A Southern 4th of July feast

Happy 4th of July!

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We’re up at Chris’s family’s lake house at Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia, and it’s nothing but clouds and rain in the forecast—which has kind of cramped our plans to spend hours floating in the water sipping margaritas. But we’ve nonetheless managed to have a festive and relaxing weekend so far, complete with fancy cocktails, boat rides and fireworks.

And honestly, I can’t complain about an extra-long weekend at the lake under any circumstances. Besides, extra time indoors means one thing: extra time for COOKING (and eating)! I decided to take advantage of the occasion and put together a casual, Southern, summery feast perfect for the 4th of July: pulled pork barbecue, potato salad, coleslaw, mac & cheese, and of course, the crowning touch…warm peach & blackberry cobbler fresh from the oven, topped with vanilla ice cream.

YUMMMMMM. There’s a reason this meal is such a classic summer combo. I made just a couple of changes to these traditional Southern dishes: Using greek yogurt (instead of mayo) in the slaw and a simple olive oil & fresh herb dressing for the potato salad lightened up the cold sides—and paired perfectly with barbecue-smothered pulled pork and creamy, cheesy, decidedly NOT-lightened-up macaroni and cheese. (Because some things just shouldn’t be messed with.)

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Macaroni and cheese is my weakness, y’all. I can’t make this at home or I would sit and eat the entire pan myself—but give me the slightest excuse to bake homemade mac & cheese for a crowd and I will take it and run.

(Side note: I’ve also been binge-watching The Great British Bake-Off lately, which may or may not have fueled my culinary ambitions. I’m not sure what it is about that show—the elaborate creations? The fabricated suspense? The soothing accents?—but I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to see if the pastry crust will hold and if the orange flavors will come through. It’s so addictive.)

Anyway, this was my game plan: In the morning, I put the pork in the crockpot and made the slaw and potato salad, so they could chill in the fridge for a few hours before dinner.

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Then, it was just a matter of putting together the macaroni and cheese and popping it in the oven about an hour before dinner. I prepped all the ingredients for the cobbler while the macaroni cooked, so it took all of five minutes to make after dinner.

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Honestly, I didn’t take too many pictures because I was too busy enjoying the process and then stuffing my face with the fruits of my labor (pun intended).

But the best thing about this meal? It’s all about the taste, not the look. No fancy presentation needed—just lay it all out on the table and DIG. IN.

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A smorgasbord of barbecue sauces

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Rain or shine, this meal is a winner.

I’ve linked all the recipes I used below, with slight changes I made in parentheses, in case you want to try any of this out for yourself. Whatever you’re chowing down on, I hope you’re having a wonderful long weekend!

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Southern 4th of July Feast Menu:

  • Crockpot Pulled Pork: I seasoned the pork with a simple spice mixture similar to this one, and cooked it on low all day in the crockpot on top of sliced onion, chicken broth, and apple cider vinegar. Then, just shred and top with your favorite barbecue sauce!
  • Alton Brown’s Baked Macaroni & Cheese (I omitted the powdered mustard, just because we didn’t have any.)
  • Garlic-Herb Potato Salad from Cooking Classy (I used a bunch of fresh dill instead of thyme.)
  • Greek Yogurt Coleslaw from Gimme Some Oven (I used about half red cabbage, and it was tasty—but next time, I think I would sacrifice a few calories for taste, and add in a tablespoon or two of mayo or sour cream for a slightly creamier slaw.)
  • Southern Living’s Easy Peach Cobbler (I halved the sugar, added some blackberries, and stirred in a teaspoon or two of cornstarch to the fruit mixture before pouring it into the pan. I like my cobbler filling to be nice and gooey—not runny!)
    • Pro tip: to easily peel a bunch of peaches, pop them into a pot of boiling water for about 30 seconds to a minute, and the skins will slide right off. (Just make sure to give them a minute to cool first!)

 

 

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