Brad Farmerie's split and grilled Maine lobster served with corn with chile butter and lime.
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Toques Off to America

Abbe Lewis / July 1st, 2013

Everyone has their idea of a picture-perfect July 4th setting—a picnic on the beach or lakefront, a typical backyard barbecue with plastic dinnerware and a checkerboard tablecloth, or, perhaps the great indoors, where there’s hope for that Mojito to keep its dignity and not get watered down by the summer heat.

And so, on our nation’s 237th birth year, some of America’s chefs weighed in with Food Arts and told us what their ideal Independence Day would be.

“Just to name a few, pork country spare ribs with barbecue/plum sauce (see the recipe below), corn on the cob, and my old-fashioned potato salad. And for dessert, angel food cake with strawberry compote and vanilla whipped cream. All to be washed down with a watermelon Margarita.” —Bradley Ogden, Hops and Harvest, Las Vegas

“For me. it’s all about cooking a big meat for a big crowd—baby pigs, usually, maybe baby lamb—and then the fun that goes with that.” —José Andrés, THINKFOODGROUP and the soon-to-be open America Eats Tavern, Washington, D.C., and surrounding metro areas

“It’s our anniversary for Girl & the Goat, so we celebrate with a big staff pig roast! Perfect for an outdoor celebration.” —Stephanie Izard, Girl & the Goat, Chicago

“Over the past few years, we have organized a trip to the shore with Jocelyn and our kids, both of my brothers and their kids, and my parents. For the 4th, it’s mostly about the grill, and I am often asked to do the same dish every year—grilled Maine lobster and early season corn tossed with chile butter and lime. The lobsters are split in half lengthwise, then grilled on both sides along with the corn, boiled baby potatoes, and some large wedges of red onion, and then they’re all thrown into a big bowl with butter infused with a good heap of Aleppo chile and lime quarters. The whole delicious mess is put onto a serving platter, garnished with cherry tomatoes and cilantro, and the feast begins! Everyone loves it because you can just eat with your hands either standing up, sitting down, or even running around.” —Brad Farmerie, Public, The Daily, Saxon & Parole, and Madam Geneva, New York City, and The Thomas, Napa

“The short version is that we make RIBS. Since I met my wife, Janet (she was 17, and I was just a wee bit older), we joined in her family tradition of Weber barbecued ribs. Not only on July 4th, but certainly we never miss a July 4th and ribs! Janet makes French fries from scratch. So that is tradition, too. When our son Justin and I wrote our newest cookbook (My Key West Kitchen, Kyle Books), the recipe below appeared in it.” —Norman Van Aken, Norman’s, The Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes and Tuyo, Miami

“For the 4th, it’s always barbecued chicken off the grill with Granny Fearing’s Eastern Kentucky baked beans, old-fashioned potato salad with French’s mustard, homemade bread and butter pickles, and peach pie. Come on down!” —Dean Fearing, Fearing’s Restaurant, The Ritz-Carlton Dallas

“Like most holidays, I’ll be working. The tradition here at the Umstead is for my sous chefs and me to cook for our entire team—one big family meal. We make homemade hot dogs and sausages, house-ground burgers, fresh baked buns, homemade local strawberry ice cream, ice cold watermelon, and warm pies. We set up the wood grill on the terrace of the hotel and have a huge family meal. Someone usually makes fresh lemonade, peach iced tea, and homemade cucumber/melon soda. It’s always a big hit.” —Scott Crawford, Herons at The Umstead Hotel & Spa, Cary, North Carolina

What's your kitchen cooking up? Tell us your favorite July 4th foods on Facebook.

Born on The Fourth of July Baby Back Ribs
Adapted from My Key West Kitchen by Norman and Justin Van Aken

Serves 4 to 6 (advanced preparation required)

Spice rub:
Yields about 1 cup

  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsps. dark brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cumin (best when freshly toasted and ground, as most spices are)
  • 1 Tbsp. paprika
  • 1 Tbsp. allspice
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cayenne
  • 1 tsp. ground chipotle chile pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. smoked pimentón
  • 1 tsp. ground anise seed
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger

Combine all the ingredients; separate about 1/4 of the mixture above and reserve the other 3/4 cups for other rubbing occasions.

Assembly:

  • 3 to 4 lbs. baby back ribs
  1. Lay ribs on a cutting board or other large surface; season with rub on both sides (more so on the meaty side); allow to stand on the ribs up to four hours.

  2. Prepare grill; heat to moderate-high heat and sear meaty side of ribs until brown; flip; apply layer of sauce; turn heat down to 160˚F to 175˚F; flip; apply sauce again; cook ribs for 90 minutes or more, continuing the flip/sauce technique.

Barbecued Smoked Baby Back Ribs with Spiced Plum/Brown Sugar Sauce & Potato Salad
From Bradley Ogden of Hops and Harvest, Las Vegas

For 4-6 servings (advanced preparation required)

Barbecue dry rub:
Yields about 3/4 cup

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsps. kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. red chili flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. celery seed
  • 1/2 tsp. mustard seed
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin seed
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander seed
  • 1/4 tsp. whole cloves 1 tsp. ground ginger

Combine brown sugar, salt, chili powder, black pepper, cayenne, red chili flakes, ginger, and cinnamon in a bowl; combine the whole spices in a small sauté pan over moderate heat and toast for 2 minutes; remove from heat and transfer to spice grinder and grind fine, add to brown sugar mix and store until ready to use.

Spiced plum/brown sugar sauce:
Yields 2 cups

  • 1/2 tsp. coriander seed, toasted and ground in spice grinder
  • 1/2 tsp. mustard seed, toasted and ground in spice grinder
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin seed, toasted and ground in spice grinder
  • 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup yellow Spanish onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups fresh plums, pitted and quartered
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup Bourbon
  • 3 Tbsps. cider vinegar
  • 3 Tbsps. molasses
  • 2 Tbsps. Worchestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1" piece cinnamons stick
  • 3" piece ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  1. Toast coriander seed, mustard seed, and cumin in small sauté pan for 3 minutes; remove; place in spice grinder; grind until smooth.

  2. Heat butter in medium 2-quart sauce pan; add onions and plums; sauté 3 minutes; add remaining ingredients and gradually bring the sauce to a simmer over medium heat; reduce heat to low; cook for about 20 minutes, tasting and adjusting seasoning as needed; strain sauce through fine mesh strainer; store in jar or sealed container; sauce can be refrigerated for up to one week.

Potato salad:

  • 2 lbs. or 5 large Russet potatoes
  • 8 eggs
  • 6 strips chopped bacon, fry crispy; reserve 2 to 3 Tbsps. bacon drippings
  • 1/2 cup scallions, sliced thinly, using part of the green
  • 1/2 cup red onion
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 to 3 Tbsps. lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup dill pickles, diced
  • 3 Tbsps. Dijon mustard
  • 1 to 2 Tbsps. red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsps. kosher salt
  • 2 tsps. fresh ground black pepper
  1. Place potatoes in large pot of salted water; boil until fork tender, about 35 to 45 minutes; remove with slotted spoon; let cool before peeling; cut into 1” cubes; place in mixing bowl.

  2. Place eggs in medium pot of cold water with 2 tsps. salt; bring to boil; cover; remove from stove; let sit 9 minutes; drain immediately and place in ice bath for 5 to 10 minutes; chop eggs; fold into potatoes; add chopped bacon and drippings.

  3. For the dressing: place remaining ingredients in medium bowl; whisk until blended; season to taste; fold into potatoes; reserve.

Assembly:

  • 2 racks baby back pork ribs, about 3 1/2 to 4 pounds
  1. Rub ribs with rub; cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

  2. Heat smoker between 200˚F-240˚F, adding more coals to keep temperature steady if necessary; add wood chips (which have been soaked for at least an hour) to coals; smoke ribs for 3 1/2 hours until moist and internal temperature is 155˚F-165˚F, basting with sauce for last 60 minutes. Serve with potato salad.