Critiques, Cravings and Conundrums From the Madison Food and Dining Scene
Jun 29, 2010
12:05 PMSmall Dishes
What to Make for the Fourth of July?
Obviously, not steak and kidney pie (not that I would ever make that)—it has to be something All American. The first menu that comes to mind is a New England clambake—so many of the founding fathers hailed from Massachusetts. And, it would be nice to have lobster rolls from the leftovers (not that there would be any leftovers). Unfortunately the main ingredients—lobsters and clams— are hard to come by around here and I’m not sure I’m up for digging a pit in my backyard anyway. Benjamin Franklin was from Philadelphia, but cheesesteak certainly isn’t very festive. Washington and Jefferson were from Virginia and that conjures up ham which likewise isn’t very appealing (had that at Easter anyway).
Most people will think cookout—burgers and hot dogs (or here in Wisconsin, brats). But that doesn’t seem very special—how is that different than any other summer weekend? There’s nothing more American than barbecue: I’m referring to meat (preferably pork) slowly smoked over hardwood; not something thrown on the grill. I do have a smoker and know how to use it, but I can hear all my friends groaning loudly, “Barbecue AGAIN?!”
It would be so much easier if in the distant past those who determine these things had agreed that such-and-such would be the official food consumed on our celebration of independence. You know … like turkey on Thanksgiving or corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day. Obviously a marketing board out there somewhere has really missed an opportunity.
If truth be known, I don’t really know why I posed the question the way I did. I should have phrased it, “What will I be bringing for dessert on the Fourth of July.” It’s my tradition to celebrate with friends à la potluck and bring the dessert. More often than not, it’s peach-blueberry pie (and it’s absolutely certain someone will bring his red, white and blue flag Jell-O mold). One year, I did make a New York (home to Alexander Hamilton) cheesecake: Made with Philadelphia cream cheese and decorated with blueberries and raspberries. Very holiday apropos, but I like pie better. It’s sort of All American, at least the round ones are. (They eat a lot of pies in England, too, but they’re usually oval or rectangular—they call the round ones “tarts” and they’re definitely French.) Strawberry-rhubarb pie is my favorite, but I’ve had my fill of strawberries and local rhubarb local is on the wane. Cherry pie would be perfect, assuming the Door County cherry crop is in. However, holidays are all about tradition, so I think I’ll stick with the peach-blueberry pie. Just to liven things up, maybe I’ll put a sparkler in it this year (and a cherry bomb in my friend’s Jell-O).
Pie pastry for a double crust pie, chilled at least 1 hour
5 ripe medium-size peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
1 pint blueberries
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
¼ cup instant tapioca, pulverized in a food processor or spice grinder
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon cold butter, cut into bits
1 egg, beaten to combine
Vanilla ice cream (optional)
Roll out half the pie pastry and use it to line a 9-inch pie plate. Trim the edge to about a ½-inch overhang and chill while preparing the filling.
Put the peaches and blueberries in a large mixing bowl and add the lemon zest and juice. Combine ¾ cup sugar, tapioca and salt and add to the fruit. Gently toss to combine and let stand while rolling out the pastry for the top crust.
Roll out the remaining pastry to a 10-inch round. Fill the chilled pastry-lined pie plate with the fruit mixture and dot the surface with butter bits. Lay the rolled-out pastry over the fruit filling. Trim, crimp the edges and make 4 holes in the top crust toward the center of the pie. Chill the pie for 1 hour, then place in the freezer for exactly 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Move the oven racks to the bottom third of the oven.
Place a baking sheet on the lower rack.
Brush the surface of the pie (not the crimped edge) with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Place in the oven and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake another 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling up through the vents. Cool on a rack at least 2 hours before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream if desired.
6 to 8 Servings.