This is the season of potluck, whether it’s a gathering of friends and family at a reunion or a picnic down the street. As guests, and occasional hosts, we cooks need something portable that will keep a lot of people happy and that can be served chilled or at room temperature. Here are some of my favorites.
Deviled eggs: Doesn’t matter what kind of gathering you have, deviled eggs are a hit whether it’s high-end or picnic fare. The traditional version, egg yolks mashed with mayo and mustard, always satisfies. But if you want to mix up the dish a bit, mash the egg yolks with a pimento-cheese blend or include a little pesto with the mayo (and skip the mustard). Whichever way you prepare them, the eggs are guaranteed to be the first food depleted at the picnic table. Keep in mind that the best way to hard-cook eggs is to place them in a single layer in a saucepan, filled with cold water that tops the eggs by about 1 inch. Bring the water to a boil, then immediately take the pan off the burner and cover. Let the eggs sit for 15 minutes before plunging them into cold (or icy) water to chill quickly. In theory, the shells should come off easily.
Chicken: Wings are the familiar go-to for many cooks. My neighbor brought Korean marinated wings to every neighborhood function for years. This version, adapted for drumsticks, has joined my regular repertoire. It offers the same heavy dose of ginger and garlic.
Cabbage salad: Slaw can be so predictable. Or not. Chef Alex Roberts made a standout version that was served in the early days of his Brasa restaurant in Minneapolis. So memorable, in fact, I had to have the recipe for readers (well, for me, too). Finely shredded cabbage combines with an explosion of herb flavors (parsley, cilantro and mint), before being tossed with a spicy lime vinaigrette (chile included). Wow.
CHICKEN DRUMSTICKS WITH GINGER AND GARLIC
Note: Figure 2 to 3 drumsticks per person and bring a damp cloth or wet wipes for cleanup. These are messy. Find sesame oil and hoisin sauce in supermarkets, on the shelf with Asian specialties. Prefer wings? Easy to adapt to them. From “Come One, Come All: Easy Entertaining With Seasonal Menus,” by Lee Svitak Dean.
About 3 pounds chicken drumsticks
1/4 cup sesame oil
8 to 10 garlic cloves, chopped
4 nickel-sized slices of fresh ginger root, cut in half (or 1 teaspoon ground ginger)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup teriyaki sauce
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 cup water
1 tablespoon Chinese hoisin sauce, optional
In a large pot, brown drumsticks over medium heat, working in batches (all the drumsticks won’t fit in the pan for browning at one time). Drain any grease from the pan. Set aside browned drumsticks.
In a medium bowl, mix together the sesame oil, garlic, ginger, pepper, sugar, teriyaki sauce, soy sauce and 1 cup water; add to the pot. Return all the drumsticks to the pot, and toss to coat in the liquid.
Cook, uncovered, over medium-high heat for 20 to 25 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through, stirring often. Remove chicken and set aside. (If you are not using hoisin sauce, chicken is done at this point; also remove and discard ginger slices.)
To serve at room temperature later or to transport elsewhere in a covered container: No need to add hoisin sauce, as it will get gloppy. Keep drumsticks refrigerated until shortly before serving. The chicken also can be reheated.
To serve for immediate meal: Add hoisin sauce to sauce in the pot and cook on high heat for 10 minutes, until sauce starts to thicken. Stir often to prevent burning. Add chicken and cook an additional 5 minutes, coating chicken with sauce. Remove slices of ginger and discard.
Variation: If you prefer to grill or broil the chicken, first marinate it overnight with the same ingredients, but do not add the water. Include the hoisin sauce, if available. The chicken gets much less of a garlic-ginger flavor when it’s marinated this way, but it is extremely moist and tender.
PIMENTO CHEESE DEVILED EGGS
Note: From “Deviled Eggs,” by Debbie Moose.
6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled, cut in half, and yolks mashed in a bowl
1/4 cup finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon drained and chopped pimentos
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons chopped Vidalia or other sweet onion
1/2 teaspoon grated garlic
Salt and black pepper to taste
Chopped pimentos, for garnish
Combine the thoroughly mashed yolks with the cheddar, pimentos, mayonnaise, mustard, onion and garlic. Taste, then season with salt and pepper.
Fill whites evenly with the mixture and garnish each egg half with chopped pimentos.
Variation: Looking for the traditional filling for deviled eggs? That would be mayo (or salad dressing, such as Miracle Whip) and prepared yellow mustard. Start with 2 tablespoons mayo and 1 1/2 teaspoons mustard, a little salt and pepper, and adjust according to your preferences.
CABBAGE SALAD WITH SPICY LIME VINAIGRETTE
Note: To toast sesame seeds, warm them in a dry saucepan over low heat for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until they lightly brown and become fragrant. Adapted from a recipe by chef Alex Roberts of Brasa Rotisserie in Minneapolis. From “Come One, Come All: Easy Entertaining With Seasonal Menus,” by Lee Svitak Dean.
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped shallots or onion
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 serrano chile, seeded and coarsely chopped, if desired
1/3 cup grapeseed oil (or other neutral oil)
1/3 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1/2 head green cabbage (or a 10-ounce bag of finely shredded cabbage)
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
Salt and pepper
Sesame seeds, toasted
To make vinaigrette: Mix shallots with lime juice, sugar and salt. Let stand for 10 to 15 minutes. In a blender, purée shallot mixture with chile, oil and sour cream until smooth; set aside.
To prepare cabbage: Using a mandoline or grater, shred cabbage as finely as possible (unless using bagged shredded cabbage). In a bowl, toss cabbage with parsley, cilantro and mint. Add about 1/2 cup vinaigrette, or to taste, and toss. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add more vinaigrette, if desired. Garnish with sesame seeds. (There will be extra vinaigrette leftover that can be used with any other salad.)
– Lee Svitak Dean, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) (TNS)
Easy Grilling Ideas
Summer was made for entertaining! What’s better than centering the entertainment on the grill? Beyond the standard burgers and hot dogs, there are an array of appetizers, main courses and even desserts that are all grill-friendly and easy to make.
“Summer cooking is all about great, fresh flavors and keeping things simple and unfussy,” says Erin Madsen, executive editor of BettyCrocker.com, an entertaining resource that offers recipes, how-tos, and test-kitchen tips.
This summer, the experts at Betty Crocker are focused on quick dinners on the grill that require very little cleanup. You can cut down on mess, they say, with foil pack recipes that use an indirect-heating method to cook the food.
For instance, this flavorful recipe for Green Chile Cheddar Burgers, brings together classic cheeseburgers, a zip of green chiles and craveable corn salsa.
• 1 lb extra-lean (at least 90 percent) ground beef
• 2 cans (4.5 oz each) Old El Paso chopped green chiles
• 2 teaspoons chili powder
• 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
• 1 1/2 cups frozen whole kernel sweet corn, thawed
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
• 4 lime wedges
• Heat gas or charcoal grill. Cut 4 (18×12-inch) sheets of heavy duty foil. Spray with cooking spray.
• In medium bowl, mix beef, 1 can green chiles, chili powder, 1 teaspoon of the cumin, 3/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1 cup of the cheese until blended. Form into four patties about 1/2-inch thick. In small bowl, mix corn, remaining can of green chiles, remaining 1/2 teaspoon cumin and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt.
• Place beef patty on center of each sheet of foil. Scoop about 1/3 cup of corn mixture on top of each patty.
• Bring up two sides of foil so edges meet. Seal edges, making tight 1/2-inch fold; fold again, allowing space for heat circulation and expansion. Fold other sides to seal.
• Place packs on grill over medium heat. Cover grill; cook eight minutes. Rotate packs 1/2 turn; cook seven to nine minutes longer or until patties are no longer pink in center and meat thermometer inserted in center of patties reads 160 degrees. Remove packs from grill. Cut large X across top of each pack. Carefully fold back foil. Top each patty with 2 tablespoons cheese; garnish with cilantro and a lime wedge.
This summer, go above and beyond by seeking out recipes for the grill that are easy to execute, but full on flavor.