Celebrating Independence Day is not a uniquely American holiday. Virtually every independent nation celebrates a day when ties were severed from a dominant nation. Mexico’s Cinco de Mayo is not its independence day but is the most important national holiday in Mexico.
I’m not sure what typical Cinco de Mayo food would include, but if I were creating the menu there would be tamales, chiles rellenos, grilled nopales, enchiladas, guacamole and muchas salsas along with plenty of Mexican cerveza.
France celebrates Bastille Day on July 14, commemorating the day the French people stormed the Bastille, the famous prison, and replaced the absolute monarchy with a representative government.
Celebrating any holiday with French food and wine is reason enough to celebrate in itself. Picture it: Paris, a blanket spread on the banks of the Seine, Champagne chilling in a cooler to toast the occasion, ample bruschette for spreading tapenade onto, baguettes, a selection of cheeses and charcuterie, some red and white wines, and whatever seasonal fruit is available. Let the fireworks begin!
Back home in the good ol’ US of A, we have our own ways of grazing through the 4th of July. Inevitably, most celebrations will be outdoors and around some sort of grill, as it should be. Hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled meat and chicken, barbecue, potato salad, cole slaw, deviled eggs, ice cream, strawberries, blueberries, baked beans, oysters, lobster, crab, to name more than a few likely table-toppers, depending on where you celebrate.
I consider the foods I listed above to be from our “melting pot” cuisine. It would be interesting to table hop from culture to culture in the US to see and taste the foods our more recent immigrants have brought to our shores.
Our home would have ample samplings of Asian foods among the BBQ and potatoes. Spring rolls, tapioca balls, jasmine rice and a fiery curry are likely candidates. Remember, especially on this day, that not all menus are created equal.
This year I’m finally making a Blueberry Barbecue Sauce that I found on the Internet years ago. Credit for this creation goes to Crescent Dragonwagon. Let’s take a brief pause for you to contemplate and fully appreciate her grand name. I love the way it trips off the tongue with ease. The link above will take you to her site for a witty read on how her name came to be. When you go there, please come back; her writing is very seductive.
I know I can’t just name-drop “Crescent Dragonwagon” on you without telling you more of what I know about this remarkable woman. She is a prolific and award-winning children’s book author, cookbook author, chef and former innkeeper.
She, along with her husband, Ned Shank, owned and operated Dairy Hollow House, a country inn and restaurant in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, from 1980 until 1998. The Washington Post described it as “a kind of Algonquin Round Table of the Ozarks.” Ponder that one for a while too.
It was here that she became acquainted with then-Governor Bill and Hillary Clinton. In 1993, she and husband Ned were invited to prepare and serve brunch for 1200 people for the first presidential inauguration of President Bill Clinton. I read that her Blueberry Barbecue Sauce was one of the President’s favorites.
Toward the end of the life of the inn, Dragonwagon and Shank began turning the inn into The Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow. Shank died unexpectedly in 2000. Ms. Dragonwagon relocated to New England, where she reads, writes, and in general lives life as an artist should, with fearless passion.
“Cooking, eating, living, loving, writing, reading, thinking. Listening, tasting, sniffing. Cozying up to mystery at midlife. I think we’re all part of the narrative life tells itself about itself.”
~ Crescent Dragonwagon
Crescent Dragonwagon is a vegetarian and has written three cookbooks: Dairy Hollow House Soup and Bread Cookbook, Passionate Vegetarian and The Cornbread Gospels. Dairy Hollow House Soup and Bread Cookbook is not a vegetarian cookbook.
Blueberry Barbecued Chicken
Sauce recipe adapted from Barbecue Bible: Sauces, Rubs and Marinades, Bastes, Butters and Glazes by Steven Raichlen
For the sauce:
- 2 quarts (2 lt.) blueberries, fresh or frozen. If frozen, thaw and save the juice.
- 1½ cups (360 ml.) celery, minced
- 1½ cups (360 ml.) onion, finely chopped
- 1½ cups (360 ml.) green bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, minced
- 1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
- 1 cup (240 ml.) cider vinegar, or more to taste
- ½ cup (120 ml.) honey, or more to taste
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) molasses
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) ketchup
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml.) paprika
- 1½ teaspoons (7.5 ml.) coarse salt, kosher or sea
- 1½ teaspoons (7.5 ml.) freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml.) ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon (2.5 ml.) mustard powder
- ½ teaspoon (2.5 ml.) ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon (1.25 ml.) ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon (1.25 ml.) celery seed
- ¼ teaspoon (1.25 ml.) cayenne pepper, or more to taste
- ¹⁄₈ teaspoon (.625 ml.) ground cloves
- Purée the blueberries along with any juices in a food processor. (You will probably have to do this in two batches.)
- Combine the blueberry mixture and all the remaining ingredients in a large, heavy, non-reactive pan.
- Stir together while bringing to a gentle simmer over medium heat.
- Simmer until all the vegetables are soft and the sauce has thickened.
- In batches, purée the sauce in a food processor until smooth.
- Strain through a fine sieve or a chinoise.
- The sauce should be pourable and thick.
- Taste and correct seasoning to your taste. For sweeter, add more honey; for more sour, add more vinegar; for more heat, add more cayenne.
- Use immediately or cool to room temperature, store in a jar in the refrigerator. It should keep for several weeks.
For the rotisserie chicken:
- Prepare your grill.
- Arrange the coals on opposing sides so the rotating chicken gets indirect heat, not directly from below.
- Wash and dry a whole chicken.
- Truss it and lightly coat with olive oil.
- Season with salt and pepper and any other seasonings you desire.
- Skewer the chicken on the spit and roast until the internal temperature reaches 155°F or 68°C.
- Begin basting the chicken with the sauce until covered. (Be cautious at this state; sugars (honey) in the sauce burn easily.)
- Roast for about another 4-5 minutes or until the sauce is set.
- Alternately, you could cut the chicken into serving pieces and grill on a grill surface, then baste with the sauce.
Serve with some of the reserved sauce for dipping and with side vegetables or salad of your choice.
Strawberries Swimming in the Cream
My inspiration for the name of this simple dessert came from an Olde English poem by George Peele in the late 16th century. I came to know it from Benjamin Britten’s Spring Symphony.
When as the rye reach to the chin,
And chopcherry, chopcherry ripe within,
Strawberries swimming in the cream,
And schoolboys playing in the stream,
Then O, then O, then O, my true love said,
Till that time come again,
She could not live a maid.
– George Peele (1559-1596), The Old Wives Tale
- Fresh strawberries
- 1 pint (.5 lt.) heavy whipping cream
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml.) Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur or Kirschwasser (Cherry Brandy) (optional but recommended)
- Fresh mint, cut into a fine chiffonade
- Sugar to taste
- Wash the berries and remove the hulls, saving a few for a garnish.
- Sweeten the cream to taste with the sugar and whip until stiff.
- At the end, whip in the spirits.
- Stir in the berries and mint.
Bon appétit and Happy Independence Day
About the Author (Author Profile)
Music, food and photography are at the center of Charles’ life. He performed with the Dallas Symphony, Dallas Opera and was assistant principal bassoonist with the Fort Worth Symphony for more than 20 years. When Charles and Victor moved to Baltimore, Charles created Lone Star Personal Chef and Catering Service and taught cooking classes at Williams-Sonoma. Now in Salem, Charles is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Mountain West Real Estate, taught cooking classes for children at the A.C. Gilbert Discovery Village, and owns and operates Charles Price Photography. Charles and Vic enjoy entertaining and frequently host dinners as fundraisers for local non-profits and charities