Fourth of July Feast

Independence Day represents the peak of summer’s seasonal festivities. School’s out for many families and the grill master has been practicing since Memorial Day. It’s a great time to open up your home to friends and family for a dinner party. Get started with this fresh and colorful menu from Raleigh Chef Alvin Cotto, owner of We Cook For You catering company. Impress your guests with a meal that combines Southern tradition and Caribbean flair.


Hors d’oeuvres
Cool Cocktail Shrimp Shots
Seasonal Fruit Skewers with Guava Cream

Family-Style Dinner
Fresh Strawberry Salad
Mojo Marinated Pork Tenderloin with Mango & Papaya Chutney
Carolina Glazed Baked Bone-In Chicken
Trio of Potato Salad
Sautéed String Beans with Bell Peppers

Grilled Sponge Cake with Whipped Cream and Berry Compote
Red, White, and Blue Jello Shots


Cool Cocktail Shrimp Shots

  • 1 lb. shrimp 16/20 count, peeled and deveined, tail on
  • 1 container cocktail sauce
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 bunch scallions

Cut lemon in quarters, length wise, and then slice into thin slices.

Cut scallions into 1-inch pieces. With a paring knife thinly slice top 1/4 of the scallion lengthwise.

Steam shrimp until cooked through and light pink in color, about 7-10 minutes. Immediately put steamed shrimp in ice bath to cool.

Assembly: Fill bottom of shot glass with cocktail sauce, place shrimp inside, garnish with lemon slice on the side and a scallion.

Seasonal Fruit Skewers with Guava Cream

  • 1 of each cantaloupe, honeydew, small seedless watermelon and pineapple
  • 1 pint strawberries
  • 1 6 oz. container vanilla yogurt
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 3 Tablespoons guava preserves
  • 1 package of small wooden skewers

Cut each melon into square pieces and scoop balls with melon baller. Cut pineapple into squares. Skewer fruit, alternating by square piece, melon ball, strawberry. Two to three pieces of fruit will fit on each skewer.

Mix yogurt, honey and guava preserves together in a small bowl.
Arrange fruit skewers on a platter and serve the guava cream on the side.

Note: Guava preserves can be found at Hispanic food stores such as International Foods in Raleigh. Strawberry or raspberry preserves can be used as a substitute.

Fresh Strawberry Salad

  • 1 lb. mixed greens
  • 4 oz. bleu cheese crumbles
  • 4 oz. walnuts
  • 4 oz. dried cranberries
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 pint strawberries, sliced
  • Lemon Poppy Seed Vinaigrette
  • In a large bowl, combine all ingredients, through strawberries.

When ready to serve, gently toss your salad with vinaigrette and enjoy. Extra vinaigrette can be served on the side.

Lemon Poppy Seed Vinaigrette

6 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon poppy seeds

Mix all ingredients together.

Mojo Marinated Pork Tenderloin with Mango & Papaya Chutney

  • 2 pork tenderloins, about 5-6 pounds total
  • 1 24-oz. bottle Goya Mojo Criollo
  • 1 ripe papaya, diced, discarding skin and seeds
  • 2 ripe mangos, diced, discarding skin and pits
  • 1 small jar roasted red peppers, diced
  • 1 bunch cilantro, removed from stems and chopped
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • pinch of salt and pepper

Remove silver skin from tenderloins and marinate in mojo for a minimum of 4 hours, or overnight.

Combine papaya, mangos, roasted red peppers, cilantro, red onion, cumin, salt, pepper and lime juice to make the chutney.

Grill the pork tenderloin over indirect, medium-high heat until cooked thoroughly (internal temperature of 135 degrees). Remove from grill and let rest for 2-3 minutes.
Slice and shingle the pork on a platter and garnish with the chutney.

Note: Goya Mojo Criollo can be found at Hispanic food stores or in the Hispanic section of some grocery stores. It is a marinade made with citrus juices, onion, garlic, cumin, coriander and black pepper that is traditionally used in Caribbean cuisine to flavor meats and poultry.

Carolina Glazed Baked Bone-In Chicken

  • 2 whole chickens, cut up (16 pieces)
  • 24-oz. bottle of your favorite Carolina barbecue sauce
  • 1 bunch of parsley, chopped
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet in a single layer, and bake for 10 minutes.

Pour barbecue sauce in a deep bowl. Once the chicken has cooked for 10 minutes, take out of oven and dunk each piece in the sauce until covered. Bake chicken for another 4 minutes.
Repeat the dunking process and cook until chicken is cooked thoroughly to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. (Total cook time will be about 30 minutes from start to finish).
Arrange on a platter and garnish with fresh chopped parsley

Note: Chef Cotto recommends George’s Hot Barbecue Sauce.

Trio of Potato Salad

  • 1 1/2 lbs. red potatoes, cubed
  • 1 1/2½ lbs. purple potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic

Boil red and purple potatoes until fork tender, about 8-10 minutes. Boil sweet potatoes in separate pot until fork tender (the sweet potato will cook quicker than the other potatoes, about 5-7 minutes).

Cool potatoes in ice bath until completely cooled.

Mix all other ingredients in a large bowl. Carefully fold cool potatoes into the mayo mixture.
Serve in a nice large bowl, garnished with parsley if you desire.

Note: Look for purple potatoes at fine grocery stores.

Sautéed String Beans with Bell Peppers

  • 2 lbs. fresh string beans, stems removed
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon crushed garlic

Bring a pot of water to boil. Cook green beans until they are just about tender, but still have a small snap. Strain and set aside.

Warm olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat and sauté peppers until slightly tender. Add crushed garlic and green beans to the sauté pan and sauté everything together until tender.

Season with salt and pepper.

Grilled Sponge Cake with Whipped Topping and Berry Compote

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 2 cups large egg whites (about 15), room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sift 1/2 cup sugar and all of flour into medium bowl.

Beat egg whites, cream of tartar and salt in large bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 1 cup sugar; beat until very stiff peaks form.

Fold in flour mixture in 3 separate batches. Fold in vanilla extract.

Pour batter into an ungreased 10 in. x 4 in. deep angel food cake pan. Bake until cake is brown and crusty on top and skewer inserted near center comes out clean, about 50 minutes.

Turn pan upside down and fit center onto slender bottle neck. Cool cake completely before running a knife around pan sides to loosen cake. Turn cake over onto a platter. Cut into wedges.

Once you are ready to grill your sponge cake, place wedges on hot grill starting in the 11 o’clock position. Once you have obtained grill marks, turn the sponge cake to the 2 o’clock position. Flip and repeat for grill marks on both sides.

Serve with fresh whipped cream and berry compote.

Whipped Cream:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whip all ingredients together until stiff peaks are formed. You will want to do this the day of the event. Leaving the whipped cream in the fridge overnight will cause the whipped cream to loosen and lose its stiffness.

Berry Compote:

  • 1 cup strawberries, sliced
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

Mix all ingredients together in a glass bowl and let sit overnight in the fridge.

Red, White and Blue Jello Shots
Each layer is prepared and chilled separately. Prepare in advance and be sure to leave ample time for refrigeration.

  • 1 3 oz. package of strawberry gelatin
  • 1 3 oz. package of blueberry gelatin
  • 5 envelopes (1/4 oz. each) unflavored gelatin
  • 1 1/2 cups pina colada mix
  • 1 cup white rum
  • 1/4 cup blue Curacao
  • 1/4 cup Absolut Citron

Red layer – follow instructions on the strawberry gelatin box to make the gelatin mixture. After adding the gelatin into boiling water, mix in one envelope of unflavored gelatin (1/4 oz) and stir until dissolved. When adding the cold liquids, replace 1/2 cup of cold water with 1/2 cup of chilled white rum. Stir together well and pour into small casserole dish. Refrigerate for at least 5 hours.

White layer – heat 1 cup of pina colada mix. Stir in 3 envelopes of unflavored gelatin. When dissolved, mix in 1/2 cup chilled pina colada mix and 1/2 cup chilled white rum. Pour this over the red layer and refrigerate at least 5 hours.

Blue layer – follow instructions on the blueberry gelatin box to make the gelatin mixture. After adding the gelatin into the boiling water, mix in one envelope of unflavored gelatin and stir until dissolved. When adding the cold liquids, replace ½ cup of cold water with ¼ cup of chilled blue Curacao and 1/4 cup chilled Absolut Citron. Stir together well and pour over the white and red layers. Refrigerate for at least 5 hours.

Once everything is solid, cut into cubes and serve.

About Chef Cotto

Chef Alvin Cotto began his career in a restaurant dish room, and through passion and love for cooking worked his way up to executive chef and owner of his own catering company, We Cook For You. Specializing in, though not limited to, Caribbean cuisine, learned from watching relatives as he grew up, Chef Cotto strives to serve extraordinary, authentic food and elegant presentations in every dish he creates.

“I want you to say, ‘This is just as if I would have made it,’” he said. That is, if you had almost 20 years in the culinary industry and had trained with numerous chefs along the way.

We Cook For You is available for weddings, banquets, corporate events and family gatherings. Check them out at

Entertaining with Ease: Tips for surviving and enjoying your next dinner party.

– Read through recipes many times in advance. When it comes time to finish cooking, you don’t want to have to flip back and reread for the final details.

– Prepare as much as you can ahead of time. Chef Cotto suggests dicing the spuds for the potato salad early and keeping them submerged in cold water in the refrigerator. Preparing sauces, such as the guava cream, and chopping vegetables can often be completed the day before the event.

– Use store-bought ingredients to save time — such as the barbecue sauce and marinade in this menu. Be sure to balance store-bought items with quality fresh ingredients, like the homemade chutney.

– Think one step ahead of the party. During his catering events, Chef Cotto’s mind is always moving to the next phase of the meal and what should be accomplished to transition smoothly from the salad to the entrée, entrée to dessert.

– Leave room for flexibility. “Things don’t always go as planned,” emphasized Chef Cotto.

– If the preparations seem like more work than fun, call for backup. Entertaining should not mean endless hours slaving in a kitchen. We Cook For You can cater your next gathering from an intimate party to a large-scale banquet.
Click on the image below to download your printable menu and invitations now!

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