Don’t know what dish to take to the annual Fourth of July picnic? We got you. Or rather, several local chefs do.

Eight members of the local culinary scene (present and future) have told us, in their own words and recipes, what they would take if they were invited to a celebratory cookout. The recipes range from simple salads to more complex soups to the perfect deviled eggs and seasonal desserts.

You’re sure to make quite an impression at the family cookout with any of these winners.

Jeff Kelly | Stella’s Southern Brasserie

“If I were invited to a Fourth cookout, I would bring panzanella. Everything in this dish shouts summertime. It is light and refreshing and pairs with almost anything. It is quick and simple but delicious.”

8 oz. extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup white balsamic vinegar
2 tbs. smoked fish sauce
2 tsp. aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes
½ cup sliced scallions
2 garlic cloves (minced)
1 lemon (zest and juice)
5 large tomatoes (large dice)
2 slicing cucumbers (halved and cut into half moons)
4 oz. basil (chopped)
4 oz. parsley (chopped)
Salt and pepper to taste
Brioche bread or whatever you have around

Start by adding olive oil, vinegar, fish sauce, pepper flakes, lemon juice/zest, garlic, and scallions to a large bowl. Whisk until everything is incorporated. Add your vegetables and herbs, mix well, and adjust seasoning. Tear whatever bread you may be using into large “croutons,” toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and toast in a 350-degree oven for 5-8 minutes. Garnish salad with croutons.

Heidi Trull | Grits and Groceries

“Bread pudding is the perfect covered dish to take along. It could feed four to 40; just depends what size spoon you put in it! A lot of people say they don’t like bread pudding, but then they taste ours and change their minds. It is light and fluffy, and you could put the sauce on anything and it would taste good.”

Peach Pecan Bread Pudding
This bread pudding is best made with fresh South Carolina peaches, but it is still very good with frozen or canned peaches.
2 ½ cups sliced peaches (fresh, frozen, or canned)
1 tbs. butter
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground ginger
Pinch ground cloves
¾ cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1½ cups milk
¼ cup peach brandy or bourbon
½ cup pecans
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
10 cups French bread cut into 1-inch cubes

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large heavy-bottom saucepot, melt the butter. Add the peaches, spices, and sugars and cook over medium heat for about 5–10 minutes. Add the cream and milk and heat the mixture until hot to the touch. Whisk eggs in a large bowl and slowly pour milk mixture into eggs, whisking constantly. Pour egg mixture over the bread and add the brandy or bourbon, vanilla, and pecans. Let the bread soak for 15-20 minutes. Spoon into greased large muffin pans. Bake in 325-degree oven for 20-30 minutes. Serve warm with caramel sauce.

Shawn Kelly | Fork & Plough (future restaurant at 1629 E. North St.)

“What I like to try and do when I get an invite to any party is try and take something that kids will enjoy and something for adults to enjoy. Fourth of July weekend is peak season for both watermelon and peaches, so both are featured in very simple recipes to showcase the fruit.”

Watermelon Salad
1 seedless watermelon cut into chunks
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup white balsamic
½ tsp. crushed red pepper
½ cup chopped basil
½ cup chopped mint
2 cups crumbled feta
2 cups toasted sliced almonds
Mix all ingredients together and serve chilled. Voila!

Peach Sangria
1 bottle white wine
¾ cup peach brandy
½ cup peach nectar
1 lb. sliced peaches
1 lemon sliced and seeded
2 bottles Blenheim Spicy Ginger Ale

Anthony Gray | Bacon Bros. Public House

“I like to make simple food/tasty food. My informal party settings are the same. I like to make savory apps/sides, and of course proteins, but if I’m not in charge, I like to make deviled eggs. They are fun, easy, and a good way to get creative with different toppings. My favorites are the ones we do at the restaurant with Tasso ham and a little extra kick from a special blend of dried super hot chili peppers.

“First, you must properly cook the eggs. This is actually proven to be much more difficult than I think most people realize, but if you follow this recipe you will produce perfect hard-boiled eggs every time.

“I always make extra because people eat more than they would like to admit. I like to plan for each guest to eat two whole eggs or four halves.”

Deviled eggs
15 whole eggs

Bring enough water to a boil to cover the eggs once they are added. Make sure to account for the water level to rise once you add the eggs.

Salt the water generously because the eggs are porous and will absorb the seasoning.

Once the water is at a full boil, gently add the eggs. Make sure that the water does not stop boiling, so if you need to work in batches you can. Put a lid on the pot and turn down to medium-high heat and set a timer for 12 minutes.

At the end of the 12 minutes, drain the eggs and rinse them under cool water so that they are cool enough to handle, but not cold yet (they are easier to peel when warm).

Peel them and drop into another bowl with ice water.

Once you have completed the peeling process, carefully split the eggs and remove the yolk, store in a separate container, and place the whites onto your serving tray.

8 oz. of egg yolk
2 oz. of yellow mustard
2 oz. of mayonnaise
½ tsp. of apple cider vinegar
½ tsp. of your favorite hot sauce
¼ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. kosher salt

Blend egg yolks together in a food processor for 30 seconds, and then add other ingredients. Mix until well incorporated. Taste and adjust seasoning as you see necessary. I like mine with a little extra mustard and black pepper.

Pipe into eggs and be generous. You want to have a full egg, because the yolk mixture is where the flavor is.

Top with sliced ham, pickled mustard seed, and spices if you want it that way.

You could instead top with pickled jalapeños and chopped bacon for a little fun. Get creative and have fun with it.

Judi Shetler | Swamp Rabbit Café

“This brings back memories of picking blueberries as a child in Michigan and going to summer picnics, and it is very simple to make. You can add a top pie crust if you would like or a crumble topping with equal parts oats, whole wheat flour, butter, and sugar mixed together.”

Super Simple Blueberry Pie
1 all-butter crust (Swamp Rabbit Café sells an amazing house-made crust in the grocery store)
About 1 heaping quart freshly picked local blueberries
Organic cane sugar
1½ tbs. cornstarch
Splash of lemon juice
Pinch of sea salt

In a bowl mix together the blueberries, cornstarch, and enough sugar that it coats each berry (around ½ cup; if you like a sweeter pie, add ¼ cup more), a pinch of sea salt, and a splash or two of lemon to help the sugar stick to the berries. Mix until combined. Scoop filling into the pie crust and bake in a 350-degree oven until filling is bubbly and crust is golden brown, 35–45 minutes.

Gregory McPhee | The Anchorage

“The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays because it’s centered around friends, family, and food. Something I always remember growing up was fresh fruit, so I try to bring something sweet to finish.”

Mixed Summer Berry Cobbler Recipe
2 cups butter
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups oats
2 cups whole-wheat flour (or substitute all-purpose or gluten-free)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 pinches salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring butter to room temperature and cube. Add all ingredients into a mixing bowl. Work the mixture with your hands until the mixture comes together in clumps. Reserve in fridge until after completing fruit mix.

5 peaches (ripe)
1 pint blueberries
1 pint strawberries
Juice of 1 lemon (add zest if desired)
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 oz. bourbon
1 vanilla bean scraped or 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Remove the pit from peaches and cube in small pieces. Wash the berries and pick through for quality. Cut the strawberries in quarters. Add all the fruit to a bowl and add sugar, bourbon, vanilla, and lemon. Mix and reserve for about an hour on the counter. Strain the liquid from the bowl into a 10-inch high-sided saucepan and reduce to a syrup consistency. Add the fruit back to the mixture and stir in. More liquid will be pulled from the fruit. Allow the liquid to reduce down slightly until it coats the fruit. Pour the fruit and liquid directly into a casserole dish or individual ramekins. Add the crumble from the fridge on top of the fruit and throw into the oven. Bake until golden- to walnut-brown in the oven or until the fruit mixture begins to vigorously boil. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes for the liquids to settle. Serve with your favorite ice cream.

Chef Rodney Freidank | Table 301

“I like dishes that are light and use seasonal ingredients. I like to take ingredients that are typically served a certain way at a summertime party, and present them in a way that folks don’t expect. My friends know I’m a chef, so no one expects me to just bring the crudités with ranch dip or the plain cut-up watermelon.”

Chilled “My Rockin’” Carrot Soup
1 lb. carrots, diced
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. coriander seeds
Olive oil to coat
1 cup orange juice, fresh-squeezed if possible
3 cups vegetable stock
1 tbs. harissa paste (any gourmet supermarket should have this in stock)
2 tbs. honey
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Salt to taste
Greek yogurt
Mint leaves
Cilantro leaves

Toss carrots and spices in olive oil to coat. Season with salt. Roast in 400-degree oven until lightly caramelized and tender (about 20–30 minutes). Meanwhile, combine orange juice, vegetable stock, harissa, honey, cinnamon, and salt in a soup pot. Bring to simmer. Add carrots. Simmer for 20 minutes. Puree until smooth. Chill. Serve garnished with a dollop of Greek yogurt and several mint and cilantro leaves cut into thin ribbons.

Feta Cheese and Watermelon Salad
Serves 4
1-2 lb. seedless watermelon, red (rind removed)
1-2 lb. seedless watermelon, gold (rind removed)
4 oz. Feta Cheese in Brine (drained and crumbled)
4 tbs. infused balsamic reduction (recipe below)
2 tbs. pistachio oil
½ lb. organic field greens
Kosher salt and black pepper
Toasted pistachios (optional)

Cut watermelon into chunks and place in large bowl or on platter. Toss field greens with salt, pepper, some balsamic reduction, and some pistachio oil, and put on top of watermelon. Drizzle remaining balsamic reduction and pistachio oil over the top. Crumble feta onto greens and watermelon and garnish with pistachios if desired.

Infused Balsamic Reduction:
1 bottle (32 oz.) balsamic vinegar
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp. molasses
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 piece star anise
2 tbs. honey
¼ cup dry currants
¼ cup dry cranberries
2 black peppercorns
1 vanilla bean
1 sprig rosemary
Combine all ingredients in saucepan and reduce slowly to syrup consistency.

Sean Brock | Husk (future Greenville location at 722 S. Main St.)

“Green gumbo is the perfect dish to bring to a potluck. It gets better as it sits and can be made the day before. Plus, most people haven’t had it and that provides an opportunity to tell its story and speak about the great Leah Chase.”

[Editor’s note: Chef Leah Chase, 94, of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, New Orleans, is known as the Queen of Creole Cuisine.]

Note: This recipe is a way to use whatever herbs and greens you have in your garden or find at the market. The more variety you use, the better.

Green Gumbo and Popcorn Rice
Serves 6
Smoked Vegetables:
1 cup small diced sweet onion
2/3 cup small diced peeled carrot
Prepare a smoker with hardwood charcoal and hickory, maintaining a temperature between 125 and 150 degrees.

Combine the onion and carrot on a rimmed baking sheet that will fit in your smoker and spread into a thin single layer. Smoke the diced vegetables until they develop a rich smoky flavor but retain their fresh texture, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the smoker and cool to room temperature. Transfer the smoked vegetables to a container with a lid and set aside at room temperature if using immediately. Otherwise, cover and refrigerate. Tightly covered, the smoked vegetables will keep for up to three days in the refrigerator.

Green Gumbo:
2 pounds greens, such as collards, turnip greens, and mustards
4 tbs. unsalted butter
Reserved smoked onion and carrot
¼ cup all-purpose flour
4 cups vegetable stock
2 tbs. apple cider vinegar
3 tbs. soy sauce, preferably KY Bluegrass
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Wash the greens in a sink or large bowl of cold water, changing the water several times if the greens have sand on them. Drain and dry.

Grind the cleaned greens through the large die of a meat grinder and set aside. Heat the butter until foamy in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 7 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the flour just begins to turn light brown, about 4 minutes. Gradually whisk in the vegetable stock and bring to a simmer. Add the greens and vinegar, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the greens are completely tender and the gumbo has a deep, dark color, about three hours. Stir in the soy sauce. Remove from the stove and cover if using immediately. Otherwise, transfer to a container, cool to room temperature, cover tightly, and refrigerate. Tightly covered, the gumbo will keep up to four days in the refrigerator.

Popcorn Rice:
1 tbs. unsalted butter
1½ cups popcorn rice
2 tsp. kosher salt
2¼ cups water

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the rice and salt and coat the rice with butter. Increase the heat to high, add the water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the rice is tender and all of the water is absorbed, about 12 minutes. Remove from the heat and fluff gently with a fork. Cover to keep warm.

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