If you’re looking for some last-minute recipes for your Fourth of July party, be sure to check out these three from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer and garden columnist Miriam Rubin!

Slightly Spicy Buttermilk-Fried Chicken

PG tested

Don’t hurry the process when frying chicken. The oil takes time to heat and the chicken needs time to cook through. Shoo children and pets from the kitchen. If the oil gets too hot, don’t try and move it (it can splash); simply turn off the burner and let it cool some. I use a large cast-iron skillet but an electric fryer is great, too. I prefer just thighs and drumsticks because they’re juicier. You can use bone-in breasts if you like; cut them in half with poultry shears first. Boneless breasts will be done much sooner. Soak and rub the chicken the day before frying. If you like, fry the chicken earlier and serve it cold.

For the rub-and-soak:

  • 3 cups buttermilk, well shaken
  • 1/2 cup Louisiana-style hot sauce (such as Frank’s or Trappey’s)
  • 6 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1½ teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 5 to 6 pounds chicken parts (I used thighs and drumsticks; look for small pieces which will cook more evenly)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1½ tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons coarse-ground black pepper

For the dredge:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons coarse-ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • Vegetable oil for pan frying

For rub-and-soak: In large plastic container or glass bowl, mix buttermilk, hot sauce, garlic and cayenne. Trim excess fat from chicken. Cut thighs lengthwise in half along the bone. Smaller pieces are easier to fry.

In small bowl, mix sugar, salt and black pepper. Rub all over each chicken piece, then add pieces to buttermilk mixture, turning to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

For dredge: In shallow baking dish, mix flour, salt, cayenne and black pepper. Put 2 racks over 2 large baking sheets or sheets of foil. One at a time, lift a piece of chicken from buttermilk, letting excess drip off and coat completely with flour, shaking off excess. Put on rack. Repeat with remaining chicken. Then dredge each piece again in the flour (don’t worry about the clumps in the flour).

Let chicken rest at room temperature while heating oil. Put a clean rack over a large baking sheet to drain cooked chicken or line baking sheet with double layers of paper towel.

In large, heavy 12-inch, 2 1/2-inch-deep cast-iron skillet (often called a chicken fryer) or in heavy (not nonstick) Dutch oven, heat ½ to ¾ inch oil over medium-high heat to 325 degrees. (Use deep-fry or candy thermometer to check the temperature.) Or heat oil in electric deep-fryer.

Carefully add 4 pieces of chicken to oil. Regulate temperature so oil doesn’t cool below about 300 degrees. Fry chicken 5 to 7 minutes on first side. Bone-in, thicker pieces take longer. Turn with long-handled tongs and fry 4 to 6 minutes more, until completely cooked though. Check by removing chicken from oil and cutting into thickest part. If still pink inside, return to oil, but remember it may sputter because it will release juices into oil. Drain cooked pieces on the clean rack or paper towels.

Repeat frying remaining chicken, adding more oil to pan as needed. Serve right away or at room temperature. Or put on a large plate and cover loosely with foil and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

— Miriam Rubin

Roasted Mini Peppers with Cucumbers and Tomatoes

PG tested

A light and sassy side dish salad. If you have vegetarians in your group, add a few chickpeas and/or some crumbled feta for protein. Prepare this a day in advance, if you like.

For peppers:

  • 2-pound bag assorted mini peppers, halved, seeded and stemmed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

For salad:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (plus additional lemon juice)
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 large, seedless, hot-house cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1-pound container small, sweet tomatoes (such as Campari), cut into quarters or sixths
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

For the peppers: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly oil a large, heavy baking sheet.

Place peppers on prepared baking sheet. In cup, mix oil, balsamic, garlic, brown sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Scrape over peppers and toss to mix. Bake, stirring several times, until tender and starting to brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool on pan.

Meanwhile make the salad: In large bowl with fork, mix oil, lemon juice and balsamic. Add cucumber and red onion; season with salt and pepper and toss to mix. Let stand until peppers have cooled.

Add peppers with any pan juices and tomatoes to cucumbers. Toss then taste, adding more salt and pepper and lemon juice, if desired. Put in serving bowl and sprinkle with parsley. Serve right away or cover and chill.

Makes about 8 servings

— Miriam Rubin

Dilled Potato and Green Bean Salad

PG tested

My friend and cookbook author Debbie Moose, who wrote a whole book on potato salad, said that when you’re serving it with fried chicken, it needs to be a little tart to cut through the richness of the chicken. I kept that in my head while making this version.

  • 2½ pounds thin-skinned red or white potatoes, cut into ½-inch chunks, not peeled (about 8 cups)
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 3/4 pound trimmed fresh green beans, each cut into thirds (3 cups)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced tender inner stalks celery, including some leaves
  • 1 cup chopped scallions or sweet white onion
  • 1 cup chopped dill pickles plus 1/4 cup pickle juice
  • 3/4 to 1 cup mayonnaise (not Miracle Whip)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons grainy Dijon mustard
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 hard-cooked eggs, chopped

Put potatoes and water to cover in large saucepan. Add big pinch of salt, cover and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, about 12 minutes, until very tender. Drain and transfer to large bowl. Drizzle with vinegar and let stand a few minutes.

Meanwhile, fill medium saucepan with 1 inch water. Bring to boil over high heat. Add salt and green beans and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes, until tender (not crisp). Drain and cool under cold running water. Drain well; add to potatoes.

Add celery, scallions or onion, pickles and juice, mayonnaise, dill and mustard. Season well with salt and pepper. Mix with 2 rubber spatulas so you don’t break potatoes up too much. Add hard-cooked eggs and mix again.

Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Makes about 8 servings.

— Miriam Rubin

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