In honor of the long holiday weekend it seems only appropriate to offer up more than the usual Sunday dish–so here you go: a few ideas for a classic 4th of July celebration. All adapted from How to Cook Everything.
No-Work Smoked Pork Shoulder or Spareribs
Makes: 6 to 8 servings
Time: About 4 hours, largely unattended
A gas grill works best here (though an oven will do for the first variation). You’ll be amazed by the ease of this low-and-slow technique and downright shocked at the result: The meat can be served straight off the grill, with no more than a squeeze of lime and a few drops of Tabasco, or with any salsa or chutney. Or your can refrigerate the whole thing, slice the shoulder or cut between the ribs, and put it back on the grill—this time over direct heat—to add a crisp steaklike char over the super-tender insides.
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons mild ground dried chile, like ancho or New Mexico
2 teaspoons good paprika
One 5- or 6-pound pork shoulder or spareribs
1. Start a gas grill, using the burners on only one side to achieve a heat of 250–300°F. Put a couple handfuls of wood chips in a tin foil pan and set it over the burners that are on. While the grill heats, mix together the dry ingredients and rub them all over the pork, including under the skin as best you can and in any crevasses you find.
2. Put the pork on the cool side of the grill, cover, and walk away. Check about 15 minutes later to make sure the chips are smoking and the heat is below 300°F. Now you can ignore the pork shoulder almost entirely; check every hour or so to make sure the heat hasn’t escalated too much and the chips or charcoal do not need replenishing. If you’re cooking ribs, turn them every half hour or so.
3. The pork shoulder is done when it reaches an internal temperature of about 190°F, about 4 hours later (less if you used a smaller piece of pork, more if larger). More important, the pork will be very tender. The ribs are done when they have lost much of their fat and developed an unquestionably cooked look, anywhere from 2 to 6 hours later.
4. This next step is optional for the shoulder but a must for the ribs: Just before you’re ready to eat, raise the heat to high (or add a bunch more briquettes and wait a while) and brown the meat on both sides. Be very careful; they should still have enough fat on them to flare up and burn, ruining all your hard work in an instant (believe me, I’ve done it several times). Watch them constantly and move them frequently. Browning will take about 10 minutes. Serve immediately with any sauce you like or refrigerate overnight, slice, and grill (or pan-grill) individual slices.
Potato Salad with Vinaigrette
Makes 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes, plus time to cool
To me, the best and simplest potato salad is made of just-boiled potatoes dressed in a freshly made vinaigrette. If you’re in a hurry, whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients in a bowl, then just add the potatoes. Parsley and chopped onion are easy, flavorful additions. After that, you can add any of the suggestions from the following list.
1 1/2 pounds waxy potatoes, like red new potatoes or fingerling; or all-purpose, like Yukon Gold (or even starchy baking potatoes are fine)
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
1/4 cup chopped scallions or red or yellow onion
1/2 cup of your favorite vinaigrette
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Peel the potatoes if you like (or wash and scrub them well), then cut them into bite-sized pieces. Put them in a pot with enough water to cover them and add a large pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat so the water bubbles gently. Cook the potatoes until tender but still firm and not all mushy, 15 minutes or so, depending on the potato. Drain, rinse in cold water for a minute, then drain again.
2. Toss the still-warm potatoes with the parsley and scallion. Add the vinaigrette until the mixture is as dressed as you like. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding black pepper. Serve as is or refrigerate for an hour or so to chill the salad. (At this point, you may refrigerate the salad, covered, for up to a day.)
Blueberry Pudding Cake
Makes at least 6 servings
Time: About 1 hour, 15 minutes, plus cooling time
This is just how it sounds: soft and gooey, with a cakey crust. It’s homey and comforting, especially with whipped cream.
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus some unmelted butter for greasing the pan
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs, separated
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup blueberries
1. Heat the oven to 325dgF. Grease an 8- or 9-inch ceramic or glass baking dish, or a deep dish pie plate.
2. Put the butter, buttermilk, 1/2 cup of sugar, egg yolks, flour, and salt in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Pour the batter into a bowl. Stir in the blueberries and set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks, sprinkle in the remaining sugar while beating until the whites hold stiff peaks; fold them into the batter gently but thoroughly.
4. Turn the batter into the prepared dish and put the dish in a baking pan large enough to hold it comfortably. Add warm water to the baking pan, so that it comes to within an inch or so of the top of the dish. Transfer carefully to the oven and bake until the top is golden brown and the center is just set but slightly jiggly, about an hour.
5. Remove the cake from the oven and cool the dish completely on a rack , cover with plastic wrap, then refrigerate until chilled, at least 3 hours, before serving. This will keep in the refrigerator for 2 or 3 days.