Labor Day Weekend Barbecue

Summer's almost over and it's time to plan for one last lazy long weekend. Pull out all the stops and plan a REAL barbecue.
The Menu

  • Tomato Bruschetta
  • Iceberg Lettuce with Cucumber Dressing
  • Corn and Red Potato Salad
  • Spicy Grilled Brisket
  • Banana Crunch Bars

You won't have any trouble enticing friends and family over for smoked food, and it's nice to gather round the patio one more time. Even though my school days are long behind me, I still get those "summer's over" pangs every year and feel bad for the kids.

Like most entertaining I do, this simple menu can be made ahead except for the brisket. I've included a decadent bar cookie on the menu -- a recipe I'll keep on hand for afternoon snacks this fall.

Easy Decorating & Cooking

As part of the "not laboring too much on Labor Day," I don't do a lot of decorating for this weekend. I bring out the checked picnic tablecloths -- if you have oilcloth, even better -- and even though it means dishes to wash, I'll bring our everyday plates outside. I'll bring out the lanterns and hurricane lamps, but I won't turn them on till I've watched the summer sun fall to the horizon.

If you haven't slow-cooked meat on the grill, don't be intimidated. It actually requires very little labor on your part, aside from keeping the heat slow and steady. The longer and slower you cook brisket, the more tender it becomes, rewarding you with meat that pulls apart with a fork. And if you're lucky (read: keep the crowd small, or have a crowd of very small people) you'll have leftovers for the best sandwiches of your life.

For more information on long, slow cooking and tips on how to achieve great smoky, complex flavor, check out these stories.


Liquid Refreshment

Beer and brisket are, of course, a match made in heaven -- I love a complex, not overly hoppy, supremely refreshing Belgian-style beer, but check out our beer guide for more options.


A nice, hearty zinfandel would also be really lovely with the brisket, or perhaps a cabernet or shiraz -- nothing too fancy, just something hearty that'll stand up to that spicy BBQ sauce. See our Wine Guide for more ideas on how to pair food and wine.


Sweet Stuff

It's time to be getting ready for back to school, and one thing that'll make it a little less painful is a nice treat to take in the lunch box or awaiting Junior when he walks in the door after a hard day in the second grade. Or for a pick-me-up at the office -- I, for one, haven't outgrown having an afternoon snack. Bar cookies are about the fastest way you can make treats that'll last you for a while. Serve with ice cream for entertaining dinners and then wrap individually in plastic wrap to keep fresh all week. Check out these tips on how to make the best bar cookies.

Continued on page 2:  The Game Plan