Sunday, May 26, 2013

When the Cook-out Becomes a Cook-IN...

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Help! It's a cold and rainy Sunday here in Maine, and it's going to be a cool Memorial Day - no rain, but with highs peaking in the sixties and a brisk wind, I'm reconsidering entertaining outside in the wet backyard.

The problem is: what to serve? Our usual Memorial Day cookout fare consists of 

with plenty of
for our vegetarian friends.

I make my mother's
and we usually pick up some fancy
from the Hanneford. Ross will make
and I usually put together
(not from scratch. I use the pre-made biscuits.) We'll serve
and of course
for the kids. So you see my problem. Just looking at the pictures makes me shiver, and not in a good I-just-can't-wait way. More like a Put-on-another-sweater way.

Help, dear readers! I need a Memorial Day get-together menu that cooks well indoors and works when it's 50 degrees out and everyone wants to revert to their winter eating habits. Any suggestions?


  1. First, I have to ask about those burgers. What's with the giant tops and mini bottoms? Porn star sliders?

    If you've already purchased the hamburger meat, how about making indoor chili instead? You could even find a vegetarian recipe, make two pots.

    We're lucky to have an indoor grill in the kitchen's center island -- a Jen-Air or something -- so rain never ruins a barbecue.

    Good luck. The desserts look fabulous.

  2. I think you could certainly serve any or all of your “regular” favorites indoors just as well as outdoors, but if you need a different dish, you might try pulled pork made in your crock pot. [This is a really easy “dump it in the pot” recipe that actually requires very little in the way of preparation.] Using a container with a tight lid, mix up a dry rub using one quarter-cup paprika, two tablespoons freshly ground black pepper, freshly ground salt to taste [I use just a smidge of Himalayan pink salt], one tablespoon each of garlic powder and dry mustard. Shake well to mix. You’ll only need about a quarter cup of this for the recipe. Cut a five-to-six pound boneless Boston butt pork roast into two- or three-inch chunks and put into the crock pot; sprinkle the meat with the dry rub, turning to coat evenly. Add one four-ounce bottle [one-half cup] bottled liquid smoke. Cover and cook on high for five to six hours or low for ten to twelve hours. Use two forks to pull the pork apart into shreds; serve piled on buns, plain or with your favorite barbeque sauce . . . .

  3. That all sounds great, Jack and Joan! Julia, your potato salad looks incredible. I'm always searching for the right recipe.

    At least it's not raining here, but it's still cold and windy. sheesh!

  4. I agree with Jack that if you already have the hamburger, make chili and the vegie kind. On the other hand, you are in Maine so how about a fish stew of some sort. Here we would have and do have a Low Country Boil.
    Here in the mountains of NC it's blessedly cool but sunny and I would send it to all of you if I could.

  5. Oh oh. the Potato Salad, the Rhubarb pie, the gin and tonic. If you need an extra guest at the meal, I'd love to be there.

    Just as soon as I wipe the drool of my keyboard.

  6. If you have the ingredients already, you could turn the burgers into sloppy Joe's. Brown the beef with chopped onions, green peppers, shredded carrots, (shredded zucchini if you want to sneak in more veggies) and some garlic, then throw it in a crock pot and add tomato sauce, brown sugar, ketchup, yellow or Dijon mustard, a little Worcestershire sauce, and maybe a dash of hot sauce (no measurements - just start with a can of sauce and a generous squirt of ketchup, and add the rest to taste). You could also tweak it with by eliminating the mustard and Worcestershire and substitute other sauces - hoisin, sweet chili, sriracha, or other Asian flavors are great possibilities. You could even strip it all the way back and use your favorite jarred spaghetti sauce as a base. Serve it with a little shredded cheese. By making this in a crockpot, you don't have to stand over a stove or worry about the timing of a dish and can enjoy your guests. The rest of it - potato salad, pasta salad, desserts - can all stay the same.

    If you'd like to try a super quick alternative to the pre-made bicuits, make a sweet version of cream biscuits. It takes 2 minutes (or less) to mix and really compliments fresh (or even frozen) berries and cream. Use a rubber spatula/scraper to mix together 2 cups of flour, 2 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tbsp sugar. Stir in 1 1/2 cup heavy cream just until moistened. Scoop spoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet and bake at 450 for 10 - 12 minutes. No cutting in shortening or butter, no kneading, no rolling - just rich, sweet biscuits for your shortcake.

  7. Chili, yes. Be sure to have sour cream and shredded cheese to top it, and corn bread as a side.

    Italian sausage with peppers and onions.

    Corn on the cob.

    Meatballs cooked in sauce made of one can of cranberry sauce and an equal amount of ketchup.

    Pie. The pie per person ratio must be at least one-to-one.

    Napkins. Lots of napkins.

    Actually, it doesn't matter what you serve as long as you have family and friends over. It's the people who make a party or a get-together. You could feed each person a bowl of cold cereal and still have a great time.

  8. Porn star sliders....that's hysterical. Jack, you should write a book...oh yeah.. we should write a book together...

    Even though the winds are shaking the foundation here in CT, we're gonna grill that chicken - but eat indoors. It's too cold for me to say yes to the Bud Light Lime, though or Bruce's Famous white wine sangria. Looking for warm, comforty food I may do sides of kale or collard greens and save the cold pasta salad for a warmer day.

  9. Yes, SO crazy! We usually have big grilled hamburgers and chicken-- well, hey. Chili is a terrific idea! We can add cauliflower and maybe fresh corn (is there corn yet?) with sour cream on top and (from the cheeseburgers) shredded cheese. Chicken chili? SOUnds prettty good..

    And prosecco can go with anything, right? But we are INSIDE--it is downright CLAMMY.

    And watching the INdy 500--this Indy native cannot resist. JOnathan does not understand it!

  10. I'd go with the chili. And maybe cornbread (although I understand you Northerners don't make it like we Southerners...) All the other things should be good indoors.

    We've had heavy rain storms almost every day the past week. Forecast for tomorrow is sunny and in the 80s, so fingers crossed. I bought some organic chicken and spinach sausages; will add some fresh corn and maybe watermelon and who knows what else. We do a very relaxed Memorial Day around here.

  11. Sausages always work -- with stir-fry veggies.

    We make a turkey meatloaf with spinach and feta cheese which is light and yet "comforty."

    I often bake fish about thirty minutes of soaking in lemon juice & olive oil, then 15 -- 20 minutes (or so, depending on the fish) in a hot (450) oven.

    Set up a buffet, and let people lounge around and eat.

    That potato salad looks fabulous!

  12. It's too hot to eat outside here today, almost 100°. We are barbecuing apple-sage chicken sausages on an indoor rotisserie. We're serving that with our favorite potato salad which we sometimes serve warm -- just not today (but you could): steamed red potatoes, boiled eggs, chopped onion, green salad olives with pimento, parsley flakes, pressed garlic, and real mayo. after the sausages are done we will roast ears of corn on the rotisserie. Delicious.

    Have a good holiday, everyone.