1. Cooking

Five ideas for dishes to make at your Labor Day cookout

A grilled portobello burger (Associated Press)
Published Aug. 29, 2018

This Labor Day, you deserve to relax. Maybe you plan to kick your feet up and binge-watch Game of Thrones. (Oh wait, is that just me?) Or maybe you'll invite your friends over for a traditional holiday cookout. Whatever you decide, we've chosen five easy, delicious recipes that will let you celebrate in style — without breaking a sweat.

Hot Caramelized Onion Dip with Bacon and Gruyere

More than a hundred years ago, Labor Day was supposed to be celebrated with parades that honored the working class. Do your civic duty and pay homage to the laborers of America by eating some bacon cheese. Let's start with the good stuff: Place 4 strips of room-temperature bacon in a large, cold, nonstick skillet and fry it over medium heat. It should take about 5 to 10 minutes for the strips to get crispy. When they're done, place the strips on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the grease — but leave the extra bacon fat in the skillet. You'll need it for the next step.

Add the following ingredients to the skillet: 2 sweet onions, halved and thinly sliced, plus 1/4 teaspoon sugar and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. Cook in the bacon fat over medium-high heat. After about 5 minutes, reduce heat to medium but keep cooking the onions until they turn a deep golden brown, which can take up to 20 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent the onions from burning. If the onions do start to burn, turn heat down to medium-low. Once the onions turn golden brown, add 1 tablespoon dry sherry and cook for an additional minute. Now add in 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce and 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, stirring to combine. Remove from heat.

In a separate bowl, combine 1/2 cup sour cream and 1/2 cup mayonnaise. Add in the bacon, crumbled into small, dip-friendly pieces. Add 1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese, the sauteed onions and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Stir until combined, then pour into a 2-cup baking dish. Bake in an oven preheated to 400 degrees. It should take about 20 minutes — when it's done, the dip will be bubbly and golden brown on top.

Recipe adapted from Spicy Southern Kitchen and Food Network.

Strawberry-Peach Sangria

It may be September, but summer is still in full swing. This sangria punch is the key to staying refreshed at an outdoor barbecue. The best part? You can do most of the work in advance. When Labor Day dawns, simply add the finishing touches and raise your glass to a restful holiday.

Step 1: A day before you make the punch, freeze some strawberries and make some minty ice cubes. Place ½ pound hulled strawberries in a zip-top bag. Next, wash 6 sprigs of fresh mint and place them in half the cups of a 12-cup muffin tin. Fill those muffin cups ¾ full of water. Put the muffin tin in the freezer. (Allow about 5 hours for the ice cubes to get firm.)

Step 2: Make the punch. It needs time to chill, at least 2 hours and up to overnight, so feel free to make it the night before your party. Wash and slice 3 firm, ripe peaches. Wash, halve and thinly slice 1 large orange. Wash ½ pint blueberries and ½ pint blackberries. Place the fruit in a large punch bowl or pitcher. Pour in 1 bottle of chilled, dry light white wine, such as Vinho Verde. Add ½ cup orange Curaçao. (If you don't have Curaçao, you can use another orange-flavored liqueur such as Grand Marnier or triple sec.) Finish it off with ½ cup lemonade. Stir gently until it combines with the fruit. Refrigerate.

Step 3: Right before serving, add the finishing touches. Remove the punch from the fridge and pour in 2 cups of orange-flavored sparkling water, chilled. Stir gently to combine. Add your frozen strawberries and mint ice cubes. If you have trouble removing the frozen ice cubes, set the muffin tin in a sink filled with a little hot water. This will loosen the ice cubes and make it easier to remove them.

Recipe adapted from the New York Times.

Grilled Corn, Mexican Style

Grilled corn is a staple of most cook-outs, but this Mexican-inspired version will elevate your dish from its competition. The secret? Chili-lime mayo. Place 4 ears of husked corn on a grill rack about 4 inches from the fire. Cook over medium-high heat. The cooking time will vary depending on your grill. When the kernels begin to char (about 2 to 5 minutes, for most gas grills), turn the ears of corn. Continue cooking and turning until all sides are slightly blackened.

To make the chili-lime mayo, combine the following ingredients: 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, 1 to 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, ¼ teaspoon chili powder, salt and freshly ground black pepper. You can use more or less chili powder depending on your tolerance for spice. Feel free to adjust the ratio of lime juice as well. Spread the sauce on the corn and eat it on the cob.

Recipe adapted from the New York Times.

Spicy Grilled Shrimp

If you're like me, you don't have easy access to a grill. Thanks to this recipe for cayenne-seasoned shrimp, even apartment dwellers can still enjoy the fun of a cookout. You can definitely cook it the traditional way, over a charcoal or gas grill. But it's just as easy to simply spread the spicy seasonings on the shrimp and broil it.

For this recipe, you'll need about 1½ to 2 pounds of shrimp. Aim for about 30 pieces of shrimp. Choose whatever kind of grill you're going to use and make the fire as hot as it will get. Put the rack close to the heat source. Mince 1 large clove garlic and combine with 1 teaspoon coarse salt. Add as much spice as you like — the recipe calls for ½ teaspoon cayenne and 1 teaspoon paprika, but you can make a milder or more potent version. Stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice until it becomes a paste. Make sure your shrimp is peeled, rinsed and dried. Spread the paste onto the shrimp. Grill or broil shrimp, 2 to 3 minutes a side, turning once. Serve immediately or at room temperature. You can garnish with lemon wedges.

Adapted from the New York Times.

Balsamic Marinated Portobello Burgers

Marinated in an herbed Dijon sauce and sandwiched between hamburger buns, these grilled portobello mushrooms are a rich, juicy alternative to a traditional meat patty. To make the marinade, combine the following ingredients: 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar; 1/4 cup olive oil; 2 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon; 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard; 3 medium cloves garlic, minced; 1 teaspoon finely minced thyme leaves and 1 teaspoon kosher salt.

Remove the stems from 4 portobello mushrooms and scrub them clean. Place the mushrooms in a large resealable plastic bag and pour in the marinade. Seal the bag and toss until mushrooms are thoroughly coated. Let the mushrooms marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes. While you wait, prepare your toppings: Wash and dry green or red leaf lettuce, and thinly slice 1 roma tomato and 1 red onion. Next, preheat a grill for 5 minutes until it reaches medium-high to high heat. Grill mushrooms 3 to 4 minutes per side. You can tell they're ready when they are juicy and tender. Sandwich the mushrooms between hamburger buns and add the toppings. Serve with extra mustard, if desired.


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