American Traditions: Fourth of July
“I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,
A Yankee Doodle do or die;
A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam.
Born on the Fourth of July.”
George M. Cohan, Yankee Doodle Dandy
Each year, we Americans celebrate the Fourth of July and our independence by wearing red, white, and blue, setting off fireworks and sparklers, eating all-American food, singing patriotic songs, and enjoying the beautiful weather. Whether you’re hosting a picnic, a pool party, or a beach gathering, here are a few tips for throwing a delicious and fun holiday event:
- Decorate for Fourth of July fun: Set the scene for an Independence Day celebration right in your backyard. Include plenty of red, white, and blue decorations in the place settings, tablecloths, and more!
- Somewhere to watch the fireworks: If you’re fortunate enough to live near the park hosting the fireworks, be sure your guests have a comfortable place to watch the show. Offer blankets and pillows that kids can use to stay cozy on the ground. If you have to travel for the show, plan to get there early and stake out your viewing place.
- Fire pit: Keep the Fourth of July celebration going long past sundown with a fire pit or a well-contained bonfire. It maintains a warm and inviting ambiance—plus, presents the perfect opportunity to break out the S’more ingredients! There’s nothing more satisfying than biting into a classic s’more: ooey-gooey marshmallow and warm melted chocolate surrounded by crunchy graham crackers.
- Lighting: Set the perfect mood for this fun holiday by stringing lights all over your patio. Hang them on pergolas and wrap them around trees to illuminate your backyard and keep the party going.
Must-have food for your celebration
The food served is almost as important as the fireworks display. Like Christmas and Thanksgiving call for certain foods, so does the Fourth. There’s nothing wrong with going back to basics—especially for such a long-standing tradition!
A meal with grilled steaks, potato salad, and apple pie is a perfect way to honor this holiday and please all of your guests. Here are a few dishes to consider for your menu:
It’s time to light up the grill and throw on some steaks. Season your meat with some salt and pepper and grill about four minutes per side.
The cut of meat you choose is up to you. Ribeye? It’s flavorful, tender, and sears well. Filet mignon? Lean and tender. You don’t have to choose the most expensive cut of meat to end up with a flavorful steak.
Two 8-ounce steaks, such as hangar, rib eye, or culotte
freshly ground black pepper
Pommes frites (French fries) are the perfect accompaniment to this quick and easy grilled steak.
Preheat an indoor electric grill on high heat according to the manufacturer’s instructions (or prepare your outdoor grill). Place the steak on the heated surface and grill about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare, or until done to your liking. Cooking time will depend on the thickness of the steak.
Transfer the steak to a carving board, cover with foil and let rest for 5 minutes. To serve, cut the steak against the grain into thin slices and arrange on warm plates. Serves 2.
Before putting your steaks on the grill, let them reach room temperature. This ensures an even sear across the meat. While letting your steak reach room temperature, allow the grill to properly heat. This will ensure the flavor is sealed in when you put the meat on.
What better food to pair with your perfectly grilled steaks than a creamy, chilled macaroni salad? A simple combination of mayonnaise, elbow macaroni, vinegar, sugar, Dijon mustard and a few other ingredients creates a myriad of flavors that pair flawlessly with a juicy steak.
- 8 ounces elbow macaroni, cooked to packaged directions and cooled
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 cup celery, thinly sliced
- 1 cup green and red peppers, chopped
- 1/4 cup onion, chopped
In a large bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, vinegar, Dijon mustard, sugar, salt, and ground black pepper.
Add celery, green and red peppers, onions and cooked macaroni. Toss to combine. Serve chilled.
Try a different approach to cooking your macaroni. When serving the noodles at room temperature or cold, it helps to double the amount of salt you use to boil the water. This enhances the flavor of the pasta. Cook the noodles a bit beyond al dente so that as they cool, they keep a softer texture.
Corn is the ultimate summer vegetable. Eating fresh corn seasoned with a bit of butter, salt, and pepper … one of my favorite summer experiences.
Sweeten up your Fourth of July by using a tasty lime-pepper butter to accompany your corn on the cob. Mix a bit of lime zest, some butter, black pepper, and sea salt—your tastebuds will thank you!
- 8 ears fresh corn, husked
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1 tablespoon lime zest
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
In a small bowl, whisk together the butter, lime zest, pepper and salt.
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Drop the corn into the water and cook for 2 minutes, or until the kernels are tender. Drain the corn and place it on a large platter. Top with the Lime-Pepper Butter. Serves 4 to 8
Need to husk your corn quickly? Slip two unhusked ears of corn in the microwave for six to eight minutes. Cut off the bottom half inch with a knife and the husk will slip right off!
Is there anything more American—more appropriate to eat on the Fourth of July—than apple pie? Over the years, apple pie has evolved—there are many different varieties of this popular treat. But no matter the type of crust or filling, one thing’s for sure: This perfect pastry is always delicious.
- 2 9-inch pie crusts (buy frozen or make this All American Pie Dough)
- 1/4 cup flour
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 6 cup apples, cored and sliced
Preheat oven to 425 F. Line bottom of pie pan with one pie crust, defrosted per package instructions.
Mix apples, flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, lemon juice, and butter in large mixing bowl.
Pour apple mixture into pie-lined pan. Top apple mixture and crust with second pie crust, defrosted per package instructions. Seal edges of two crusts together and flute. Cut 4-5 slits in top of top crust. Cover edge of crust with a pie shield.
This basic dessert can be made even better with a flaky, buttery crust. The key to achieving the perfect texture on your pie crust is to keep your ingredients and tools cold. When the ingredients are too warm, they tend to mix with the layers of gluten and give you a single, shortbread-style crust instead of layers of flakes.
Feel free to get fancy with your crust. Top your pie with stars and stripes or place a mini American flag in the top of your pie for a patriotic touch.