I usually spend the Fourth of July in Wisconsin. That means I might cook a little but probably my mom is doing most of it. This year I didn't go for a visit--not that anyone would have been there if I had since all my family decided to go to China or Rhode Island or something--so I stayed here in the dirty dirty and cooked for my own damn self. We made a ton of food. I'll try to describe it as well as I can & hopefully won't forget anything.
I made guacamole, which was probably the best decision I made all day long. I used the hilarious, gigantic lava rock mortar and pestle that Marilyn & Steve gave me when they moved. Seriously, you should see this thing--it's just really big and silly looking. I believe it is traditionally known as a "molcajete" but in my household it is affectionately known as "where the hell did you get that thing?" (Brian). Minced up about 1/4-1/3 cup of yellow onion. Cut HELL out of my finger doing it too! Marilyn sharpened my knives for me right before she moved and you know how it is when your knives are super sharp but you're still thinking they're dull and then, whoops, you lose a fingertip. I held it under the faucet and made Brian ask Jeremy what I should do. He came upstairs with a beer in hand and a couple bandaids and did his doctor thing. It still hurts though. Anyway, put the onion in the lava rock bowl with about 1/3 cup chopped up grape tomatoes, juice & zest of 1 lime, juice of 1/2 lemon, salt & pepper to taste, and about 2 small hot peppers, minced up. I'd tell you what kind, but I don't know for sure because I got them from my boss who is growing them in his yard. They are small and light green and not too hot. Have you noticed, by the way, that these are all ingredients that would really hurt if you got them into a cut finger? Yeah, anyway. Used the only kitchen gadget in the world worth mentioning (digital meat thermometers are NOT gadgets; they are lifesaving devices), which is an avocado scooper. You slice an avocado in half, take the pit out, then use this thing to slice through the skin and give you nice pieces of avocado with no waste. Anyway, I added 3 sliced up avocados to the ingredients in the lava rock mortar, then pounded everything up with the lava rock pestle and voila! Guacamole. We ate it with blue chips, which I think go particularly well. I wouldn't recommend using the lava rock though--it makes you look silly and you can get better results with a bowl and mixing spoon.
I made these ribs which I made a couple years ago for the 4th at Angelica & Marc's old Kentucky home. The recipe has improved considerably since then. Mixed up 1/4 cup orange juice, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, 2 teaspoons cumin, 2 tablespoons red pepper flakes, 4 minced garlic cloves. Poured it over about 3.5-4 pounds of ribs that I had thoughtfully separated from the rack already (said Melanie "I like how they are in pieces!"). Marinated these in the fridge until it was time to cook, which was at least 3 hours. I guess you could leave them to marinate as long as you'd like. Poured the whole mess, marinade and all, into a glass dish and stuck it in the oven at 325 degrees for about 45 minutes. This is because I only have a little baby size grill. If I had a real grill I would maybe find a way to make ribs in a slow smoker kind of way. Sorry. These are cheater ribs and are meant to make sure we don't all die of trichinosis. Look it up. I made a sauce by boiling down the marinade with worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, mustard and something else. More brown sugar, I think. I don't remember the sauce part very well, but you can just go ahead and use whatever kind of sauce you like, homemade or jarred. Anyway, put the cooked up ribs on a hot grill to get them sort of smokey and brushed them with the sauce, which, as I said, can really be whatever sauce you like since I don't remember much about making it. Take the ribs off when they are sticky and shiny and charred in a good way and toss them in a little more sauce if you want to get messy.
We also had brats, mostly because of Wisconsin nostalgia. One of our neighbors (not Jeremy or Melanie) was like "oh, look, brats!" and Brian said "where are YOU from?" like all surprised that someone who is from Atlanta would know what a brat is. It was funny. Also, sadly, I was not able to quantify the basic difference between a brat and a sausage when asked. Having thought about it since, my response now is that all brats are sausages but not all sausages are brats. Anyway, we actually found some real Johnsonville brats over at the Publix grocery (which is an experience akin to finding Leinenkugels on draft at Manuel's Tavern up the street) and it was all on Wisconsin after that. Here is how you need to cook your brats: 1.) Miraculously find a Miller High Life tall boy in your fridge 2.) Pour half the tall boy over your brats in a pot, cover with more water if necessary 3.) Drink the other half of the tall boy while your brats boil up for about 15 minutes or so 4.) Slap the brats on the grill until they are deliciously browned all over 5.) Eat and discuss the finer points of Wisconsin (fish boils, socialism, Rollie Fingers, mini golf...).
We enjoyed not one but two different types of beans. Melanie made these really excellent baked beans but I don't know how she did it. With a slow cooker, I think. I know they had molasses and onions and mustard in them but I'm not sure of the logistics. I made green beans--very simple. Just quickly boiled them, made Brian drain them and then tossed them right before serving with a dressing made of 3 tablespoons olive oil and juice of about 1 lemon, plus the zest and salt and pepper. There was also corn on the cob and that had the lime-chile butter on it that I described a few posts ago when we went on the bicycle picnic. Same thing.
For dessert we made cherry chocolate chip ice cream. Melanie made about 1/2 cup of a fresh cherry puree and I chopped up about 3/4 pound of cherries into little pieces. I also chopped up a 70% cocoa content dark chocolate bar into little teensy pieces. Mixed 1/2 cup of granulated sugar with 2 cups heavy cream, 3/4 cup whole milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Poured into my ice cream maker along with the cherry puree and about 1 tablespoon grenadine. After it had been mixing for 20 minutes, added the cherry pieces and chocolate chunks. When it comes out of the ice cream maker it is pretty soft so I stuck it into the freezer to harden up a little bit. It was really, really delicious.