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Goodies for your glorious fourth

Posted by MrNatch3L on Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Well my compatriots are all getting set for the big holiday weekend. I'm sure you all have your favorite munchables for this occasion, but in case you're up for something new/different I thought I'd share a couple of my favorties with you.

Doña Pilar's Sangría
There are probably as many ways to make sangría as there are Spaniards in Spain. This is the recipe of Doña Pilar Gimeno Ondovilla Viuda de Maroto - a long name for a tiny energetic and very sweet elderly lady who took in weird foreign college students like me to make ends meet. She liked the fact that I enjoyed cooking and taught me several typical Spanish things. This is a good one for summer cookouts and other hot weather do's. Doña Pilar is long gone to glory now but I'm sure she would be happy to think lots or people might enjoy her sangría recipe. (Actually her favorite hot weather drink was a stiff Beefeater and toinc with a squeeze of lime!)

Any halfway decent dry red table wine will work for this. Oddly enough, using a finer vintage doesn't really improve the resulting sangría as you might expect it would. Most typical Spanish cuisine comes from the everyday folk rather than the aristocracy. For example, paella originated as the mid-day meal of workers in the Valencian orange groves. You're going to adulterate whatever wine you use, so don't go upscale. In the USA, a decent California jug or box wine will do fine. Elsewhere, a decent French or Spanish box wine will work.

1 liter dry red table wine
1 liter fizzy mineral water (Perrier style) chilled
3 medium oranges
1 large lemon
2 small limes
1-2 ripe peaches
5-6 Tbsp. sugar
1 generous slug, Cognac or brandy
2-3 sticks cinnamon
3-4 whole cloves
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

Prepare Sangria base ahead. The base should stand for at least 2 hours. 4-5 hours is even better. Better yet, cover & set in fridge overnight. To make the base:

1. Pour wine into a large pitcher.
2. Add sugar, mix well. Start with 5 tbsp. You can add more later if needed.
3. Add spices. You can put cinnamon & clove in a gauze warpping, not to chew them later.
4. Squeeze juice from the lemon, 1-1/2 limes, 2-1/2 oranges. Set aside 1/2 orange and 1/2 lime.
5. Add citrus juice and cognac to wine, mix well.
6. Cut remaining lime and orange into thin slices. Slice the peach(es). Add sliced fruit to sangría base.
7. Taste for sweetness. If you like it sweeter, add more sugar. Keep in mind the base will be thinned down with mineral water.

Serve in tall glasses over ice. Pour or ladle sangía base into glasses, 1/2 full. Add a slice or two of fruit. Add an equal amount (or a tad less) of mineral water. Robert's American touch: rub a sprig of fresh mint around the rim of each glass and granish glass with the sprig.

Serves 3-4 average Americans or 1-2 average Spaniards/Italians/French. Adjust recipe accordingly.  [:D]

Liberty Chicken BBQ Baste

I'm giving away one of my specialties here folks. The small white clapboard Presbyterian church in central Ohio where i grew up hand an annual chicken BBQ fundraiser which I guess got to be so popular that they had to shut it down because they couldn't handle the crowds. The special sauce was the trade secret (supposedly) of one of the members whose business was doing chicken BBQs at fairs and things. He donated time and equipment for the church BBQ. It was a big night out for the youngsters and as you got older the sort of jobs you got to do improved, or so I remember. Anyway, when I was 12 or so I evidently impressed the BBQ man with how much I already knew about cookiing and he told me what went into his secret sauce. I then forgot about it for some 40 years and after moving out to the country recently I remembered about it and started trying to recreate it. Idon't know if I succeeded, but the taste is exactly what I remember. Don't worry about it getting blackened. That's part of the deal.

3 Tbsp. real old-fashioned, unwhipped butter, preferably unsalted
3-4 Tbsp. light sunflower or quality vegetable oil
3 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
4 tsp. white wine or cider vinegar (original was probably cider, I prefer wine)
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
Salt to taste
Optional: 1/2 to 1 tsp. cognac

In a small saucepan, melt butter over very low heat.The trick is to keep the heat really low all thru the process so as not to let the butter scorch at all - you don't want that flavor until chicken is on the grill.

Add oil to melted butter, mixing well.

Stir in other ingredients except salt and mix well until evenly heated. It should not be so hot that after a couple of seconds a coated spoon is too hot to taste.

Taste for salt. How much salt depends on whether the butter is salted or not. You're looking for a buttery-salty flavor (but not overly salty) with a very definite tangy character that emphasizes neither the vinegar flavor nor the Worcestershire flavor. With the right amount of salt (and I guess I probably don't use much more than 1/4 tsp.), you don't really need to salt the chicken. If you salt chicken, use less salt in the baste.

Try to keep the mixture warm for 20-30 miutes before using. Or make ahead and reheat to melt butter just before use. Taste again before using... some tanginess may be lost due to evaporation and you'll want to add a little more vinegar and Worcestershire. Covering the pan helps, but makes it easier for the mixture to get too hot.

Use a brush to baste chicken parts well before before putting on the coals. Baste chicken frequently while grilling. Butter will cause blackening, especially on the skin side. This is fine if you don't overdo it - keep turing and basting frequently!

The above makes enough for 2-3 whole chicken beasts and a few pork chops (with which this works well also.

The traditional American church BBQ accompaniment is of course potato salad, cole slaw, baked beans, biscuits or rolls, homemade pies, cakes, etc. etc.

Our European replacement, which is less effort overall, is to marinate any combination, or all, of: sliced eggplant, zuchhini, red onion, big mushroom caps, and chunks of red/yellow/orange bell peppers in oil, garlic, herbs, balsamic vinegar and salt for an hour and add these to the grill in a closeable grilling rack just as the chicken is getting done so they can be served alongside. In hot weather, rosé wine served Provence style (chilled and poured over ice with an optional lemon slice ) is really NICE with this, but of course is not authentic midweest country Presbyterian church social fare.

Happy swilling and grilling!

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