The Ultimate four-Course Cookout

An exclusive menu from America’s Best chef Jose Andres

Riffing on backyard bash standards—watermelon, steak, strawberry shortcake—the James Beard Outstanding Chef has created a Details-only menu of gourmet dishes key to America’s food heritage. His lineup will have you and guests chanting, “U-S-A! U-S-A!”


“Who does not look at a big slice of watermelon and think summer? But this unique melon has a fascinating history in the nation’s cooking. Some historians will tell you that the Spanish introduced watermelon to America. Historians say it, seriously, not just me! The first American cookbook, American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, had a recipe for pickled watermelon. That is my inspiration for this salad.”—José Andrés 

Serves 4


For the pickled watermelon:
10 cups water
1/3 cup kosher salt
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 3/4 tbsp freshly cracked black pepper
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 small serrano chile, trimmed and seeded
1 head garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
8 scallions, trimmed
10 bay leaves
3 cups cider vinegar
1 seedless watermelon
For the dressing:
3 tbsp cider vinegar
1/2 cup California Arbequina olive oil

For the garnish:
Reserved watermelon flesh, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Pickled watermelon rinds, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 oz artisanal American blue cheese, preferably Humboldt Fog goat cheese
2 cups microgreens
Coarse sea salt


For the pickled watermelon, pour 5 cups of water into a large stockpot and heat over medium-high heat. Add the salt, sugar, pepper, thyme, chile, garlic, scallions, and bay leaves. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes. Let mixture cool completely, then add the vinegar and mix well.

Strain the pickling liquid through a cheesecloth into a medium pot. Set aside. Cut the watermelon in half crosswise. Place the halves cut side down and cut each into 4 pieces. Take 1 of the pieces of watermelon segment and slice lengthwise into wedges, trying to slice the rind so the width is as uniform as possible. Remove the green skin from the watermelon rind with a vegetable peeler. Using a sharp kitchen knife, separate the white rind from the red flesh. Place the watermelon flesh on a platter, cover with plastic, and refrigerate until ready to use. 

Bring 5 cups of water to a simmer over medium-high heat, add the white watermelon rinds, and cook until the bitterness is lost and a little soft, about 30 minutes. Strain the rinds and submerge in an ice bath. Once cool, place the rinds in a large jar with a tight-fitting lid. Cover the rinds with the cooled pickling liquid, cover with lid, and let pickle in a refrigerator overnight, or for at least 12 hours.

For the dressing, combine the cider vinegar and salt. Slowly pour in the olive oil while continuously whisking to emulsify.

For the garnish, place 8 cubes of watermelon flesh on each plate. Place about 5 pieces of pickled watermelon rind around the plate. Crumble the cheese over each plate and drizzle with dressing. Garnish with microgreens and sea salt and serve.


“This comes from the original Joy of Cooking written by Irma Rombauer. I have a 1931 first edition in my collection. It’s a recipe that has been overshone by shrimp cocktail. But this is an original gem.”

Serves 4


For the grapefruit dressing:
1/2 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
4 tsp sherry vinegar
4 tsp Dijon mustard
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

For the shrimp:
2 quarts water
2 1/2 tbsp kosher salt
20 whole, deveined shrimp

For the garnish:
8 grapefruit segments
2 cornichons, cut lengthwise and quartered
8 capers
Sweet paprika
Freshly ground pepper
Sea salt


To make the dressing, strain the grapefruit juice into a large bowl and add the vinegar and mustard. Add the olive oil in a slow stream, continuously whisking to emulsify. Add salt to taste and store in the refrigerator.

To cook the shrimp, bring a pot of salted water to boil. Have a bowl of salted ice water at the ready. Add the shrimp to the boiling water and cook for about 1 minute (cooking time will depend on the size of the shrimp). Remove the shrimp from the boiling water as soon as they are cooked and immediately place them in the salted ice water. When completely cool, quickly remove the shrimp from the water to prevent oversaturation.

To serve, marinate the shrimp in the grapefruit dressing for a few minutes. Arrange 5 shrimp in each of the 4 martini glasses. Add 2 grapefruit segments per glass and spoon more dressing on top. Add the cornichons and capers to each glass. Garnish with a dusting of paprika, freshly ground pepper, and sea salt. Serve immediately.


“Using sauces the English adapted from toppings they discovered in Asia, early American colonists created savory catsups from ingredients found and foraged in the new land: oysters, berries, mushrooms. Some were made using ingredients that were salt-cured for keeping, such as anchovies or pickled seafood and vegetables. Here, we bring together the great American steak with an assortment of those original catsups.”

Serves 2 to 4


For the steaks:
2 24-oz bone-in rib-eye steaks
Coarse sea salt
For the blackberry catsup:
8 oz blackberries
1/8 tsp mustard powder
2 whole cloves
6 black peppercorns
1/8 cinnamon stick
1/8 tsp ground mace
2 tbsp cider vinegar

For the oyster catsup:
12 oysters, preferably Blue Point
2 cups sherry wine
2 1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground mace

For the anchovy catsup:
24 salt-packed anchovy fillets
5 oz shallots, minced
1 oz horseradish, grated
1 tsp ground mace
1/2 lemon, sliced
4 whole cloves
8 black peppercorns
1/2 cup red wine
2 cups Chardonnay
1/2 cup water

For the steaks, heat a grill until hot. Sprinkle steaks on both sides with salt. Grill steaks on one side for 5 minutes until nice grill marks form. If the fire flares up, move the steaks over to another spot. Turn steaks and finish cooking for 3 or 4 more minutes. You can check doneness by touching the steaks and judging their firmness. If they are still a little soft, they will be medium. Remove steaks from the heat and let rest for a few minutes before slicing. Slice steaks off the bone and serve with a selection of catsups.

For the blackberry catsup, place the blackberries in a strainer set over a mixing bowl. Using the back of a ladle or wooden spoon, crush the berries to release their juices. Pour the berry juice into a small pot set over low heat. Stir in the spices. Reduce the liquid by three-fourths until you have a dark syrup that coats the back of a spoon, about 20 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and cook for about 5 more minutes. Allow the ketchup to cool, then transfer to an airtight container and store, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Catsup can be kept, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

For the oyster catsup, shuck the oysters over a mixing bowl and make sure to collect all of the oyster liquor. Place the oysters in a bowl, discarding the shells, and set aside. You can also use pre-shucked oysters in their juices (you will need at least 1/2 cup of oyster liquid). Strain the oyster liquid into a pot and heat over medium heat until simmering. Add the sherry wine to the oyster water. Once the liquid is simmering again, slide the oysters into the liquid and blanch until opaque and cooked through, about 1 minute. Remove the oysters with a slotted spoon and place in a blender. Stir the salt, cayenne, and mace into the liquid and simmer for 5 more minutes. Pour the hot liquid into the blender with the oysters and blend until smooth. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a bowl, discarding the solids. Season to taste with salt. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve. Oyster catsup should be used within 2 days.

For the anchovy catsup, combine all the ingredients in a medium pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the mixture reduces by half, about 25 minutes. You need about 2 cups remaining. Strain the liquid through a sieve into bowl. Allow to cool and keep in the refrigerator, covered, until ready to serve. Anchovy catsup should be used within 2 days.


“We often forget the roots of where these dishes come from. It was not originally made with a sponge cake, as you sometimes find, but with a ‘short’ cake, cakes that were made using butter and crumbled apart like a scone. You can find one of the first mentions in America in The Lady’s Receipt-Book, published in 1847. For our America Eats Tavern, pastry chef Rick Billings elevated this humble dish by coring the strawberries and filling them with a strawberry gelée to add a special texture to the dish and a more intense strawberry flavor. For making this dish at home, be sure to find the ripest unblemished strawberries that you can, preferably from a local farmer, plucked fresh from the field.”

Serves 6 to 8


For the shortcake:
1 cup flour
3 1/2 tbsp sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
10 tbsp cold butter
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 1/2 tbsp Greek yogurt
1 lemon
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
3 tsp raw sugar

For the whipped cream:
2 cups heavy cream
2 1/2 tbsp sugar
2 vanilla beans
2 pints farm-fresh strawberries
1 pint strawberry sorbet


To make the shortcake, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into a mixing bowl; add the butter. With a paddle attachment, mix on medium until the mixture appears sandy. In a separate bowl, whisk together the cream, yogurt, and vanilla. Grate the zest of the lemon into the cream mixture and stir until well combined. (Be careful to avoid the white pith of the lemon, as it will give a bitter flavor.) Pour the cream mixture into the mixer and mix until combined. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thick. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp raw sugar on top of each cake and bake until golden-brown, about 12 minutes. Once shortcake has cooled, use a 3- to 5-inch circular cookie cutter to make discs or cut the cake into 3-inch squares.

To make the whipped cream, pour the cream into a large mixing bowl. Carefully split vanilla beans in half lengthwise, trying not to cut all the way through, just enough to open the pod. With the tip of the knife, scrape the vanilla seeds into the cream and then add the sugar. Whip to medium peaks, making sure not to overwhip.

To serve, remove the green tops of the strawberries and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place the cake on a plate, top with strawberry slices, and garnish with whipped cream and a scoop of strawberry sorbet.