Backyard Barbecue Soirée | Elevate the Basics When Gathering with Friends

Picture this: Flowers in bloom, vaccinations in arms, and your loved ones gathered around you. Can you feel it? Maybe we took those things for granted pre-quarantine; I know I did! But this summer is shaping up to be better than the last with the eventual return to rubbing elbows with friends and family—possibly with more appreciation for togetherness!

I love to take food that holds a special memory and recreate it for my loved ones. It sounds cliche, but food is a multi-sensory experience. We experience the obvious—see it and taste it—but I passionately believe that food is memories. Burgers on the grill, I venture to say, hold a good memory for most, and we all need that nostalgically wonderful feeling of “rubbing elbows” again in 2021. Take the humble burger and elevate it with fancy (but simple) accoutrements and sides to wow faces you have been missing and delight the ones you already spend a lot of time with.

CHORIZO BURGER WITH TOMATO JAM (serves 8)
Make it with chorizo or beef; you can’t go wrong with these toppings!

TOMATO JAM

  • 2 pounds tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/3 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

BURGERS AND TOPPINGS

  • 4 pounds ground chorizo
  • 8 cheese slices
  • 8 brioche buns
  • 24 strips bacon, cooked and crispy
  • 8 eggs, fried
  • 4 avocados, sliced

To make jam, add tomatoes, sugar, lemon juice, ginger, cinnamon, cumin, cayenne and salt to a sauce pot and turn the heat to medium-high. Once the mixture begins to boil, reduce the heat to low and continue to simmer, stirring often. Do this until the mixture reduces and thickens, about 1 hour.

Make 8 burgers, 1/2 lb. each. Set aside. Heat the grill to medium-high heat. Grill until cooked through. Turn off heat and add cheese. Allow the cheese to melt. Smear the brioche bun with 2 tablespoons tomato jam, add burger with cheese. Add bacon, fried egg or avocado or offer as additional accoutrements.

GRILLED LEMON BROCCOLINI (serves 6)
This would be fabulous atop a burger with sharp cheese or as a side.

  • 1 pound broccolini
  • 7 lemon slices
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil S
  • alt and black pepper

DRESSING

  • 2 tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Pine nuts for garnish (if serving as a side)

Heat grill to medium-high. In a large bowl, toss broccolini and lemon slices in oil, salt and black pepper. Grill until charred, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes. Remove the lemon slices and set aside. If using as a burger topping, transfer the broccolini to a cutting board and chop. Return to bowl. Whisk together Parmigiano Reggiano, lemon zest, lemon juice, honey and olive oil and add it to the broccolini and toss. If serving as a side, top with grilled lemon slices, shaved Parmigiano Reggiano and pine nuts.

LUDEAN’S CORN PUDDING (serves 10–12)
This recipe is named after my grandmother, whose idea of dinner was toast with syrup. She loved my cooking, but she loved this recipe the most! It goes excellent with all things grilled. Sweet, savory and nostalgic!

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup salted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 cups corn kernels (8 ears)
  • 3/4 cup vidalia onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon green onions, chopped, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Whisk eggs, cream and butter in another bowl. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high. Add corn and onion. Cook until onion is softened, about 4 minutes. Add thyme, then stir. Once cooled, mix flour mixture and corn mixture with egg mixture. Place in a greased 13 by 9-inch baking dish and bake until set and golden brown, about 35 minutes. Garnish with chopped green onions.

GRILLED DONUTS, PEACHES & ICE CREAM (serves 6)
Grill a donut: yes, you read correctly! It is unforgettable, decadent and totally worth it!

  • 6 glazed donuts
  • 3 ripe peaches, halved
  • Cooking spray
  • Vanilla ice cream
  • Mint, optional

Heat the grill to medium-high and grease grill grates. Place donuts and peaches on the grill. Grill donuts for no more than 30 seconds per side, flipping them once until grill marks appear and the glaze is caramelized. Transfer the grilled donuts to a plate. Continue to grill the peaches for about 3 minutes total, until grill marks appear, and the fruit begins to caramelize. Transfer the grilled peaches to plate. To serve, place a grilled peach on a grilled donut, top with ice cream and garnish with mint.

“THE RUBBING ELBOWS” (serves 4)
I created this cocktail during quarantine, when I lovingly called it “The Fiesty Homeschooler.” Time for a name change, thank goodness!

  • 6 strawberries
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 sprigs mint
  • Champagne or Prosecco
  • 1 sprig mint and dash of cayenne, for garnish

Wash and core strawberries. Combine strawberries, water and sugar in saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir in vanilla and add 2 sprigs of mint. Reduce heat to a simmer, for 15 to 20 minutes until strawberries are soft. Strain and cool. Add champagne and 1 tablespoon of strawberry syrup to a champagne glass, no stirring, and garnish with mint and dash of cayenne.


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