The August/September 2023 issue of Cook’s Country embodies the notion of warm-weather food that is satisfying without weighing you down, so you can enjoy the pool parties, beach hangouts, nights by the grill, or simple outdoor family dinners that come along with summer.
Here are our editors’ and test cooks’ favorite recipes from the issue, so you know where to get started.
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10 ingredients. 45 minutes. Quick, easy, and fresh weeknight recipes.
Sweet Tea–Brined Fried Chicken Thighs
Growing up in the South Carolina Lowcountry, I hardly ever ate dinner without having a cold glass of sweet tea. And of course a platter of Southern-style fried chicken often sat next to the tea pitcher on the table. But I’d never heard of mashing the two Southern icons together into one dish until I read about Chef John Fleer’s famous sweet tea–brined fried chicken. Fleer—then chef at the renowned Blackberry Farm in Tennessee—brined dark meat chicken in a strong, sweet-salty brew of black tea and lemon before frying it up with a substantial crunchy breading. The results were inspiring: incredibly juicy, subtly sweet, and deeply aromatic crispy fried chicken. Our recipe takes some cues from Fleer—using all dark meat thighs and brining them in concentrated sweet-salty tea—while being deliberately engineered to be failproof for the home cook. We fry our chicken in batches at a relatively cool 325 degrees to ensure that the sugar in the brine doesn’t burn and finish all the chicken in the oven for a perfectly golden crust and tender, juicy meat. —Matthew Fairman, Senior Editor
Sweet Tea–Brined Fried Chicken ThighsWe interview the creator of the dish to find out why you should be frying this chicken at home.
Come summertime, the recipes I turn to over and over again are the easiest: Give me a one-step, one-bowl salad and I’ll bring it to every potluck and cookout ’til the weather starts to turn. Even better if it’s something unexpected, a change-up from the typical picnic fare. Amanda Luchtel’s recipe for Giardiniera Coleslaw delivers just that in droves. A humble head of cabbage and a couple jalapeño chiles are transformed into a sweet, tangy, and crunchy slaw by a handful of pantry staples: Chop up two jars of giardiniera (a mix of Italian pickled vegetables), and add extra-virgin olive oil and an easy mix of fragrant spices (mustard seeds, fennel, and oregano, plus the expected salt, pepper, and sugar). And that’s it! The vibrant combination is more than the sum of its parts. I’m making it this weekend and will continue to all summer long. —Jessica Rudolph, Senior Editor
Giardiniera ColeslawAll this bright, lively slaw requires is a head of cabbage and a handful of pantry ingredients.
Clams with Chorizo
Being a New Englander, clams—fried, raw, steamed, and in chowder—hold a special place in my culinary heart. To no surprise, the Clams with Chorizo recipe inspired by chef Dan Ansotegui at Ansots in Boise, Idaho, checks all the boxes for me. Smoky Spanish chorizo and garlic provide the savory base of this dish, with Eastern littleneck clams front and center as the star. Crisp white wine and fresh briny clam juice combine to help create a deliciously cohesive broth that begs for crusty bread to sop it up. Best of all, the whole dish comes together quickly, whether you’re an experienced cook or the kitchen is a bold new frontier. Finished with chopped parsley for freshness, this just reiterates what true New England seafood is all about. —Lawman Johnson, Senior Photo Cook
Clams with ChorizoOne man's search for the perfect cure.
Cast-Iron Skillet Corn Dip
I’ve always been a bit of a corn skeptic. Shocking, I know. As a die-hard savory food fanatic, corn just often ate too sweet or bland for me. Mark Huxoll’s Cast-Iron Skillet Corn Dip changed my mind for the better; his deconstructed take on Mexican esquites combines creamy, spicy, and bright ingredients to take the flavor of roasted corn to the absolute edge. The corn is browned in a hot cast-iron pan to create a smoky char and cooked alongside scallions and garlic for an aromatic base. The addition of cream cheese, mayonnaise, and Jack cheese pulls everything into a silky concoction, which is finished with bright serrano chiles, lime, and fresh herbs. The first time I approached Mark’s bubbling-hot skillet in the test kitchen, I eyed the corn with my usual wariness; a few minutes later, I was wiping hot cheese off my face and going in for another messy bite. I find this dish most perfect served at summer parties, where small town gossip and a bag of tortilla chips for dipping can both be shared at the same table. —Kelly Song, Test Cook
Cast-Iron Skillet Corn DipA party hit inspired by a classic Mexican dish.
Imagine a plateful of crispy, buttery potato cubes redolent with pungent raw garlic and freshened with chopped parsley. What you’re imagining is Brabant Potatoes, a popular New Orleans dish. It’s so simple—just four ingredients plus salt and pepper—but so flavorful. The potatoes (Yukon Golds) are first cubed and boiled until tender and creamy inside, and then they’re gently fried in butter to develop a crispy crust. Initially, there’s no stirring to ensure that the potatoes get nicely golden brown on the bottom. Then, they’re shaken and stirred until golden brown all over. The garlic and parsley get tossed in off the heat. And that’s it. They make an excellent side for roast chicken. —Megan Ginsberg, Deputy Editor
Brabant Potatoes (Crispy Butter-Fried Potatoes with Parsley and Garlic)Once you try these butter-fried potatoes, you won't know how you ever lived without them.
Ultimate Grilled Vegetable Sandwich
I love vegetables and appreciate when the same amount of thought goes into their preparation as a protein; the Ultimate Grilled Vegetable Sandwich does precisely that. Jessica Rudolph considered every problem you might have encountered when eating a veggie sandwich and solved it. This hearty sandwich starts by hollowing out the center of fresh ciabatta bread so the cooked vegetables don’t slip out (and so you can pack more in). A medley of summer vegetables (eggplant, zucchini, red bell pepper, and red onion) are brushed with a garlicky olive oil before being grilled to silky-smooth perfection. Once the eggplant and zucchini are cooked, they are tossed with a tangy balsamic dressing, and the onions and peppers are sliced thin. A punchy basil mayo seasons the bread, and fresh mozzarella is shingled on the bottom to prevent the bread from sogging out under the pile of grilled veggies. What really seals the deal is wrapping the sandwich in foil and returning it to the grill to melt the cheese and toast the bread before serving. The only thing I haven’t tried is assembling it ahead and finishing it on a grill while camping. I’ll let you know how it goes! —Amanda Luchtel, Test Cook
Ultimate Grilled Vegetable SandwichSmoky grilled vegetables, melted mozzarella, and basil mayo take this sandwich over the top.
Tomato Salad with Warm Lemongrass Dressing
My relationship with tomatoes is akin to a recurring summer fling. Let me explain. In the Mid-Atlantic, where I grew up, we have hot and humid summers that produce juicy, sweet tomatoes that can’t be beat (here’s looking at you, New Jersey). They grew like a weed in my mother’s garden and we would eat them right off the vine—a family pastime that has been passed down through generations to my nieces. The caveat: Tomatoes should be eaten only in summer. I repeat; only eaten in summer. Though they are wonderful plain, still dirty and fresh from the vine, as a result of abundance they can be dressed up for a summer’s eve. Take Nicole Konstantinakos’ Tomato Salad with Warm Lemongrass Dressing. It’s a master class on the intersection of depth and simplicity, pairing chunks of ripe tomatoes with a warmed dressing with lemongrass, ginger, lime, and fish sauce. A bold and refreshing salad for those hot, humid days and warm summer nights. —Mark Huxsoll, Test Cook