Chef Juan's 4th of July Watermelon Makeover!

Summer and watermelon go together like the 4th of July and fireworks!Whether served sliced or in chunks, just about everyone loves this cold, sweet, treat. To elevate this classic, in true Chez Montier fashion, we’re going to build it as a multi-tiered Napoleon! It only takes a few simple ingredients!  But the careful selection is critical!

 All you need is:

1 seedless watermelon

4 slices of mozzarella cheese

Sweet basil

Maldon salt


White balsamic vinegar reduction

Bamboo skewers

Now, there are no guarantees with watermelons.  But using science and a little wisdom, you can find a good one even at your local market.   

 First, find a melon with a skin that is dull, not shiny.  Take the fruits gender into account.  The longer shaped melons are “male” and tend to be more watery.  The round and stout watermelons are “female” and are usually sweeter.  Pick it up.  Hold the melon away from your body it should feel heavy.       

 Now look for a patch on the bottom.  It’s called “the field spot,” the place where the melon has rested on the ground as it grew.  The creamier in color this spot is, the longer it has ripened on the vine and sweetened. 

Then give it a few good raps on the under belly.  Listen for a melon that sounds hollow.  A dull sound can mean it’s full of water and not quite ripe. So a heavy watermelon that sounds hollow, with a yellowish spot on its belly, means it is probably at the peak of its ripeness and brimming with sweet juice.

The second ingredient is mozzarella. In an ideal world I would use Bufala Mozzarella because of its superior flavor and creamy texture. However, for this recipe, that creamy texture is its downfall. The softness of the cheese makes it difficult to cut and make an even and symmetric Napoleon. I have my deli-person slice 3/16 inch slabs from a sandwich block (I prefer the Boar’s Head brand). 

To maximize flavor, I have salted the cheese and let it rest for at lease two hours before assembly. To complete our prep, chop the basil and the chives and set aside. 

For the melon, remove the rind and trim the flesh into a rectangular block approximately the size of the cheese. Then slice the block of melon into ½ inch thick slabs.

 To assemble your napoleon, place one layer on a cutting board. Sprinkle with the salt and the basil. Top with a piece of melon and repeat to make two additional layers. Make sure that the watermelon is the top and final layer.

 To serve, using a sharp knife, trim the block to create crisp edges. Then lightly score the top layer into equal bite size pieces about ¾ inch square. To secure all the layers together, insert a skewer in the center of each square, pushing through to the cutting board. 

Then cut the block into stacks using the score marks you made earlier.  Drizzle each stack with the balsamic reduction and garnish with the chopped chives and serve.

You have now taken components that everyone loves and made an easy, beautiful hors d’oeuvre that will create fireworks at any picnic or cocktail soirée! Enjoy and…

Happy 4th of July!!!

Juan MontierComment