What to Cook This Memorial Day Weekend

Make your long weekend even better with beer can chicken.
Make your long weekend even better with beer can chicken. Photo by insatiablemunch

Memorial Day Weekend is also known as the unofficial start of summer; so we’re rounding up party-friendly recipes to help you kick off the season with flavor. From fire-grilled eats and patriotic desserts to refreshing salads and drinks to keep things cool, here’s what to cook this Memorial Day.

Beer Can Chicken

Also dubbed “beer butt chicken” or “chicken on a throne,” beer can chicken is exactly what it sounds like: a whole chicken with a beer can stuffed inside its cavity. The beer helps to steam the bird from the inside as it cooks, imparting flavor and aromatics along the way. Perfect for the grill, beer can chicken has become a summertime staple. This recipe gives the bird a sweet and spicy kick with a blend of red chile, cayenne and dark brown sugar. It's finished with spring onions and fresh coriander for brightness. Try it with a Saint Arnold 5 O’Clock Pils.

click to enlarge Take ordinary burgers to the next level by filling them with cheese, avocado, bacon and more. - PHOTO BY NICK AMOSCATO
Take ordinary burgers to the next level by filling them with cheese, avocado, bacon and more.
Photo by Nick Amoscato
Next-Level Stuffed Burgers

Anyone can throw a burger on the grill and call it a day, but if you want to be the hero of your Memorial Day Weekend grill sesh, try stuffing your burgers before grilling them. Fill your patties with straight-up cheese for the classic Jucy Lucy; go fresh and light with an avocado stuffed burger; mash two favorites—burgers and jalapeño poppers—by making this burger stuffed with cream cheese, jalapeños and bacon; or try grilling some goat cheese-stuffed lamb burgers, topped with caramelized red onions and a spicy herb mayo.

click to enlarge Whoever said shrimp couldn't be a side? - PHOTO BY HAIDERZS
Whoever said shrimp couldn't be a side?
Photo by haiderzs
The Extras

Skip the mayo-laden pasta and potato salads from your local grocery store and try these super easy sides instead. Spice up boring potatoes with a take that feels totally at home here in Houston; This kimchi potato salad is hit with prepared kimchi and a freshly made nuoc cham fish sauce.

This tortellini pesto pasta salad mixes store-bought tortellini and pesto with sweet cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and mozzarella (we suggest adding in hunks of salami, too).

Instead of regular old grilled corn with butter, try adding crema, cotija cheese, ancho chili and cilantro to make it elotes-style. The crowd will thank you.

These grilled clams with spiced paprika butter are another worthy hot-off-the-grill companion. Serve them with warm bread to pick up the drippings of butter and clam liquor. Or try these peel-and-eat shrimp with harissa.

Looking for something refreshing? Try this grilled watermelon salad, hit with fresh mint and a hint of cayenne; and this spicy peach and avocado salad, with fresno chile and roasted pistachios; Or go Mediterranean with a cucumber, bell pepper, and tomato kissed Greek panzanella, dotted with hunks of feta and kalamata olives (here, we’d add a few handfuls of baby spinach for extra freshness).

click to enlarge Feeling patriotic? Add blueberries, too. - PHOTO BY HIROYUKI TAKEDA
Feeling patriotic? Add blueberries, too.
The Sweet Stuff

It may feel like summer, but we’re technically still in spring; and as two of the spring season’s freshest fruits are blueberries and lemons, this blueberry-lemon tart will give you a perfectly fresh taste of Americana. For a real deal taste of summer, this strawberry tart also hits the spot.

Or try going Red, White and Blue with doughnut hole trifle, made with strawberries, blueberries, lemon pudding and you guessed it, doughnuts.

Got kids to please? Try these homemade Chipwiches, and roll the ice cream cookie sandwiches into some colored sprinkles to make them patriotic; or go for this strawberry crisp cookie version. You can also keep things simple and channel summer campfires with these s’mores bars, made with mini marshmallows, chocolate bars and Golden Grahams cereal.

click to enlarge Sangria is the perfect pitcher cocktail for summer. - PHOTO BY FOODISTA
Sangria is the perfect pitcher cocktail for summer.
Photo by Foodista
The Drinks

Remember how The New York Times just called out the Aperol Spritz for being a bonafide piece of trash? Turns out many don’t agree. Made with Prosecco and Aperol, plus a dash of soda water, the coral-hued summery apéritif is as refreshing as it gets (and us Houstonians need refreshing). Start your party off strong with this simple recipe.

Or go for crowd-pleasing pitcher beverages, mojitos and sangria. Try this blueberry and peach red sangria, or this rosé sangria rocking strawberries, mint and a touch of lemon. And these berry-packed summer berry pitcher mojitos will help you cool off and stay buzzed.

If you want a little more pep in your step, try taking Jell-O shots up a notch with these pink lemonade Jell-O shots, served right out of hollowed out lemon slices.

And if you’re looking for something red hot and outside-the-box, this rum-kissed Porch Crawler mashes cherries and hot chiles.

Of course, there’s nothing like cooling off with a homemade summer shandy. This Cowboy Shandy mixed fresh lemon juice, chilled lager, and whiskey.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Brooke Viggiano is a contributing writer who is always looking to share Houston's coolest and tastiest happenings with the Houston Press readers.
Contact: Brooke Viggiano