Three Special Dishes for Memorial Day Cooking

Although Massachusetts has partially re-opened, our restaurants are still closed for dining so most home cooks are preparing meals or ordering out. With Memorial Day weekend here, I thought my readers might enjoy some recipes to celebrate this holiday that marks the unofficial beginning of summer. Cheeseburgers with roasted jalapeno peppers, potato salad with sautéed chorizo and chives, plus lime and ginger cream cheese bars are all tried–and-true favorites my family and friends have enjoyed over the years.

For the burgers, I use a hefty third of a pound of ground beef (rather than my usual quarter pound), and top them with plenty of cheese—Spanish Mahon, a good sharp white cheddar, or even Havarti. It’s the jalapenos, though, that make these sandwiches special. Halved and de-seeded and then roasted until softened and slightly charred, the peppers add a mild yet distinctive accent.

For the potato salad, I typically use small red skin potatoes, but this week I only had Yukon Golds on hand, but they worked beautifully. The potatoes are combined with coarsely chopped hard-boiled eggs and bits of crispy sautéed chorizo, which add a subtle smokiness. Rather than a mayonnaise-based dressing, I toss these ingredients with a shallot and mustard vinaigrette, and sprinkle all with snipped chives.

The lime and ginger cream cheese bars are an indulgence, perfect for a holiday. They are only about 3/4- inch high, but packed with cooling flavors. A crust prepared with crushed ginger snaps is topped with a cheesecake-type batter scented with lime and crystallized ginger.  

Happy Memorial Day to everyone, and keep staying safe and well!

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Cheeseburgers wtih Roasted Jalapenos, Potato Salad with Chorizo and Chives, Lime and Ginger Cream Cheese Bars

Cheeseburgers with Roasted Jalapeno Peppers
4 jalapeno peppers about 3 inches long (2 oz. total)
2 tsp olive oil plus a little extra if needed
1 tsp chipotle chili pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/3 pounds ground beef, preferably 80 to 85 % lean
4- ounce wedge Mahon cheese or sharp white cheddar or plain Havarti, thinly sliced (See note.)
4 hamburger buns, lightly toasted

1.Arrange a rack at the lowest position and preheat oven to 375 degrees. F.

2.Wearing rubber gloves, cut off and discard the tops of the peppers, and then halve them lengthwise. With a sharp knife, scrape out all the seeds and cut out the membranes. Place the pepper halves, cuts sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet and brush with the olive oil, using extra oil if needed.

3. Roast peppers until they are just starting to brown around the edges and are softened, and are slightly charred on the undersides, 15 to 20 minutes or more. Watch carefully. Remove and cool 5 minutes. (Peppers can be roasted 2 hours ahead; leave uncovered at room temperature.)

4.In a small bowl, combine chipotle chili pepper, cumin, and salt. Shape the ground beef into 4 equal patties about 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle both sides of each patty with some of the chipotle mixture.

5, To cook burgers, oil a grill rack and arrange it 4 to 5 inches from the heat source. Prepare the grill for a hot fire (high temperature). Or, oil a stovetop grill pan and place it over medium high heat. Grill burgers 3 minutes, and then turn. Top each with cheese and 2 jalapeno peppers. Cook about 3 minutes more until cheese has melted and burgers are rosy pink inside. Watch carefully as the cooking time can vary depending on the type of grill and the intensity of the heat.

6. Place the burgers in buns. Serves 4.

Note: You can find Mahon cheese in some grocery stores such as Whole Foods or in cheese shops. Mahons can be soft or hard. I like the softer variety.

Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2020


Potato Salad with Chorizo and Chives
3 tbsp white or red wine vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6 tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup chopped shallots

Potato salad
3 tbsp olive oil
8 ounces chorizo, cut into 1/4-inch dice (See note.)
2 pds small (preferably 1 1/2 to 2- inch diameter) red skin potatoes or 2 pds Yukon Golds, scrubbed but not peeled
4 hard-boiled eggs, coarsely chopped
6 tbsp chopped chives (plus a few whole chives for garnish, optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1.For vinaigrette, in a small bowl, combine vinegar, mustard, 1 teaspoon salt, and several grinds of black pepper. Whisk in 6 tablespoons oil, then stir in shallots. Set aside while you prepare the chorizo and the potatoes.

2.Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add chorizo and sauté until lightly browned, about 3 to 4 minutes. Leave the chorizo in the skillet but remove pan from heat.

3.Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. If using unpeeled small red skin potatoes, add them to the pot and simmer until tender (but not mushy) when pierced with a sharp knife, about 12 minutes. Drain well and while still warm but cool enough to handle, quarter them. If using unpeeled Yukon Golds, cut them into 3/4-inch pieces and add them to the water. Cook 10 to 12 minutes or until tender (not mushy) when pierced with a sharp knife. Drain well.

4.Transfer potatoes to a non-reactive serving bowl, pour dressing over them, and toss to coat well. Add the chorizo and any oil in the skillet, eggs, chives, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Mix well. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.

5.Let salad stand at cool room temperature at least 1 hour for flavors to meld. (Salad can be prepared 6 hours ahead and actually improves in flavor; cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.)

6.Serve potato salad at room temperature. Garnish the center with a few chive sprigs, if desired. Serves 6.

Note: Chorizo is a highly seasoned pork sausage available in both Spanish and Mexican varieties. For this salad, use the Spanish type, which is made with smoked pork and is already cooked, not the Mexican one, which is prepared with fresh pork.

Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2020


Lime and Ginger Cream Cheese Bars

3 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted, plus extra butter for the baking pan
3/4 cup packed gingersnap crumbs, made with 14 to 16 ginger snap cookies ground finely in a food processor (If unavailable use graham cracker crumbs and mix with 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger or to taste).
2 tbsp sugar

Lime and Ginger Cream Cheese Filling
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 2 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp cornstarch
1 large egg
1/4 cup plus 3 tbsp sour cream
2 tbsp finely chopped crystallized ginger (if unavailable use 1/4 tsp ground ginger plus a pinch of sugar)
1 3/4 tsp grated lime zest
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
Thinly julienned lime peel, for garnish (optional)

1.Arrange a rack at center position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan.

2 .For crust, in a food processor, combine the ground ginger snaps with the sugar and process until mixed well, about 30 seconds. Add the melted butter and pulse until just combined. Using your fingers, press this mixture firmly onto the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake 8 minutes, then remove the pan from oven and cool 15 minutes.

3.For Filling, with an electric mixer on medium speed (and using the flat paddle attachment if you have one), beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, stopping the machine and scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary. Beat in 1/4 cup of the sugar and the cornstarch until combined. Then beat in the egg and 2 tablespoons of the sour cream. Add the crystallized ginger, 1 1/2 teaspoons lime zest, and lime juice and beat until just combined. Pour mixture over the crust and smooth the top with a metal spatula or the back of a knife. The cream cheese layer will be only about 1/2-inch thick. Bake until a tester comes out nearly clean, about 25 minutes.

4.Remove the pan from the oven, but retain oven temperature. Whisk together the remaining 5 tablespoons sour cream, 2 teaspoons sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon lime zest in a small bowl. Then spread the mixture evenly over the top of the cream cheese layer. Return the pan to oven and bake 5 minutes. Remove and cool in the pan; then refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

5. With a sharp knife cut down all the way through the crust into 9 equal-sized bars. Use an offset metal spatula to remove the bars from the pan and arrange on a serving platter. If desired, garnish each bar with julienned lime peel.

Makes 9 bars

From Soup Nights by Betty Rosbottomm (Rizzoli 2016)


2 thoughts on “Three Special Dishes for Memorial Day Cooking

    • Susie, So nice to hear that you liked that potato salad. Ron and like it too and ate plenty of leftovers when I worked on it for the post.
      Hope you are safe and well. We are fine but missing being in Paris where we usually are this time of year!

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