Cowgirl Chef: An apres-fireworks Fourth of July party

Posted Tuesday, Jul. 01, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

Tick-tock to a Fourth of July party


• Grocery shop.

• Make ice cream custard and s’mores chunks. Snack on s’mores chunks while you watch the second season of Orange Is the New Black.

• Marinate steak overnight.

• Make onion confit for steak sandwiches.


• Sleep in.

• Freeze ice cream in the morning while you’re drinking your coffee.

• Prep ingredients for the salad.

• In the late afternoon, make the ceviche.

• Toast bread for sandwiches.

Red snapper ceviche

Makes enough for 8 appetizers

2 pounds red snapper, skin and bones removed by your fishmonger

Juice of 3 large limes

A small handful of cilantro, chopped

1 jalapeño, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped red onion

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 avocado, sliced, for serving

Tortilla chips, for serving

Mix everything together in a bowl or shallow baking dish and put in the fridge for 4 hours. Serve with chips.

Nutritional analysis per appetizer: 157 calories, 5 grams fat, 4 grams carbohydrates, 24 grams protein, 42 milligrams cholesterol, 174 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 30 percent of calories from fat.

Chopped Greek toasted pita bread salad

Makes 4 to 6 servings

3 pieces of stale pita bread, torn into 1-inch pieces

About 1/2 cup of olive oil

Sea salt and pepper

1 teaspoon chopped shallot

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

10 cherry tomatoes, halved

4 green onions, chopped

A handful of Kalamata olives, halved

A small handful of fresh mint leaves

A small handful of fresh oregano

About 1/4 cup crumbled feta

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the pita bread pieces with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, a pinch of sea salt and pepper and lay out on a cookie sheet. Cook until the pita pieces are brown and crispy, about 10 minutes; then take them out of the oven, flip them over and cook for 5 minutes more.

2. Make the vinaigrette: Put shallot, vinegars, mustard, a pinch of salt and pepper in a jam jar and give it a good shake. Let it rest for about 10 minutes, add the rest of the olive oil and shake again. Taste for seasonings.

3. Put the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl, and just before serving, add the crispy pita pieces, some of the vinaigrette, and toss. Eat right away.

Nutritional analysis per serving, based on 4: 352 calories, 31 grams fat, 16 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, 8 milligrams cholesterol, 357 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber, 78 percent of calories from fat.

Steak sandwiches with onion confit

Makes 12 mini sandwiches

2 pounds flap steak or flank steak

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup soy sauce

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 medium jalapeño, chopped (with seeds)

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil, butter, or a mixture of both (I use both)

2 large white onions, sliced

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

12 small, firm rolls for sandwiches

1. Put the steak, vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and jalapeño in a shallow bowl or baking dish, making sure both sides of the meat are in the marinade. Let this rest in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.

2. Make the onion confit. Put the olive oil or butter, along with onions, in your largest skillet and turn the heat to low. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Watch these carefully and give them the time needed to slowly caramelize and sweeten. (Mine took well over an hour, because the onions were so large.) When done, remove from heat, let cool and refrigerate. Note: You can make these ahead of time.

3. When ready to cook the steak, put 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, and when the skillet is super-hot, add the meat and let cook to desired doneness — I always err on the side of rare, which, depending on steak thickness, should take 7 to 10 minutes per side for rare. Let the steak rest for 10 minutes under a foil tent before thinly slicing against the grain for sandwiches. (Note: This, too, can be done ahead of time. Nothing wrong with cold steak sandwiches!)

4. Toast the rolls, add 2 to 3 slices of meat and about 1 tablespoon of the onion confit. You may want to assemble these before you go watch fireworks, and simply pull them out of the fridge when you return home, right before guests arrive.

Nutritional analysis per mini sandwich: 264 calories, 13 grams fat, 18 grams carbohydrates, 18 grams protein, 39 milligrams cholesterol, 887 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 46 percent of calories from fat.

S’mores ice cream

Makes 1 quart

3 cups mini marshmallows

5 egg yolks

3/4 cup sugar

A pinch of sea salt

4 cups half-and-half

S’mores chunks:

6 graham crackers (one rectangle equals one cracker)

2 cups mini marshmallows

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (or a good milk chocolate if you’d like)

1. Preheat broiler and put the mini marshmallows on a foil-lined cookie sheet.

2. Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and pinch of salt.

3. Heat the half-and-half in a saucepan over medium-low heat.

4. Slide the marshmallows into the hot broiler, and watch them carefully — you want them to brown (and a few may burn), then remove them and whisk them into the warm milk. The marshmallows will melt into the milk, and if there are a few stubborn ones that don’t it’s OK. More marshmallow pieces in the ice cream is a good thing.

5. When the marshmallow custard is combined, and you begin to see tiny bubbles appear on the sides of the saucepan, remove from heat. Temper the eggs with a little bit of the mixture, whisking like crazy, then pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan. Let this cook for 5 to 10 minutes, or until it thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Cool in an ice bath, then refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

6. Make the s’mores chunks: Put the graham crackers on a foil-lined cookie sheet and top with the 2 cups of mini marshmallows. Slide this into the broiler, and watch carefully so they don’t burn. When the marshmallows puff up and brown, remove from the oven and top with the other graham crackers, smashing them down so they stick to the melted marshmallows. Melt the chocolate over a double-boiler and pour this over the marshmallow-stuffed graham crackers, letting it drip down the sides. Pop into the freezer until firm, then break into smallish pieces. Put these in a plastic bag and back into the freezer until ice cream-making time.

7. Make your ice cream according to the machine manufacturer’s directions. Pour into a container and add 2 cups or as many of the s’mores chunks as you’d like (you will have leftovers). Freeze until firm, then scoop away.

Nutritional analysis per 1/2 cup serving: 430 calories, 25 grams fat, 49 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams protein, 178 milligrams cholesterol, 112 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber, 50 percent of calories from fat.

— Adapted from a recipe on by Phyllis Grant

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July Fourth is on a Friday this year, so if you’ve put off having a party in years past (saying you have to work the next day and then calling in sick anyway), now you have absolutely no excuse whatsoever.

When the sky has darkened again and the firecrackers have stopped popping, put the kiddos to bed and host an adults-only apres-fireworks get-together.

With the day free of responsibilities, you can spend your entire free time in the kitchen, cooking up a feast for your guests.

But why would you?

Instead, make the entire meal, start to finish, ahead of time — heck, you can prep stuff Thursday night and tweak a bit Friday, after you relax at the pool — then have a few grown-up friends over after the fireworks show, wherever you happen to be.

(If you’re lucky enough to be near water, may your day be filled with nonstop fruity beverages and a juicy book, on a comfy lounge chair underneath a floppy hat. If that’s the case, by all means, don’t disrupt the revelry to prep; you might just order pizza.)

On the other side of the pond, where I’ll be this Fourth of July, dinner often doesn’t begin until 10 or 11 p.m. and lasts well past midnight. These long, hot days that stretch far into the evening aren’t going to be here for long, so let’s enjoy them while we can.

Don’t forget to pick up the sparklers.

Ellise Pierce is the Cowgirl Chef and author of “Cowgirl Chef: Texas Cooking With a French Accent”(Running Press, $25).; @cowgirlchef.

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