July Fourth is one of the most popular days of the year for outdoor cooking. And while there is nothing wrong with grilling up a batch of hotdogs, or setting burgers to sizzle, or putting perfectly squared grill marks on some juicy steaks, this can also be a good time to take a familiar dish and give it a different tasty twist.

Here are a few recipes that take backyard grill staples such as chicken, and summer offerings of corn and fresh berries, to new levels of flavor.

Peach-Glazed Grilled Chicken

Serves 4

3 pounds bone-in chicken pieces (split breasts cut in half crosswise, drumsticks, and/or thighs), trimmed

Salt and pepper

1 cup wood chips

1 cup peach preserves

⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 (13-by-9-inch) disposable aluminum pan

1 peach, halved and pitted

1 whole jalapeño chile

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with 2¼ teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Place in zipper-lock bag and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

2. Just before grilling, soak wood chips in water for 15 minutes, then drain. Using large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil, wrap soaked chips in foil packet and cut several vent holes in top. Whisk preserves and cayenne together in disposable pan. Place peach halves (cut side up), jalapeño and chicken (skin side down) in pan.

3A. For a charcoal grill: Open bottom vent halfway. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (6 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over grill. Place wood chip packet on coals on one side of grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover and open lid vent halfway. Heat grill until hot and wood chips are smoking, about 5 minutes.

3B. For a gas grill: Remove cooking grate and place wood chip packet directly on primary burner. Set grate in place, turn all burners to high, cover and heat grill until hot and wood chips are smoking, about 15 minutes. Turn all burners to medium. (Adjust burners as needed to maintain grill temperature between 350 and 375 degrees.)

4. Clean and oil cooking grate. Place disposable pan with chicken over side of grill opposite wood chip packet. Cover grill (position lid vent over chicken if using charcoal) and cook for 10 minutes. Flip chicken, and rotate pan 180 degrees. (Open top and bottom vents fully for charcoal grill.) Continue to cook, covered, until breasts register 155 degrees and drumsticks/thighs register 170 degrees, 10 to 14 minutes.

5. Flip chicken, peach halves and jalapeño to coat with preserves, then transfer to grill grate (skin side down for chicken). Leave pan on grill to let preserves thicken and caramelize slightly around edges, 3 to 5 minutes, then remove pan from grill.

6. Meanwhile, cook chicken, peach halves and jalapeño until well browned on first side, 2 to 5 minutes. Flip and continue to cook until chicken breasts register 160 degrees and drumsticks/thighs register 175 degrees and peach halves and jalapeño are well browned on second side, 2 to 5 minutes. Return chicken, skin side up, to pan with preserves, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Transfer peach and jalapeño to plate to cool slightly.

7. Remove any loose skin from peach halves and jalapeño (no need to remove all skin); then chop peach halves, seed and mince jalapeño, and transfer both to bowl. Arrange chicken on serving platter. Pour preserves from pan into bowl with chopped peach halves and jalapeño; stir in vinegar. Season glaze with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon glaze over chicken and serve.

— Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen’s “Masters of the Grill”

Mexican Street Corn

6 large ears fresh corn on the cob, husks and silk removed

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves

1 tablespoon juice from 1 lime

1 medium clove garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)

1 teaspoon chili powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 ounce queso fresco, farmer’s cheese or feta, crumbled (about ¼ cup)

Freshly ground black pepper

1 lime, cut into wedges (for serving)

1. Adjust an oven rack 5 inches from the broiler element and heat the broiler. Brush the corn on all sides with the olive oil and transfer to a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil the corn until well browned on one side, about 10 minutes. Turn the corn and broil until browned on the opposite side, about 10 minutes longer.

2. While the corn broils, stir the mayonnaise, cilantro, lime juice, garlic, chili powder and ¼ teaspoon salt together until uniform. Stir in the cheese and set aside.

3. Remove the corn from the oven and brush the corn on all sides with the mayonnaise mixture. Return to the broiler and broil the coated corn until the cheese coating is warm and slightly browned on top, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve with the lime wedges and any remaining mayonnaise mixture.

— Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen’s “The New Essentials Cookbook”

Summer Berry Clafoutis

1 lemon

1 cup fresh blueberries

1 cup fresh raspberries

2 tablespoons orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided

¼ teaspoon ground cardamon

2 large eggs

2 large egg whites

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar (optional)

1. Set up grill for indirect cooking and heat to medium (about 375 degrees).

2. Generously grease a 10-inch springform pan.

3. Finely grate the zest of the lemon; set aside. Add 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice to a medium bowl; add the berries and liqueur and stir gently to combine.

4. Cream the butter, the ½ cup of sugar, the lemon zest and cardamon in a large bowl, using an electric mixer. Add eggs and eggs whites and beat until well incorporated, about 1 minute. Add flour and mix well for about 30 seconds.

5. Spread batter into prepared pan. Use a slotted spoon to remove berries from bowl and place them on top of batter. Add remaining sugar to berry juices, then drizzle juices over berries.

6. Bake cake over indirect medium heat, with grill lid closed, until cake is light golden brown, about 35 to 45 minutes (check at 30 minutes). Carefully remove the cake pan from grill and allow cake to cool for 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar before serving, if desired.

— Adapted from “Weber’s Time to Grill”



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James D. Watts Jr.

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Scene Writer

James writes primarily about the visual, performing and literary arts. Phone: 918-581-8478