I love to have food stations at my parties. They’re interactive and fun to display – perfect for the all-day snack parade that partygoers expect on the 4th of July.
Here are a few ideas to get you started!
Starter Station: Chips & Dips
Sometimes the easiest foods are the biggest hits. Case in point: chips and dip. It’s a classic combo, and some might say “why mess with perfection?’ But I say, it never hurts to put an original twist on old favorites.
It’s the 4th of July, so red, white, and blue is kinda mandatory. Start with red serving bowls, blue-corn tortilla chips, and good old-fashioned potato chips. Ruffles are my personal favorite – I mean, they invented the crinkle cut. How brilliant is that?
Now for the dips! I have to start with my all-time fave, Old-Fashioned Onion Dip. To make it, all you have to do is mix sour cream with Lipton’s Onion Soup Mix. Refrigerate it for an hour to bring out the flavor, and you’ll have an instant crowd-pleaser. Easy, but the best!
Next up is my mom’s Clam Dip. Growing up, my mom made this for us every 4th of July and I’ve carried on the tradition. Here’s her recipe:
- 12 oz cream cheese
- Â¾ cup mayonnaise
- 1 small clove garlic,crushed and finely minced
- 1 (7 oz) can minced clams, drained
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Â½ tsp paprika
- 1 dash of cayenne or hot sauce (optional)
- 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- Mix the cream cheese, mayonnaise, and garlic together until smooth
- Add minced clams and blend in with remaining seasonings
- Chill thoroughly before serving
No chips and dip spread is complete without some kind of bean dip. This White Bean Guacamole recipe combines my love of avocado with an updated take on the beloved refried bean.
- 2 avocados
- Â½ cup of white beans (canned or homecooked)
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- Â¼ cup cilantro
- 2 teaspoons lime juice
- 1 jalapeno pepper (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Use a fork to mash avocados with white beans and garlic
- Fold in cilantro and lime juice
- For a little kick add some diced jalapeno peppers
- Season to taste with salt and pepper
Entre Station: Sliders
What’s more American than a hamburger? This time-honored meal is a must for any 4th of July party, but why fill up on a full size hamburger when you can experience a series of amazing taste sensations? My slider station is one part gourmet tasting menu, one part kid-friendly fun, and one hundred percent delicious.
To start, you’ll need enough ground beef for approximately three sliders per person. Use a cookie cutter to make small patties ahead of time. For buns, you can buy your favorite dinner rolls or just buy slider buns at the store, and toast them on the grill. The designated grill master at your 4th of July party will probably need to refresh the these basic elements throughout the day. Do him a favor by offering him a cold one every couple of hours.
For kids, you’ll want all the basic toppings: American cheese, pickle slices, mayo, French’s mustard, and Heinz ketchup. My kids also love PB&J sliders with grilled banana slices. Adults and adventurous kids, however, are in for a completely different experience. Here are some slider toppings you can offer:
- Port caramelized onions – sautÃ© your onions as usual, then after they start to become translucent, deglaze the pan with a couple splashes of port. Continue to sautÃ© until caramelized.
- Wasabi mayonnaise – mix three tablespoons of wasabi powder with one tablespoon of water adding more or less water as needed. Once a paste forms, add wasabi mixture to one cup of mayonnaise
- Truffle ketchup – add two teaspoons of truffle oil to a cup of good ol’ ketchup
- Assorted Aioli – to make a basic aioli, crush 7-8 garlic cloves in a mortar and pestle. Once a paste forms, add two egg yolks. Once the egg yolks and garlic are thoroughly mixed, add olive oil one drop at a time while stirring constantly. Once the aioli starts to form, add a dash of sea salt. You can then customize your aioli by mixing in curry or chipotle powders. The same can be done with storebought mayonnaise. Horseradish mayo is especially good!
- Truffle cheese – I crave Umami Burger’s version! To make your own, choose a mild, soft cheese such as Brie or Camembert. Thinly shave chips from a fresh truffle. Split the cheese wheel in half and place truffle chips on one half, then top with the other half, soft side down, like a sandwich. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate overnight. Slice the cheese wheel into thin, square-shaped slices that can be melted on a slider.
- Grilled maitake mushrooms with yuzu-miso glaze – mix one tablespoon of white miso, two tablespoons of mirin, and two teaspoons of green or red yuzu (all ingredients should be available at your local Asian market, or some health food stores like Whole Foods). The consistency should be similar to heavy cream. Spread mixture evenly over the top of your mushrooms and grill for about 10 minutes.
- Deep fried capers – start with Â¼ cup of capers that have been packed in salt. Remove them from the jar and soak in water for 30 minutes. Heat 1 Â½ cups of vegetable oil in a one-quart pan until the temperature reaches 375. Drain the capers and fry in batches, until golden, 30-45 seconds per batch. Transfer to a paper towel with a slotted spoon.
- Fried Olives & Pickles – dredge pitted green olives in egg and milk, then roll in breadcrumbs. Fry in vegetable oil until golden brown, and transfer to papertowel. Repeat with your favorite brand of sliced pickles.
Label all of your toppings with tags, and provide suggested pairings or combinations of toppings on cute, handmade cards. Is your kid a picky eater? Double dog dare him to try a “grown-up” slider, and soon he’ll be asking for yuzu-glazed maitake mushrooms in his lunchbox. On second thought, maybe just let him go with the American cheese and ketchup slider. He has plenty of time to expand his horizons, right?
Dessert Station: Snowballs
It really is Christmas in July when you have snow cones that taste this good. I sampled some “N’awlins” style snow cones from Imperial Woodpecker in NYC recently, and I’m still dreaming about them! What’s the secret? Sweetened condensed milk. Here’s how to put together a dessert table that’s sure to become a summer staple:
- Shaved ice
- A variety of flavored syrups
- Sweetened condensed milk
- Snow cone or shaved ice machine
- Ice scoop
- Paper cones
- Striped straws
- Plastic spoons
- Glass bottles
- Pour tops or spouts
- Squeezable plastic bottles
Purchase white paper cones, red and blue spoons, and red & white or blue & white striped straws and set these out next to your shaved ice. As an alternative to paper cones, you can serve your snowballs in cute red and blue Chinese takeout containers, purchasable at your local party or craft store.
Be sure someone is responsible for replenishing the shaved ice throughout the day, or if you can plug in the machine outside, your guests can make their own ice. If you use this method, you’ll need to buy a few bags of ice from your local grocery store to have on hand.
If you don’t have a machine, you can make shaved ice this way: wash a milk carton with soap and water and fill with clean water. Freeze. Peel off the milk carton on a cutting board to reveal your block of ice. Using a cheese grater, shave the ice, starting at the corners for maximum efficiency. Try not to touch the ice directly as your body heat will melt it. Scoop the shavings into a chilled bowl.
Get a variety of syrup flavors, and pour them into glass bottles affixed with pour tops (you can get these at a restaurant supply store, or online).
Tie a piece of twine and a hand written label identifying the flavor of the syrup around the neck of each bottle.
Put out a few clearly labeled bottles of sweetened condensed milk next to the assortment of syrups. You can use clear plastic bottles like the kind that mustard or ketchup is served in, so your guests can create fun, swirly shapes on their cones. Make a large, stylized sign or use a chalkboard to display the instructions for making the snow cones:
- Scoop ice into cone
- Pour your choice of syrup flavors over ice
- Drizzle with sweetened condensed milk
- Put a straw in the ice, grab a spoon, and dig in
Make another sign with suggested flavor combos, emphasizing red, white, and blue, of course! Here are some ideas:
- French Vanilla – Blood Orange
- Strawberry-White Chocolate
- Passion Fruit – Toasted Coconut
You can find an infinite number of flavor combos and order syrups here.
There we have it! What kind of food do you plan to serve this 4th of July?