It’s the 4th of July, a day many Americans celebrate with beer, bizarre outfits and bloviating about “the greatest best country God has ever given man on the face of the earth.” Gourmandistan takes a slightly different path to celebrate the Fourth, a bit quieter than the usual American practice of blowing stuff up real good. Unfortunately, to the sort of people who desperately want to believe they live in “Real America,” being different is a dangerous thing. These people are seriously wrong. Being “different” is what America is all about. Like Gourmandistan, “America” is not a physical place. America is the idea that everyone can be equal without insisting that everyone should be the same—a message sadly lost on many a flag-bedecked booster of the mawkish version of “American Pride.”
We’ll enjoy our Independence Day with a delightful potato salad based on a recipe from a circus tall, French-loving CIA agent. And, we’ll end with a wild blackberry cobbler created by a Louisiana-born bachelor interior designer turned Reagan-era New York “chic but simple” lifestyle maven.
In sum: we’ll do some typical American things, but we’ll also celebrate “different.” After all, our idea of America was once endorsed by none other than the Chairman of the Board.
Happy Independence Day, everybody!
(adapted from Julia Child’s Menu Cookbook) (serves 6-8)
- 3 lbs. potatoes, preferably small waxy ones
- 1/2 c. chicken (or vegetable) stock mixed with 3 TB cider vinegar
- Salt and pepper
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 1 medium stalk celery, finely diced
- 1 or 2 pickles, finely diced*
- 3 hard-boiled eggs, diced
- 2 TB chopped herbs, such as chives and/or parsley
- 2 oz. jar diced pimentos
- Somewhere between 1/2 and 1 c. mayonnaise, preferably homemade
Scrub potatoes. Boil them “in their jackets” in salted water until just tender. Drain off water, cover pan with a towel and let sit for 5 minutes or so. While still warm, peel potatoes and cut into approximately 1/2″ slices. Layer the still-warm potato slices in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper and a dribble of stock/vinegar mixture on the layers as you go. Add onion, celery, pickle, eggs, herbs and pimento and toss to blend. When cool, fold in enough mayonnaise to get the consistency you want. Place in a clean bowl and refrigerate for at least an hour to let flavors blend.
*Michelle follows her mom’s lead and always uses “candied dills.” They can be a little hard to find, though.
(adapted from Lee Bailey’s Country Desserts)
- 1-1/2 c. sifted all-purpose flour
- Pinch of salt
- 4 TB unsalted butter, frozen and cut into bits
- 5 TB solid vegetable shortening, frozen and cut into bits
- 4-5 TB ice water
- 5-6 c. blackberries, preferably the small wild ones
- 3/4 c. sugar
- Additional 4 TB butter, sliced thin
- Several (preferably Demerara) sugar cubes
Place flour and salt in bowl of a food processor with a metal blade. Add frozen butter and shortening. Pulse until mixture is the size of small peas. Add water, pulsing until mixture just begins to form a ball. Be careful not to over-mix. Form into a flattened disc and refrigerate, wrapped in waxed paper, for an hour or more.
Preheat oven to 425°. Lightly grease a deep pie pan or some other approximately 8″ or 9″ ovenproof dish.
On a floured piece of waxed paper, roll dough out into a ragged piece several inches larger than your baking pan. Pick up by paper and invert into the pan, allowing the excess crust to hang over the sides of the pan. Heap berries into the dish. Sprinkle with the sugar and dot with the butter. Turn the sides of the pastry over the top.
Place the sugar cubes in a plastic bag and crush with a meat pounder. Don’t crush them to death—the jagged variations make them particularly good as a topping. Sprinkle over the top of the crust.
Bake for 45 minutes, or more, until top is golden and fruit is bubbling.