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A Make-Ahead Summer Menu with the Absolute Best BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

For Memorial Day and beyond, here's an easy menu to serve in the backyard.

pulled chicken slaw pasta salad watermelon
Photography by: Ren Fuller

Summer is right around the corner. Kick it off with a sunny Memorial Day spread that lets you relax and enjoy the party. Sip a frosty drink, build a barbecue sandwich, and pull off a piece of rich vanilla cake. The living is breezy.

 

The Menu

watermelon lemon tea
Photography by: Ren Fuller

Pass Around a Cool Sip: Watermelon-Lemon Tea

Whip up a batch of watermelon-lemon tea that comes together in 10 minutes. Slice the rind into spears for a summery garnish, and spike it with vodka, if you like.

 

Get the Watermelon-Lemon Tea Recipe
pulled chicken bbq sandwich
Photography by: Ren Fuller

Bring Out the Main Event: Pulled BBQ-Chicken Sandwiches

You can make the shredded chicken filling for these sandwiches up to three days in advance. Simmering the meat in a combination of beer and homemade BBQ sauce makes it extra flavorful.

 

Get the Pulled BBQ-Chicken Sandwiches Recipe
chicken cracklings
Photography by: Ren Fuller

Get Crackling

Crisped chicken skin makes these sandwiches even more crowd-pleasing. To make cracklings, arrange reserved chicken skins from step 4 in a single layer on a parchmentlined rimmed baking sheet; top with another piece of parchment. Weigh down with another rimmed baking sheet. Bake in a 350-degree oven 15 minutes, then flip, re-cover, and bake until crisp and caramelized, another 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer cracklings to a paper towel–lined plate to crisp. Layer on sandwiches when serving.

carrot cabbage slaw
Photography by: Ren Fuller

Serve Up Fresh Sides: Shredded-Carrot-and-Cabbage Coleslaw

Cabbage slaw adds crunch to the sandwich but it's delicious on its own, too.

 

Get the Shredded-Carrot-and-Cabbage Coleslaw Recipe
artichoke pasta salad green bean
Photography by: Ren Fuller

Marinated-Artichoke and Green-Bean Pasta Salad

Breathe new life into one of our favorite pantry ingredients, jarred marinated artichokes, by tossing them with green beans, parsley, red onion, and Parmesan in this pasta salad. The artichoke brine, along with lemon (fresh juice and zest) and olive oil, makes a lively dressing.

 

Get the Marinated-Artichoke and Green-Bean Pasta Salad Recipe
wafter berries cupcake cake
Photography by: Ren Fuller

Finish with a Fun Dessert: Pull-Apart Vanilla-Wafer Cupcake Cake with Berries

Whipped-cream frosting covers the cupcakes for a sheet-cake effect you don’t have to slice.

 

Get the Pull-Apart Vanilla-Wafer Cupcake Cake With Berries Recipe
cutting up watermelon rind
Photography by: Ren Fuller

The Make-Ahead Plan

3 DAYS BEFORE

  • Make pulled chicken.

1 DAY BEFORE

  • Bake cupcakes.
  • Purée watermelon.

THE MORNING OF

  • Frost cupcakes.
  • Mix watermelon-lemon tea.
  • Make coleslaw and pasta salad.