Chef John's Fourth of July Favorites
Chef John, he's America's patriot chef. After all, he owns the recipe for a certain Founding Father's mac-and-cheese (more later). He's an icon, a bald eagle of the kitchen, swooping in with mustache and toque blanche to cook all the comforting classics you love. He's as American as baseball, Chevrolet, and his own top-rated apple pie. What I'm saying is, it's only proper that we turn to him now for recipes to celebrate America's Independence Day.
Yes, in this line-up of Chef John's top-rated recipes, we highlight his All-American hits. We'll start out with some classic July 4th party food -- Chef John's macaroni and potato salads, his coney dogs, fried and BBQ'd chicken, and his patented All-American burger dog! Then we'll check out his tasty tributes to Boston, Philadelphia, and to Thomas Jefferson himself, the original "Mac" daddy. And then it's time for some flag-themed fun. From there, we'll do dessert. Let's get to it, patriots!
Chef John earns a feather in his cap with this Yankee Doodle of a macaroni salad. "Whether it's sitting next to some smoky ribs or just a humble hot dog, this deli-style macaroni salad will always be a crowd favorite, as long as you pay attention to a few key details," says Chef John.
In this classic buttermilk fried chicken recipe, you'll toss the chicken pieces with 11 spices and then marinate it in buttermilk. Give the chicken a quick dredge in seasoned flour, and it's fry time! "I love the tangy tenderization that the buttermilk provides," says Chef John. "After the buttermilk soak, dredge the chicken pieces in seasoned flour, and fry them in hot oil until crisp and cooked."
Not only delicious, the burger dog is also a metric ton of fun. But it's not all fun and games; the shape of the burger actually helps develop an incredible grilled crust that covers the whole surface of the burger, and the proportions between meat, cheese, and bun are exceptional. "This 'burger dog' is far more than a hot dog-shaped cheeseburger," says Chef John. "It's a one-handed wonder that's perfectly proportioned and easier to eat than a regular cheeseburger."
And now for a real American dog! These delicious hot dogs get the full Coney Island treatment with a meat relish that's slightly sweet, slightly spicy, and slightly salty. Top with plenty of yellow mustard and raw onions. And check out the recipe for Chef John's Homemade Hot Dog Buns too!
Your Fourth of July party demands juicy BBQ chicken with truly explosive flavor! There are no cherries in this recipe. But it is undeniably the bomb. Actually, the name comes from the brine, which features cherry tomatoes and hot habanera chilies, all blended together into a smooth puree.
"This is my mother Pauline's recipe," says Chef John. "It's pretty much a classic American salad but remember, if you add onions, use sweet onions and chop with a very sharp knife, allow potatoes to cool to room temp before dressing them, and always taste for salt."
"When it comes to barbecued chicken, everyone wants that nice thick glaze of sauce attached to the skin, and the only way to do it, is brush it on as it cooks," says Chef John. "Therein lies the problem. Because of the sugar content, it only takes a minute for a barbecue sauce to go from brick-red to solid black. I just 'mark' the chicken's vulnerable skin side, then cook it all the way through in a closed grill, brushing on the glaze as it cooks."
Here's Chef John's spicy take on a shrimp po'boy with crab mayo. "I decided to do an extra spicy version, and give it a 4th of July-friendly name," says Chef John. "But the soul of the sandwich is the same and features an insanely great combination of hot, crunchy shrimp, and cold crabby mayo."
Chef John's deviled eggs are a sinfully delicious way to satisfy what Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature." And, really, they're the only way to get the patriotic party started. The devil is in the details, of course. As Chef John puts it, "My deviled eggs recipe is fairly standard, except I like to add a little cream cheese. Unlike mayonnaise, cream cheese firms up when chilled, and provides a little more luxurious texture."
These molasses- and brown-sugar based beans would certainly fortify a Midnight Ride to Lexington. You can almost picture Paul Revere digging into a bowlful on the night he got the call. Of course, they're also highly suitable for an afternoon spent lounging in a lawn chair in your back yard. One thing is sure, you'll want these Boston baked beans with just about any main dish you'll make for July 4th -- fried chicken, BBQ'd chicken, burgers, grilled sausages and hot dogs. Watch the video to see how Chef John bakes up a batch of perfectly tender beans.
Thrill to the bold flavor of Philadelphia freedom! You almost wish Philly cheesesteaks had existed back in 1776 so a tray full of these minis might have been passed around after the last signature was scratched onto the Declaration of Independence. "They really capture everything I love about the classic Philly cheesesteak," says Chef John.
Here it is, Chef John's famous Thomas Jefferson-inspired mac and cheese. He starts with a simple roux, adding herbs, spices, and cold milk. Then it's time for grated nutmeg, Worcestershire sauce, and three kinds of cheeses -- along with a dash of Dijon at the end for big flavor. "This easy-to-make old-school macaroni and cheese has a perfectly crispy crust," says Chef John.
"These colors don't run, but they do stain, so I recommend eating this delicious, red, white and blueberry chicken outdoors at a barbeque," says Chef John. "Smoky, spicy meats have been paired with sweet-and-sour, fruit-based sauces since we've had cooks, so that this combo works beautifully is no big surprise. And yes, other juicy fruit like peaches, or other berries will work nicely."
Chef John asks you: "Is there any better way to celebrate the birth of our great nation than with this red, white, and sort-of-blue Popsicle? Before you answer, I should mention they're actually strawberry and blueberry cheesecake ice pops that are spiked with booze."
As patriotic desserts go, apple pie's got nothing on this one! A simple no-bake cheesecake that's decorated like the old Stars and Stripes. The filling features cream cheese, mascarpone cheese, and fresh whipped cream. It's rich and sweet, with a light texture that's less dense than baked cheesecake. You'll spread the creamy filling over a homemade chocolate graham cracker crust. It's so easy!
Peach cobbler is the prefect summer dessert. "This recipe was inspired by one from Renee Erickson's cookbook, A Boat, a Whale, and a Walrus, says Chef John. "It's a lot crispier than a regular cobbler, and you can use the technique for other fruit cobblers. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream."
Check out our collection of Chef John Recipes.