The 4th of July is the perfect time to hang outside with friend and family, especially if you have a great deck like we do. We are really lucky to have a view of fireworks from ours so usually we just post up on the deck and hang until it gets dark and the show starts. But you don’t have to wait for 4th of July to roll around to have a lovely and really easy BBQ at your place – this menu is designed so that almost everything is made in advance and can be served at room temperature so you can relax and enjoy your guests. I decided to go with a nautical theme for the table and even some of the food since it works well for 4th of July. I also just so happen to have a “boat load” of nautical entertaining gear.
A party like this screams for disposable serve wear but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style. I love bamboo plates for this because they are really sturdy, are eco friendly, chic and you don’t feel bad throwing them away. Paired with cute wooden utensils and a large charcoal napkin your guests won’t even care they don’t have the real stuff. Always remember when you are outside to think about what may blow away – I used my gorg turtle bottle opener as a paper weight but it did double duty with the beers. I used lanterns filled with citronella candles to keep the DC bugs at bay and just set out all the dishes in the middle of the table so people could help them selves. Scroll to the bottom for the sources of all this fun nautical stuff. On to the menu!
Just posted this Tuesday, this drink is perfect for a BBQ. Not too potent and so refreshing. I created a self serve bar by setting out glasses and an ice bucket so people could help themselves. I love stemless wine glasses for parties because they work as a wine glass, water glass or cocktail glass (also my friends seem less prone to breaking these and Crate and Barrel sells them in 12 packs!). We also had a bucket with summer beers and some crisp summer whites set up next to the bar.
Open and Serve Snacks
My favorite kind! The best way to round out a menu is to have some items where you have to do zero work at all. Since I was already going “overboard” with the nautical theme I even went with nautical snacks. These Wye River Crabbers are easily available in the Mid Atlantic – I buy them on the Eastern Shore but have seen them in local Harris Tetters – but you could definitely sub goldfish crackers here. Sandbaggers are these awesome Virginia peanuts that are tossed with salt and fresh black pepper. Again you can find them locally here in stores but go online and get some if you live elsewhere – they are a revelation.
Of course I also had to go with Cape Cod Potato chips to make sure New England was represented. A pretty bowl will class up any snack so make sure to use your best here (ie not disposable) and keep an eye on the levels throughout the party and replenish as needed.
These fritters were by far the most popular thing on the table. The sweet corn is such a good foil to the spicy jelly. I was nervous about making them in advance but they turned out really well – fry them off earlier in the day and then just reheat in the oven. Even at room temperature they were delicious. I topped them with my new obsession, Woodberry Pantry Chile Pepper Jam. Made in Baltimore with fish peppers that are native to the Mid Atlantic region, it’s pretty spicy but with a nice sweet finish. You can buy it on line or at Salt and Sundry in DC.
Another really easy make ahead snack set out on a cute whale cutting board. Crab can be expensive for a crowd but a little goes a long way with this dish. I grilled the peppers ahead of time and made the filling in advance as well so all I had to do was scoop the crab mixture into the peppers and set them out on this cute whale cutting board my mom got me. Delish.
Sausage and Peppers
Ok I didn’t take any pics of the main dish of the night – mostly because I was having way too much fun! Not sure if you all need to know what sausage and peppers look like anyway. I did a mix of hot and sweet sausages that I just picked up at the grocery store. I par boiled them for 10 minutes until they cooked through so all the grill master needed to do was throw them on the grill for a couple of minutes to get a nice char on the outside. I also sauteed up some onions and bell peppers earlier in the day until they were caramelized and soft. Reheated in a skillet on the grill and with a quick splash of balsamic vinegar they were great piled on top of the sausages in their buns. You could also sub for regular hot dogs to make life even easier.
I have to admit – these were not the easiest brownies to make. When I saw this recipe in the New York Times I immediately printed it out and made it that weekend. The results were delicious but as you can see from the pic pretty messy! All the caramel makes them pretty tough to cut but if you have the patience go for it! If not I think brownies and cookies purchased from your favorite bakery would be a great way to go. Some fresh strawberries are a great way to decorate the dish and add some fruit to the mix. Have a great 4th of July – hope you get inspired and whip up some of these dishes!
Sources: Gurgling Cod pitcher by Shreve, Crump & Low; Silver table lanterns (similar) from Pottery Barn ; Table runner from Serena and Lily no longer available – similar from World Market; Bamboo Plates and wooden utensils from Amazon; Stemless wine glasses from Crate and Barrel; Buoy bottle opener (similar) from Marc and Graham; Nautical bowls no longer available – similar from Stonewall Kitchen; Fish plate serving the fritters from Come by Chance in St. Michaels, MD; Whale cutting board (similar) from Anthropologie.