Tag Archives: BBQ

A Nautical BBQ

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.

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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!

Thyme Vodka Lemonade

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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.

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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.

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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.

Corn Fritters with Jalapeño Jelly

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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.

Crab Stuffed Grilled Bell Peppers

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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.

Salted Caramel Brownies

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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.

 

Bacon BBQ Chicken

The unfortunate thing about food trends is that inevitably they flame out and then people avoid that ingredient because they don’t want to seem passe.  Bacon definitely had its ridiculous moment in the sun – bacon beer, bacon gum, bacon donuts and so on.  Why mess with something that in its most natural form is pretty awesome!?!?!  Using bacon as a bit ingredient and not as the star is how I like to use it most.  Chefs have been using bacon for ages to impart fat and flavor to sauces, soups, stews and braised dishes all without you knowing about it.  So when I read in Cook’s Illustrated that they used bacon to solve the common dilemma of dried out grilled chicken I was very intrigued.  They extolled the virtues of a bacon paste slathered over the chicken before it hit the grill.  Not only does the bacon flavor the chicken but its fat helps baste the chicken while it is cooking with no additional work from the grill master.  Genius!  If you are worried about turning a healthy grilled chicken breast gluttonous, there are only 2 pieces of bacon used per 2 pounds of chicken and most of the fat cooks off while it’s grilling.  Of course the magazine says to make your own BBQ sauce but for me jarred sauces (especially the ones from Dinosaur BBQ) are way better than anything I can make myself.  The key to the bacon paste is to really let the food processor do its job, you cannot over puree the bacon.  Match this with the coleslaw and mac and cheese from earlier this week and you will have a stress free labor day menu.  If you are looking for a dessert to make I am going to try my hand at this icebox cake by Ina Garten – haven’t made it before so I can’t vouch for it 100% but how bad could mocha whipped cream and chocolate chip cookies be?

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I hope everyone has a great long weekend – its been an incredible summer, cooking, entertaining and blogging along the way.  I am excited to share with you my fall and football favorites starting next week.  Please make sure to reach out if there is anything you would like to see on the blog and as always please pass along A Capitol Contessa to friends and family who you think might enjoy it.  Just this week we hit over a thousand visitors and over 50 posts which is so gratifying – thanks to everyone for their support!

Bacon BBQ Chicken (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration: Cook’s Illustrated Barbecued Chicken Kebabs
Special Equipment: food processor

  • 2 pounds chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 4 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika (or skip all those spices and use about 1/3 cup of any spice rub)
  • 2 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce (I like Dinosaur  BBQ’s Wango Tango)

Toss the chicken in a bowl with the salt, cover ad refrigerate for at least 30 minutes up to a couple of hours.  This will help season the chicken.  Pat the chicken dry once it has hung out with the salt with paper towels.  Put the bacon into the food processor and process for 30 seconds to a minute until its formed a smooth pink paste (bacon paste!).

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Add the bacon paste to the chicken.  Mix up the paprikas and sugar and add to the bowl or if you have a spice rub that you like use that instead.  Mush them all together so the chicken ends up coated with the bacon paste and spices.  Put the chicken on metal skewers or wooden ones that have been soaked for at least 30 minutes in water.  Put the chicken on fairly tightly with little to no space between the pieces so they all cook evenly.

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Preheat your grill on high then cook the skewers over medium high heat for about 8 minutes, turning them every 2 minutes or so.  You want to get nice color on all sides.  After 8 minutes begin brushing the skewers with the BBQ sauce – brush one side, cook for a minute, then flip and brush the other side and cook for a minute more.  Remove the chicken from the grill and cover them with tin foil to let them rest for 5 minutes.  Serve with additional sauce if you would like.

Bacon BBQ Chicken

  • Servings: 6
  • Print

Special Equipment: food processor

  • 2 pounds chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 4 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika (or skip all those spices and use about 1/3 cup of any spice rub)
  • 2 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce (I like Dinosaur BBQ’s Wango Tango)

Toss the chicken in a bowl with the salt, cover ad refrigerate for at least 30 minutes up to a couple of hours. Pat the chicken dry once it has hung out with the salt with paper towels. Put the bacon into the food processor and process for 30 seconds to a minute until its formed a smooth paste. Add the bacon paste to the chicken. Mix up the paprikas and sugar and add to the bowl or if you have a spice rub that you like use that instead. Mush them all together so the chicken ends up coated with the bacon paste and spices. Put the chicken on metal skewers or wooden ones that have been soaked for at least 30 minutes in water. Put the chicken on fairly tightly with little to no space between the pieces so they all cook evenly. Preheat your grill on high then cook the skewers over medium high heat for about 8 minutes, turning them every 2 minutes or so. You want to get nice color on all sides. After 8 minutes begin brushing the skewers with the BBQ sauce – brush one side, cook for a minute, then flip and brush the other side and cook for a minute more. Remove the chicken from the grill and cover them with tin foil to let them rest for 5 minutes.  Serve with additional sauce if you would like.

Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese

Our friends Dave and Ashley introduced Patrick and I to a quaint town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Cambridge.  We instantly fell in love with this charming bayside town, its historic buildings, the local brewery RAR and the close-knit community.  Driving over the bridge to get there you feel your worries just melt away – we hope to buy our own place out there someday.  One of our first stops every time we visit is the High Spot Gastropub.  The friendly staff and craft beer menu are a draw but really for me its all about the mac and cheese.  You can order it with several types of cheeses but go smoked gouda.  Even if I am not hungry I order this side dish it’s that good.  Since we cannot get out to Cambridge as much as I would like I took a stab at recreating it myself.  I am pretty happy with the results though I will say something about being on the shore, the proximity to the water, that makes the High Spot’s version far superior.  I hope everyone can get out there at some point and try it but in the meantime this should help.  You can certainly swap out the smoked gouda for cheddar if you want a more classic mac and cheese.  I was worried that the smoked gouda could overwhelm the dish so I added a little monterey jack to the mix to smooth out the flavors and also because it melts lovely – I don’t think you would be any worse for wear if you went with all smoked gouda.  I left it nice and creamy with no topping like High Spot but you could certainly top it with some buttered breadcrumbs and run it under the broiler for a minute or two.  This will make the perfect accompaniment to Monday’s coleslaw and Friday’s highly anticipated BBQ Bacon Chicken.

Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  The High Spot 
Special Equipment:  none

  • 3/4 pound cavatappi (that’s the shape High Spot uses and its great for mac and cheese but any short cut pasta will do)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 1/2 cups of milk
  • 6 ounces smoked gouda, shredded
  • 2 ounces monterey jack, shredded

Cook the pasta in salted water for 10 minutes or so – whatever time is indicated on the box.  Meanwhile in a large sauce pot melt the butter over medium high heat.  Add the flour and whisk both together until the flour has absorbed all of the butter (this is called a roux and the best way to thicken sauces).  Keep an eye on it and let it cook for a minute or so, whisking constantly until it darkens a bit and the raw flour flavor has been cooked out.

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Slowly add in the milk, whisking all the time to break up any lumps.  Raise the heat a bit and wait for the mixture to boil.  Once it has you can lower the heat to medium and let it simmer for 5 minutes or so.  Stir it occasionally so the bottom doesn’t burn and you can keep track of how thick it’s getting.  You want it to be able to coat a spoon.

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Turn off the heat and stir in the cheeses (best to switch to a spoon here otherwise the cheese gets stuck in the whisk).  The cheese should melt in effortlessly, season with salt and pepper.  Add in the pasta and return it to medium heat for a minute or two – just enough for the pasta to take on some of the sauce.  Taste again to see if you need more seasoning and serve.

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Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Print

Special Equipment:  none

  • 3/4 pound cavatappi (that’s the shape High Spot uses and its great for mac and cheese but any short cut pasta will do)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 1/2 cups of milk
  • 6 ounces smoked gouda, shredded
  • 2 ounces monterey jack, shredded

Cook the pasta in salted water for 10 minutes or so then drain – whatever time is indicated on the box.  Meanwhile in a large sauce pot melt the butter over medium high heat.  Add the flour and whisk both together until the flour has absorbed all of the butter (this is called a roux and the best way to thicken sauces).  Keep an eye on it and let it cook for a minute or so, whisking constantly until it darkens a bit and the raw flour flavor has been cooked out.  Slowly add in the milk, whisking all the time to break up any lumps.  Raise the heat a bit and wait for the mixture to boil.  Once it has you can lower the heat to medium and let it simmer for 5 minutes or so.  Stir it occasionally so the bottom doesn’t burn and you can keep track of how thick it’s getting.  You want it to be able to coat a spoon.  Turn off the heat and stir in the cheeses (best to switch to a spoon here otherwise the cheese gets stuck in the whisk).  The cheese should melt in effortlessly, season with salt and pepper.  Add in the pasta and return it to medium heat for a minute or two – just enough for the pasta to take on some of the sauce.  Taste again to see if you need more seasoning and serve.

Classic Coleslaw

Ok it’s officially the last week of summer.  Even though it stays pretty hot in DC through September there really is something about the advent of Labor Day that feels like summer’s end.  Don’t get sad, embrace the end with a  blow out back yard BBQ with all of your friends and neighbors.  Labor Day screams for an all American menu like pulled pork or BBQ chicken, some coleslaw and the last of the delicious summer corn.  I usually make different kinds of slaws, vinegar based or with other vegetables besides cabbage.  However, to keep it classic I stuck with the mayo based slaw with some small modifications to keep it really fresh.  Coleslaw is a great make ahead – sometimes a little excess liquid can collect in the bottom so make sure to check and see if that’s the case.  If it does, no worries, I usually just pour that off.  This should be served chilled but don’t do it straight from the fridge as super cold food loses some of its flavor.  20 minutes or so will help bring it to semi room temp.  Don’t believe the myth about mayo – it’s perfectly safe to be left out for a couple of hours though I wouldn’t put it directly in the sun as the whole thing would wilt.  Wednesday I will feature a killer mac and cheese and Friday will be a BBQ chicken recipe so you will be all set for your long weekend.  Enjoy!

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Classic Coleslaw (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  end of summer BBQs
Special Equipment:  none

  • 1/2 green cabbage, sliced thinly
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 1 shallot, grated
  • 1/4 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt (optional)

In a large bowl toss the cabbage and grated carrot together.  In a smaller bowl mix together the remaining ingredients.  Taste for seasoning with salt and pepper, then add 3/4 of the dressing to the slaw.  Mix together and add as much of the rest of the dressing as you need to coat all of the veggies.  This slaw can be made a day in advance, just make sure to toss the slaw again before serving and allow it to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes to take the chill off.

Classic Coleslaw

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Print

Special Equipment: none

  • 1/2 green cabbage, sliced thinly
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 1 shallot, grated
  • 1/4 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt (optional)

In a large bowl toss the cabbage and grated carrot together. In a smaller bowl mix together the remaining ingredients. Taste for seasoning with salt and pepper, then add 3/4 of the dressing to the slaw. Mix together and add as much of the rest of the dressing as you need to coat all of the veggies. This slaw can be made a day in advance, just make sure to toss the slaw again before serving and allow it to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes to take the chill off.

Spicy Lamb Burgers

For those of you that live in D.C. you all remember the epic snow storm of 2012, lovingly known as Snowmageddon.  As a Boston girl I poo pooed the weather reports for weeks as I had seen the chicken little sky is falling routine time and time again in Washington only to end up with an inch of slush.  I was wrong.  It was an epic storm that will shape the lives of Washingtonians for decades (for those Bostonian readers this is ala the Blizzard of ’76).  Patrick and I hadn’t been dating long, so it was a tough proposition to be snowed in with someone for two weeks – especially after a couple of days when he realized we had run out of food!  Thankfully many Capitol Hill restaurants remained open through the whole ordeal, sending plows to their employee’s houses just so they could make it in, and welcoming snow-covered customers who piled wet mittens and scarfs on their floors.  Our savior was Cava Mezze on Barracks Row.  Now a local chain, back then it was a pretty small family run operation with several standout dishes.  Their happy hour deal on spicy lamb sliders and greek wine was all that stood between us and starvation (and probably a quick break up!).  Years later it is still my favorite thing on their menu and whenever I eat one I am taken back the memories of that crazy winter.

There are lots of lamb burger recipes out there so I played around with a bunch until I found something pretty close to the version at Cava’s.  Previously I used chopped fresh chili peppers to give it some heat but then DSC00114realized foolishly that since one of their staple dishes is fresh harrissa paste served with pita, that the spice in the burger was likely coming from that same hot chili pepper paste mixed in with the ground lamb.  There are lots of recipes for harissa online but I usually buy mine in tubes or small cans at mediterranean markets.  Also Whole Foods started carrying Cava’s version which is outstanding.  If you cannot find it, any kind of pepper paste would work or a chopped jalapeno would work in a pinch.

Also I found that my other attempts using egg and other binders left a burger that resulted in a big mess on the grill.  These patties hold together much better though fair warning, lamb is a “softer” meat so can lead to less than instagram worthy burgers.  One tip is to form the burgers and then let them chill for at least an hour in the fridge before grilling them  This helps them hold together better.  Also a good trick for burgers with mix ins like this one – if you aren’t going to eat all 4 right away still go ahead and make the whole recipe.  Once you have formed the burgers take the patties you are not going to use and put them on a plate or baking sheet.  Place in the freezer for 2 hours – the patty will harden and then you can throw it into a freezer bag for up to 6 months.  When you want to make the burgers again just defrost over night on a plate and you will have a premixed, preformed burger all ready for the grill.  I serve mine on toasted english muffins, a terrific vessel for all burgers, along with my yogurt sauce, arugula and red onion.  These burgers would be great for a family BBQ, a nice alternative to the standard fare, or as we often do for a quick weeknight dinner paired with a large greek salad.  These would be a great addition to your 4th of July menu (as will Friday’s recipe).

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Spicy Lamb Burgers (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:   Cava Mezze’s Spicy Lamb Sliders
Special Equipment:  none

  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 red onion – 1/2 chopped and 1/2 sliced to top the burgers
  • 3 cloves of garlic – 2 minced for the burgers and 1 minced for the yogurt sauce
  • 5 tablespoons chopped mint, divided – 2 tablespoons for the burgers and 3 for the yogurt sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons harissa (more if you like it spicier)
  • 5 to 6 ounces non-fat greek yogurt
  • 4 english muffins or hamburger buns
  • arugula or lettuce for topping

In a small pan heat the olive oil over medium heat then cook the chopped onion and 2 minced cloves of garlic until softened, about 5 minutes.  Let the mixture cool.  In a large bowl add lamb, chopped mint, the cooled onion and garlic mixture, harissa paste and salt and pepper.  Mix with your hands until just combined (don’t over work the meat or it will become tough).  Divide the meat into 4 and form patties.  If you have time chill for 1 hour in the fridge to make a firmer patty.

Heat grill on high and grill for 8-10 minutes.  Meanwhile mix the remaining garlic clove with the remaining 3 tablespoons of chopped mint, yogurt and salt and pepper to make the yogurt sauce.  Toast the english muffins while you let the burgers rest.

Spicy Lamb Burgers

  • Servings: 4
  • Print

Special Equipment:  none

  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 red onion – 1/2 chopped and 1/2 sliced to top the burgers
  • 3 cloves of garlic – 2 minced for the burgers and 1 minced for the yogurt sauce
  • 5 tablespoons chopped mint, divided – 2 tablespoons for the burgers and 3 for the yogurt sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons harissa (more if you like it spicier)
  • 5 to 6 ounces non-fat greek yogurt
  • 4 english muffins or hamburger buns
  • arugula or lettuce for topping

In a small pan heat the olive oil over medium heat then cook the chopped onion and 2 minced cloves of garlic until softened, about 5 minutes.  Let the mixture cool.  In a large bowl add lamb, chopped mint, the cooled onion and garlic mixture, harissa paste and salt and pepper.  Mix with your hands until just combined (don’t over work the meat or it will become tough).  Divide the meat into 4 and form patties.  If you have time chill for 1 hour in the fridge to make a firmer patty.

Heat grill on high and grill for 8-10 minutes.  Meanwhile mix the remaining garlic clove with the remaining 3 tablespoons of chopped mint, yogurt and salt and pepper to make the yogurt sauce.  Toast the english muffins while you let the burgers rest.

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