Pour the hot liquid over the cucumbers, then add the dill to the bowl.

Allow the pickles to cool to room temp, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.

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Corn and Jalapeno Biscuits

Long story short, these biscuits combine some of the best elements of cornbread and biscuits in one weird lumpy tasty delicious breadpuck.       If you’re either a cornbread      or biscuit purist – these may not be the hybrid for you.  They’re essentially drop biscuits, so not so much on the flaky layers which may anger biscuit people, and while there isn’t actually added sugar they’re sweet from the addition of whole corn kernels which might trigger some sort of sweet cornbread rant           from the cornbread camp.

I say let ‘em fight.  These things are good.  Even better spread with a little of the popcorn butter you’ll read about a little later.

1 ½ cups All Purpose flour
½ cup yellow corn meal
¾ cup whole milk
1 14 oz can of sweet corn
2 jalapeno peppers
4 tbsp unsalted butter
½ tsp kosher salt
2 tsp double acting baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

Remove the stems, seeds, and ribs from the chilies, and finely dice them.

Drain the corn and discard the liquid.

Add the flour, corn meal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and butter to the bowl of a food process until the mixture looks crumbly, but uniformly mixed.

Turn the mixture out into a large bowl.  

Add the peppers, the corn, and the mix and mix by hand or with a large utensil until the mixture is just blended.

Form the dough into balls the size of small oranges, and flatten them slightly.

Bake on a sheet pan lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Bake at 400°F until well browned – about 30 minutes.

Corn on the Cob with Popcorn Butter

It’s summer.  Most of you are in North America.  You’re statutorily required to eat corn on the cob.  It’s probably in the Constitution (it’s not) or the Articles of Canadianism (that’s not a real thing ).  Anyway, it’s a thing we do because … well, corn on the cob is delicious.  Sure, it gets in your teeth, leaves you with messy hands, ruins shirts with drizzled butter, but it’s worth it.  What’s better than corn on the cob? Buttered popcorn.  So I say –  other than that it’s completely unnecessary – why not have both together?  This is a quick, but slightly fussy compound butter that adds a subtle popcorn flavor to corn on the cob – or even corn off the cob if you’re so inclined.  It’s not overwhelmingly popcorn-y but it adds a bit of fun and a bit of a different corn flavor to the experience. BTW - I did a terrible job of shucking the corn for this photo.

A side note, popcorn butter is amazing on the corn & jalapeño biscuits also included in this week’s menu.

4 pieces fresh sweet corn
1 stick salted butter
1 bag microwave “movie theater butter” popcorn
1 tsp granulated sugar

Prepare the popcorn according to the package directions.

Discard any unpopped kernels.

Melt the butter.

Add the sugar, butter, and 3/4ths of the popcorn to the container of a blender.  Reserve the remaining ¼ bag of popcorn for garnish.

Blend until smooth.

Pass the popcorn/butter mixture through an ultra-fine strainer – pushing down with the back of a spoon – to press out the butter.

Allow the mixture to cool to room temp, then whisk vigorously to recombine the butter and integrate the popcorn.

Chill until ready to top the corn.

Shuck the corn, and boil for 3 minutes in salted water.

Top with popcorn butter and garnish with reserved popcorn kernels.

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Mustard and Curry Potato Salad

This is essentially a traditional mustard potato salad – other than a couple of additions that make it extra super all the way more yellow.  Mainly carrots, pickled chilis, and curry powder.  Those may be contentions.  Potato salad is contentious in the same way that that whole sweet cornbread/biscuit battle thing I mentioned above is.  I know there are potato salad camps.  Lines of mayonnaise vs vinegar-based battle.  I don’t really care.  Smother almost anything starchy in a creamy sauce and I’ll be happy.  I did resist the urge to put golden raisins in this because I didn’t want to be the guy who puts raisins in potato salad – even though they might be pretty good with the other flavors here.  I garnished this with some fresh mint leaves for a little extra color and flavor.

2 large russet potatoes
1 stalk celery
1 small red onion
2 green onions
1 small carrot
2 red fresno chilies
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup Greek yogurt
2 tbsp yellow mustard
1 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp white vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Trim, and dice the chilies.

Place the chilies and vinegar in a non-reactive bowl, allow to rest while preparing the potatoes.

Peel, trim, and dice the potatoes into 1 inch cubes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the potatoes until just tender – about 8 -10 minutes.

Peel, trim, and finely dice the carrots.
Trim and finely slice the green onion.

Peel, trim and dice the onion.

Peel, trim, and finely chop the celery.

In a large bowl, mix the yogurt, mayonnaise, curry powder and mustard.

Add the carrots, onions, green onions,  and celery.

Drain the chilies, discarding the vinegar, and add the lightly pickled pepper to the bowl.

Gently fold in the cooked potatoes and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.

Mustard Glazed Smoked 3-2-1 Pork Ribs

When I was a kid, we went to South Carolina for spring holidays every year.  We’d drive down from Ohio, stopping to visit family on the way.  That’s where I first encountered mustard based BBQ sauce. Prior to that, BBQ was red, sweet, maybe might have come from a jar, and usually burnt onto grilled chicken.  This mustard stuff was different.  It was weird.  I was weird.  I liked it.

25 years later, when in South Carolina for work, mustard sauce didn’t seem weird anymore.  It did still seem delicious. 

This isn’t South Carolina mustard BBQ sauce – though it’s mustard based and it’s BBQ sauce.  Here, we’ll rub ribs with a spice mixture including some dry mustard, then sauce them with really simple mustard sauce that I think works really well with smoky pork.It’s simple, a little spicy, and good.

Rub

½ cup light brown sugar
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp red chili flake
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Coleman's dry mustard

Mix all ingredients, using a whisk to break up any pieces of dry mustard or sugar.

Sauce

½ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup prepared yellow mustard
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp red chili flake

Mix all sauce ingredients and stir until sugar is fully dissolved.

Ribs

1 rack pork back ribs

Trim the ribs, removing the membrane from the bottom of the rack.

Generously coat the ribs with the rub, and allow to rest 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

Prepare your smoker or grill.

Smoke at ~225°F for 3 hours, then wrap in paper or foil for an additional 2 hours.

Remove the ribs from their wrapping, brush with sauce, and cook for an additional hour.

Brush with any additional sauce and serve immediately.

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Key Lime Pie

Key Lime pie doesn’t really fit in with the rest of this menu, but I’ve wanted to make it for weeks.  There’s been a box of graham crackers in the pantry staring at me, whispering:  “Drew, make key lime pie” for months.  That’s because I love two of the most prominent flavors, well, really the only flavors in the classic desert:  the assertive and fragrant sourness of limes, and that toasty caramelly flavor you get in graham crackers or (if you’re not in North America) digestive biscuits.  So finally, I made Key Lime Pie.  This recipe specifies  key limes, though you can use “regular” limes in their place.  You can even buy pre-squeezed key lime juice and use that – though I’ve never done it myself, so I can’t speak to the quality.  My only deviation from the classic recipe here is that I add a measure of Jamaican rum to the crust.  This is because I’ve found that most things in my life are made better by adding a measure of rum, because the banana- like flavors of the rum go well with the dessert as a whole, and because of some fun chemistry.  Basically, the rum makes the crust a little wetter and easier to shape – then the alcohol burns off without making the crust tough.

1 ½ cups crushed graham crackers or digestive biscuits
4 tbsp unsalted butter
¼ cup light brown sugar
4 egg yolks
1 bag Key limes
2 14 oz cans sweetened condensed milk
1 oz dark rum

Using a microplane, zest some of the key limes until you have approximately 1 tbsp of loosely packed zest.

Juice the limes.  1 bag should provide approximately 1 cup of juice.

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Melt the butter.

Mix the graham crackers, brown sugar, rum, and melted butter.

Press the graham cracker mixture evenly into a 9 inch pie pan.

Bake the crust, unfilled, for 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool while preparing the filling.

Whisk together the zest, juice, egg yolks, and condensed milk.

Pour into the crust and bake until just set – about 20 minutes.

Allow to cool, chill for at least 4 hours, and top with whipped cream before serving.