Make-Ahead July 4 Menu

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By Janeen A. SarlinThis menu, full of make-ahead dishes, is perfect for July 4 weekend entertaining.

The cold lemon chicken needs to be started at least one day, preferably two, before serving. Even the final assembly can be done up to four hours ahead of time and refrigerated, covered with plastic wrap.

For the salad, make salad dressing ahead and keep it at room temperature. The greens can be prepped and refrigerated in a bowl.

Hot crusty baguettes or Tuscan bread with butter, with a platter of cheeses complements the chicken and the salad.

For a patriotic dessert, present three bowls of berries or cherries, plus a bowl of whipped cream for guests to help themselves. To complete the menu, serve iced tea or chilled rosé wine.

Happy July Fourth!

Cold Lemon Chicken Breasts

(Serves 6 to 8)10 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

1 quart plain non-fat yogurt, for soaking

Coarse sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon fresh thyme or summer savory leaves

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/2 cup dry vermouth

1/2 to 2/3 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice

1½ cups good quality mayonnaise

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Zest of 1 or 2 lemons, or more to taste

For garnish: use lemon wedges, fresh thyme or parsley sprigs, drained capers, pitted black olives or cherry tomatoesTo prepare:Wash chicken breasts under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels, trim off fat if necessary.

Place in a large, sealable plastic bag or in a glass bowl.

Cover completely with plain yogurt and refrigerate overnight.

On the day of preparation, rinse yogurt off chicken and pat dry with paper towels.

Season both sides with salt, pepper and thyme.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Coat the bottom of a large, non-reactive skillet with oil and butter and cook over moderate heat.

When the foam subsides, sauté the chicken until golden brown on both sides, but not cooked through.

Transfer to a heavy casserole with a lid.

Cover the casserole and bake until the juices run clear, basting every now and then if necessary, for about 30 minutes.

Set the casserole back on the stove and reduce the juices by half by cooking over moderate heat. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Remove the chicken to a large serving platter and set aside.

Add vermouth to the skillet, cook over moderate heat and reduce the vermouth by half.

Add lemon juice to the skillet, scrape up any bits on the bottom and pour the juices over the chicken.

Pour the sauce over the chicken.

Let cool to room temperature and refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap directly on top of the chicken. Can be done one day ahead.

Up to 3 to 4 hours before serving time, bring chicken to room temperature.

Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl, whisk the mayonnaise together with lemon zest and lemon juice.

Blend it slowly to keep it smooth and thin enough to mask each chicken breast.

Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Arrange the chicken breasts in slightly overlapping order on a platter or cut each breast into thick slices before arranging on a platter.

Spoon the mayonnaise and lemon sauce over the chicken to completely cover the meat.

Garnish the platter with sprigs of herbs, lemon wedges, black olive or capers and tomatoes.Young Lettuces And Herb Salad With Hazelnut Dressing(Serves 6 to 8)1 head young baby Boston or bibb lettuce, washed and spun dry

4 cups baby red and green romaine lettuce leaves, washed and spun dry

1½ cups assorted herb leaves such as dill, flat-leaf parsley, spearmint, Thai basil, chervil or chives, washed and spun dry

1 large shallot, minced

1/3 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more to taste

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Optional: whole toasted hazelnuts for garnishTo prepare:Toss together lettuces and herbs in a large salad bowl.

Cover with a damp paper towel and set aside or refrigerate until serving time.

In a small bowl, mix together shallot, chopped hazelnuts, mustard, vinegar and lemon juice until well blended.

Gradually whisk in enough olive oil until the mixture becomes an emulsion.

Taste and add salt and pepper, according to personal preference.

Just before serving, spoon just enough dressing over the greens until the leaves are coated.

Gently toss, then transfer to salad plates.

Garnish, if desired, and serve at once.

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