A Fourth’s Feast

RECIPES: All-American dinner celebrates Independence Day

Smash Burger with cheddar, onion, lettuce and pickles. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)
Smash Burger with cheddar, onion, lettuce and pickles. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

For this Fourth of July menu we rounded up some old and new favorites. The menu is relatively low-effort, as far as big holiday meals go. The potato salad and bars can be made the day before, leaving just the burgers, corn and salad for the day of.

Independence Day menu:

  • Smash Burgers
  • Almost Classic Creamy Potato Salad
  • Boiled Corn With Chile-Lime Salt
  • Sesame-Garlic Spinach Salad
  • Red, White and Blue Bars

Smash burgers are having a moment and with their frilled, crispy edges and perfectly seared tops and bottoms it's easy to understand why. In addition to their excellent flavor, they cook quickly and the smash technique reduces shrinkage so no one will be channeling a certain little old lady from the 1980s asking "Where's the beef?" If you want to make these on a grill, you'll need a flattop or a skillet to prevent the meat from getting stuck in the grate.

[Video not showing above? Click here to watch: arkansasonline.com/629smash]

Smash Burgers

  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¾ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¾ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 pound 72% to 80% lean ground beef (any leaner and the burgers will be dry)
  • 4 slices cheese, optional
  • 4 soft burner buns, split and toasted, if desired
  • Desired burger toppings such as leaf lettuce, sliced tomato, pickles, onion, mustard, ketchup and/or mayonnaise (see note)

In a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper, onion and garlic powders.

Divide the beef into 4 equal portions, shaping each into a loose ball. Sprinkle each ball generously with spice mixture.

Heat a large well-seasoned cast-iron skillet over medium high heat. If your skillet is not well-seasoned, add a thin layer of vegetable oil. Place one ball of meat in the center of the skillet, cover with a sheet of foil or parchment paper and then smash using another heavy skillet, a brick or a sturdy metal spatula, pressing down for several seconds. Cook 1 to 1 ½ minutes, flip, top with cheese, if desired, and cook 1 to 1 ½ minutes more. Transfer cooked burger to a platter and tent with foil to keep warm while you cook the remaining patties.

Serve burgers on split buns with desired toppings.

Makes 4 burgers.

Note: Crisp lettuces like iceberg, romaine and red and green lettuce offer the best crunch; bibb is a good option if you prefer a more tender leaf. Lightly salting the tomato just before adding to the burger will enhance its flavor. Briefly soaking onion in ice water for 15 minutes will mellow its bite and maintain its crunch. Pat dry before layering.

  photo  Almost Classic Creamy Potato Salad (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)  Dill pickle brine, chopped dills and just a touch of mustard give this creamy potato salad a little zing, without overpowering the potatoes' delicate earthy flavor.

Almost Classic Creamy Potato Salad

  • 1 ½ pounds gold potatoes, cut into ¾- to 1-inch pieces
  • Salt
  • 3 tablespoons chopped dill pickles, PLUS 2 tablespoons brine, divided use
  • ¼ teaspoon to 2 teaspoons yellow mustard
  • ½ cup PLUS 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup finely chopped red onion (see note) OR ¼ cup fresh snipped chives OR ¼ cup chopped green onion tops
  • 1 small rib celery, minced
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon celery seed
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Place potatoes and 1 teaspoon salt in a large saucepan and add enough cold water to cover by about 1 inch. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are just tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Drain potatoes thoroughly in a colander. Spread the drained potatoes out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.

In a small bowl, whisk together 1 ½ tablespoons of the pickle brine and the mustard. Drizzle brine-mustard mixture evenly over the potatoes. Gently toss to coat. Refrigerate 15 minutes or until cooled slightly.

In a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, red onion (or chives or green onion), chopped pickles, remaining pickle brine, celery, vinegar, celery seed, black pepper and about ¼ teaspoon salt. Add the cooled potatoes and stir gently to coat. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled and ready to serve, at least 30 minutes.

Makes about 4 servings.

Note: To mellow the bite of the red onion, soak it in ice water for 15 minutes; drain and pat dry before using.

  photo  Boiled Corn With Chile-Lime Salt (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)  Boiled Corn With Chile-Lime Salt

  • 4 ears corn, husks and silk removed
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 2 teaspoons chile powder (we used a combination of mild and hot)
  • Freshly grated zest from 1 lime
  • Unsalted butter, softened

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large Dutch oven. Turn off heat, add corn to water, cover and let sit for 10 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir together the salt, chile powder and lime zest.

Serve hot corn slathered with butter and sprinkled with chile-lime salt. (You'll likely have plenty of chile-lime salt leftover. It will keep in an airtight container for about 1 week.)

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe adapted from "The Complete Summer Cookbook: Beat the Heat With 500 Recipes That Make the Most of Summer's Bounty" from America's Test Kitchen

  photo  Sesame-Garlic Spinach Salad (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)  We tried this salad with warm dressing for a slightly wilted (but in a good way) affair and let the dressing cool for a crisper salad. Both ways are delicious.

Sesame-Garlic Spinach Salad

  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger or ginger paste
  • 2 tablespoons rice-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 5 ounces baby spinach
  • 1 cup grated, julienned or match-stick cut carrots
  • 1 cup sliced radishes
  • ½ cup thinly sliced green onion
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds

In a medium skillet heat the sesame oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and ginger; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the rice vinegar and soy sauce. Transfer the hot dressing to a large bowl and add the spinach, carrots, radishes and green onion and toss gently to combine. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe adapted from Eating Well, March 2022

  photo  Red, White and Blue Bars (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)  This subtly patriotic dessert can be made with fresh or frozen berries and easily doubles and bakes in 9-by-13-inch pan, if desired.

Red, White and Blue Bars

  • 8 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (see note)
  • ½ cup raspberries, fresh or frozen (see note)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch square pan, line it with parchment paper or foil, leaving overhang on two opposite sides, and grease the paper or foil.

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and sugar together, stirring until bubbly. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Let cool to lukewarm, about 30 minutes.

Whisk in the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix until combined.

Pour or scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and scatter the berries evenly on top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes if using fresh berries; 35 to 40 minutes for frozen, until the edges of the bars just begin to pull away from the pan.

Remove from the oven and cool for 20 minutes before using the overhang as handles to carefully lift the bars out of the pan and setting on a rack to cool completely.

Store, refrigerated, for up to 1 week.

Note: Frozen berries will take longer to bake and will color the batter somewhat.

Recipe adapted from King Arthur Baking Co.

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