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menu and recipes for a french picnic

  • j

In a couple of weeks we are going to the Hollywood Bowl--this is a summer music venue for LA. Pre-performance picnics are standard and fancy is deemed good. For this visit, the other party has paid for all the tickets and we are bringing all the food [not a bad deal, actually].

So far, I'm leaning towards a frenchish theme but am still working out the details of the menu. In the past, I've made stuff like that french sandwich with the layers of tuna, marinated peppers, olive salad, etc and it turned out pretty well. I'm open to making it again as part of the menu but am interested in something new as well.

Our party of six has three kids and three adults. Three of the party eat pretty much anything they can stick a fork in or pick up with chopsticks, one is cautious but open, one believe that green food should not be eatten [but can be persuaded in exchange for dessert] and given the skinniness of the last, I'm really not sure she eats at all. Odds are good that we will be "lap eatting" as opposed to sitting at a table. I should have a good amount of time to prepare food as the event is on a Sunday.

Any ideas? recipes? must trys?

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  1. Salade nicoise and lots of great French bread. And something fancy, some kind of tart, for dessert. Yum.

    1. You know what I always think of as French pique-nique fare? Radish sandwiches. A good baguette, some good butter and some good radishes.

      1 Reply
      1. re: jillp

        I love the radish, butter, salt combination. This spring, I improvised and turned out with a great hors-d'oeuvre. Spread some tarragon shallot butter on some thinly sliced baguette and top with sliced radishes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Would make a nice sandwich too.

      2. Quiche transports well and isn't terribly messy, although it does require a fork. A terrine, perhaps? You could make both a vegetable one and a meat one. In fact, in the LATimes last week there was a Hollywood Bowl-inspired menu - while not necessarily French in theme, it might give you ideas.


        While I enjoy salads, I feel that they're a tad harder to transport, run the risk of wilting if leaf-based, and also often require dressing, which can get messy when you're trying to eat off laps in the dark.

        Maybe palmiers for dessert? You can make them easily with store-purchased puff pastry, or you can make them completely from scratch (which I've done - not difficult, but more time consuming, and sometimes you don't really want to know how butter is used in a recipe). Eclairs might be nice as well.

        And make sure to bring a baguette (or two) and some good cheese. Lately, I've been in love with affinois (which is like butter in cheese form, if that makes any sense) and St. Andre.

        And on a side note - sometimes the skinniest people I know eat the most. I always envy that quick metabolism.

        1. Maybe get some really good cheese and good baguette? And wine, nice French wine.

          1 Reply
          1. re: OnceUponABite

            Yes, I can't imagine a French picnic without good cheese and bread. I would also have s selection of charcuterie, some pickles - cornichons would be perfect - and fruit.

          2. One of my very best Hollywood Bowl meals, that provoked other tables into looking over at us in jealousy, and which tasted great and could be served at room temp or chilled, was the Poached Salmon with Tarragon Sauce and Fingerling Potatoes from Gourmet Magazine a few years back. It's on epicurious, here:


            (btw, everyone in my group ADORED the sauce; not sure what those first two commentators on epicurious are talkin' about ;-


            We served the salmon and potatoes with a green salad with a french-style vinaigrette, tossed once we got to the Bowl. With french bread, white wine, and dessert of chocolate and fresh fruit, it was perfect!

            1. Hello,

              Try a Pan Bagna - it is like a salad nicoise sandwich:

              Slice a whole sourdough baguette or other sourdough round and pull out some of the bread in the middle.

              Fill with all of the ingredeints for a nicoise: tuna, anchovie, egg, a green leaf, tomato, and of course nicoise olives, you can make a light dressing to be add at the picnic.

              Tie gently in several places with butchers twine and wrap in wax paper. You can slice it at the picnic - also requires no cutlery and balancing plates on the lap.

              I would serve with some french olives, cheese, and a nice duck pate. You could also add in a vegetable terrine.


              1 Reply
              1. re: j2brady

                I love Pan Bagna. I usually weight it down in the frige overnight. I heard a great description that a good Pan Bagna should cause olive oil to run down your chin. A little messy but delicious with lot of good olive oil.

              2. A room temperature French potato salad rather than a mayonnaise based one.. lots of recipes on the web and goes with anything else.

                1. as said, good baguettes, cheeses, saussicon, maybe a pate country pate(or other), variety of olive, cornichon, good mustard, french butter, plenty of vino for the adults.

                  1. Here's a recipe for a country-style terrine (paté) that is fool-proof and everyone is always crazy about it. Don't worry about the chicken livers, you don't taste them -- my liver-phobic BIL loves this. This is a family recipe, adapted each time it's handed down, so no copyright problems.

                    1 medium yellow onion, chopped in processor
                    big splash brandy
                    2/3 lb each ground veal, ground pork and ground dark meat turkey
                    1/3 lb chicken livers, chopped in processor
                    2 cloves minced garlic
                    1 egg, beaten
                    generous 1/2 tsp ground allspice
                    generous 1 tsp each salt and pepper
                    Optional additions: shelled pistachios, dried currents, diced dried apricots, 1/4 inch strips of baked ham
                    cheap fatty non-smoky bacon
                    bay leaf

                    Sauté onion in butter until translucent, add brandy and cook until almost evaporated. Cool. Add to remaining ingredients (including any optional ingredient except ham strips) and mix well. Line 1 1/2 quart loaf pan with bacon, allowing it to hang over the ends so you can fold it over the paté. Pack the paté in firmly, eliminating any air pockets and arranging the ham strips in a decorative pattern in the middle if using them. Top with a bay leaf and fold the bacon over, covering completely. Tightly cover with a triple layer of aluminum foil. Place in a baking pan and pour hot water halfway up the loaf pan. Bake at 350° to 130° internal temperature, about one hour. Remove, leave covered, and weight with 2 clean bricks until cool. Refrigerate, weighted, at least 2 days before eating. Remove bacon and bay leaf before serving.

                    1 Reply
                    1. Jenn, a boned, stuffed chicken that is cooked, and sliced at home to be served cold is grand finger food. If this is too difficult to do, make a chunky or shrimp chicken salad. Add a green bean-white bean salad w/ Dijon vinaigrette or a roasted vegetable salad, baguette & cheese. Wonderful, really chocolate-y brownies and fresh fruit would be a dessert possibility. Pack the picnic in individual Chinese food containers so there is no problem w/ "lap eating". Each diner gets a picnic bag w/ their utensils & meal -- clean-up is minimal. If everything is disposable there is no long trek back to the car with the empty gazpacho thermos!

                      Of course I'd add champagne/wine for the grownups and something fun to drink for the youngsters. We used to include flowers for the ladies to put in their hair and a bauble for the men as well. Everyone is a kid when eating outdoors! This lovely Hollywood Bowl picnic tradition has been going on for many, many years and I remember it fondly. Have a great time!
                      P.S. Don't forget the handi-wipes and a nice big plastic trash bag.

                      1. I know this isn't French, but I just took a picnic to an outdoor concert on Wednesday and brought proscuitto wrapped canteloupe cut up into individual bites and stuck on toothpicks. Perfect picnic fare - delicious and refreshing!