Take the party outside for July 4 with simple, classic offerings: charcoal-grilled steaks, deviled eggs and Zinfandel, the all-American red wine that will pull the menu together. Jennifer James and Nelle Bauer, chef-owners of Jennifer James 101 restaurant in Albuquerque, N.M., have shared their recipes for chimichurri, a South American condiment that's perfect on grilled beef, and chipotle-deviled eggs. Throw in a salad of crisp greens and avocado, and a big watermelon or bowl of berries, and you've got a great Independence Day meal. For pairing options, be sure to check out our list of recently rated Zinfandels below.
"Zinfandel is a great match with steak and chimichurri because the flavor of the grilled steak comes through—it isn't overwhelmed with a big heavy sauce," says Bauer. "Then there's the bright 'herbi-ness' of the chimichurri that complements the herbal elements of the wine." She adds that the restaurant, a friendly-yet-upscale surprise in a stretch of Albuquerque strip malls, is recognized for the quality of its steaks, which are sourced locally and from the Oregon-based Painted Hills cooperative. Bauer and James change the menu eight times per year to keep up with the seasons, and the food-friendly, approachable wine list follows suit. "Our wine list is one page, front and back, but the list changes with great frequency, so there is always something new to try," says Bauer.
Independence Day has its own meaning for desert-bound restaurateurs. "Summer in Albuquerque is hot, dry and barren in all respects. We take our two-week summer break at the beginning of July each year," says Bauer. "Our customers expect our annual break to inspire and refresh us, so we all look forward to leaving town to find that inspiration."
Chimichurri recipe courtesy of Jennifer James 101; steak recipe from the Wine Spectator archive
• 6 New York strip or rib-eye steaks, 1 inch to 1 1/2 inches thick
• Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
• Chimichurri (recipe below)
1. Build as hot a fire as your grilling unit will permit, using hardwood charcoal such as mesquite or hickory. When the coals are very hot, spread them evenly and replace the grill. Brush the grill lightly with oil and let it heat before putting the meat on. Have a spray bottle of water ready to extinguish any grease flare-ups as the steaks cook.
2. After sprinkling lightly with salt and pepper, arrange the steaks on the grill without letting them touch (air must circulate to brown them evenly). Watch the top surface carefully. After 5 to 7 minutes, little drops of red juice will start to bead on the surface. This is the signal to turn the steak.
3. Using tongs, turn the steaks. Season them lightly on the uncooked side. Watch for the telltale beading again. This signals a rare to medium-rare steak. Allow another 1 to 2 minutes for medium, and another 2 to 3 minutes for well-done, turning again halfway through the additional time. Serve the steaks on hot plates, with chimichurri drizzled over. Serves 6.
• 2 bunches flat-leaf parsley, leaves and tender small stems only
• 2 tablespoons water
• 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
• 2 pinches crushed red pepper flakes
• 1/2 cup olive oil, plus more to taste
• Juice of 1 medium lemon
• Salt to taste
In a blender or the bowl of a food processor, combine the parsley and water and blend to finely chop the parsley. Add the garlic and pepper and continue to blend. With the machine running, slowly drizzle in 1/2 cup of the olive oil. Add more oil to suit your taste: a few tablespoons more if you like the sauce chunky, or up to 1/2 cup more if you prefer it loose. Season the mixture with the lemon juice and salt to taste. Let the flavors marry for an hour or so, then spoon it over the steaks (and any other grilled foods) as soon as they come off the grill.
Variations: You may substitute cilantro, basil or another herb of your choice for up to half of the parsley; pump up the spice by using more chile flakes or use serrano or jalapeño; add more garlic, or a little fresh ginger; or save the leftovers for a quick vinaigrette or pasta sauce.
Recipe courtesy of Jennifer James 101
• 1 dozen eggs (preferably a few weeks old, as they are easier to peel)
• 1 tablespoon Lusty Monk "Burn in Hell" chipotle mustard (or other mustard seasoned with chipotle peppers)
• 1 to 2 tablespoons mayonnaise (optional)
• Salt to taste
• 12 cilantro leaves
1. Carefully arrange the eggs in a single layer at the bottom of a heavy-bottomed pot and add just enough water to cover. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 12 minutes, using a kitchen timer to avoid overcooking the eggs.
2. While the eggs simmer, prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice cubes and cold water. Once the eggs are done cooking, immediately transfer them to the ice bath.
3. When the eggs are cool enough to handle, remove them one at a time. Tap the wide end of the egg, where there should be an air pocket, on a clean work surface, then roll the egg gently to loosen and crack the shell. Following this procedure will help ensure smooth-surfaced eggs. Repeat until all of the eggs have been peeled. Rinse them gently under cold water and pat dry with clean paper towels. Cut each egg in half lengthwise and carefully transfer the yolk halves to a medium-sized bowl. Set the whites aside on a platter.
4. Mash the egg yolks with a fork, making them as smooth as possible, then fold in the mustard (you may adjust the quantity of the mustard to suit your taste) and the mayonnaise, if using. Season the yolk mixture with salt to taste. Using a large spatula, transfer the mixture to a clean zip-top plastic bag or pastry piping bag fitted with a medium tip. Squeeze out the extra air; if using a zip-top bag, snip off one corner of the bag with kitchen scissors. Pipe the filling into the egg whites and top each with a cilantro leaf. (You may also choose to garnish with paprika, celery salt or jalapeño relish.)
Note: Deviled eggs are best when freshly filled, so you may wish to prepare the yolk mixture and fill just before guests arrive—or even on demand if it's a small crowd.
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