Sunday, July 5, 2009

Kaiser's 4th of July cookout menu

7/1/09 Cook’s Corner
All-American cookout menu
Betty Kaiser

It’s really hard to improve upon the All-American hamburger and hot dog as menu choices for a fourth of July cookout. They are easy to prepare, quick cooking and pleasing to almost everyone’s palate. And they are definitely portable if you’re toting them to the beach or a nearby park.

Everyone has their own idea of what constitutes the perfect hamburger. For me, it’s all about the meat: texture and taste. Here are my three simple guidelines :

Rule Number 1: Do not use packaged patties. Commercially compressing the meat results in a sawdust tasting burger. Lightly shaping the patty makes for a tender burger.

Rule Number 2: Use a high quality beef but not the sirloin or 7% fat grade. Your burger will fall apart if the proper amount of fat is not there to bind the meat. Too much fat will result in excessive shrinkage. Then you’ll end up saying “Where’s the beef?” as you play hide and go seek with the meat patty inside a gigantic bun.

Rule Number 3: Do not add anything to the meat. If you’re using a good grade of meat it doesn’t need to be mixed up with onions, sauces, or any kind of filler. The condiments will provide plenty of zip for your burger.

And speaking of condiments, my husband’s favorite addition is grilled onions. Now I’m not a big fan of either grilled onions or toting a skillet to the park to cook them in. So, I usually grill the onions in advance, wrap them in foil and reheat them at the grilling site. It saves a heap of time and trouble.

Hamburger buns are available in all sizes and flavors. Next time you’re in the market, check out the Kaiser rolls. They’re lighter than traditional rolls, come in a variety of flavors and are large enough to hold everything that you pile on. They can easily be heated right in the plastic bag from the market. Just leave them out on the table and the sun will do the job for you. The traditional buttered and grilled bun is also great.

Everyone loves potato salad and everyone likes their own potato salad best. Especially when it comes to the dressing. Some prefer mayonnaise; others swear by Miracle Whip; still others conjure up a mixture of sour cream and mayo; and a few put together a simple vinaigrette dressing. The best one is the one that your family will eat!

My potato salad recipe is an often requested three-generation favorite. My measurements are ‘flexible’ and no two batches are alike. The final product depends upon the potatoes, my mood that day and the number of people I’m serving. I taught my husband and many cooks in the Kaiser’s Country Diner kitchen to make this by the gallon. This recipe recreation attempt is especially for my friend Nancy O. (who also makes a ‘mean’ potato salad). Enjoy!

Betty’s Potato Salad
(Serves 8)

10 medium sized russet, red or Yukon gold potatoes (see note)
2 or 3 carrots, shredded
1 small red onion, finely minced
8 celery stems, sliced in moons
8 sweet pickles, diced
Garlic salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup Italian dressing
Mayonnaise (about 1-1/2 cups)
5 hard boiled eggs, chopped
Lawry’s seasoned salt

Scrub potatoes, put in large pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer about 1 hour or until done and skin starts to crack. Drain, cover with cold running water until they begin to cool down. Drain again.

Peel potatoes while warm; if using red potatoes, leave on some skin. Dice and place in large mixing bowl. Add onion, celery and sweet pickles, garlic salt and pepper. Pour Italian dressing over all and mix well. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, add a spoonful of sweet pickle juice to mayonnaise. Stir potatoes and mix well with mayonnaise. If you like your salad dry, don’t add all of the mayo at once. If you like it wetter, add more mayo. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Put in serving bowl, cover with eggs and garnish with season salt.

Note: This recipe serves 8 average appetites. Adjust amounts according to number of people being served. Use one potato per person plus two extras ‘for the pot.’ I never like to run out of food at a party.

Chuck’s Burgers with grilled onions
(Serves 6-7)

2 pounds ground beef (12% fat)
1/4-cup Canola oil (more or less)
3 sweet onions, thinly sliced and separated into rings
2 tablespoons Italian dressing or Worcestershire sauce
6 Kaiser rolls, partially sliced

Garnishes (as desired):
Cheddar cheese slices
Dill pickles
Barbecue sauce, mustard, catsup
1000 island dressing
Shredded lettuce
Raw red onions, sliced

Shape the ground beef into patties. Allow for shrinkage: about 5 ounces for adults; smaller ones of kids. Grill to desired doneness.

Prepare the grilled onions by heating oil in a large skillet; add onions. Cook and stir until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Return to skillet and lightly stir in Italian dressing or Worcestershire sauce. If transporting to a picnic site, allow to cool and wrap in heavy-duty foil. Reheat before serving.

Grilled Dogs

8 bun size hot dogs or Italian sausages
8 hot dog buns or Hoagie rolls

Garnishes (as desired)
Grilled onions (see above recipe)
Diced red onions
Cheddar cheese, shredded
Dill pickles
Sweet pickle relish
Catsup and mustard

Grill dogs; add buns just before serving. Let everyone garnish his or her own dog and eat!

Keep it simple and keep it seasonal! 
Betty Kaiser’s Cook’s Corner is dedicated to sharing a variety of recipes
that are delicious, family oriented and easy to prepare.

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