The annual Fourth of July countdown has begun. Folks are cleaning off their grills, making lists of all-American favorites: burgers and hot dogs, watermelon, ribs, fried chicken, pie. I love all those things and fried chicken is never a bad idea on any day. But the term “all-American” has, by nature in this country of ours, always been flexible, and, thankfully, all-encompassing.
Which means that this year I’ll kick off my Independence Day celebration with a pitcher or two of sangria—it was a Spanish queen who sent Columbus off to discover us after all. After that, I will likely fire up some Roman steaks: thick-cut ribeyes marinated in good olive oil, garlic, and rosemary; grilled, sliced, and finished off with a squeeze of lemon. So easy and so divine. The tomatoes are beautiful where I am and the corn too, so they will definitely be included in the feast.
The only thing that never varies is dessert. I always feature The Best Blackberry Cobbler, adding raspberries and blueberries to cover all the colors in the flag. I am also a sucker for waving sparklers around, watching fireworks, working up a playlist of patriotic tunes. Keith’s husband the ever-productive Jon Meacham has a new book out with Tim McGraw—Songs of America—to give you inspiration on that front. As for the recipes mentioned above, they are all in my book, But Mama Always Put Vodka in Her Sangria. You will also find the sangria recipe below. And yes, it has vodka in it—to very good effect!
McGee Memorial Sangria
Yield: About three quarts
2 bottles Rioja, or any other full-bodied, dry red wine
1 cup simple syrup
1 cup brandy
½ cup Grand Marnier
½ cup pineapple juice
½ cup orange juice
½ cup white rum
½ cup vodka
2 green apples, quartered, cored, and sliced
2 oranges, sliced
2 lemons, sliced
2 limes, sliced
1 pineapple, peeled, quartered lengthwise, cored, and sliced crosswise
Combine all ingredients in a pitcher and refrigerate, tightly covered, for at least 12 hours. Serve over ice.