My husband and I are going to an outdoor play this weekend and we are having a picnic beforehand. Here's the thing - he grew up a total city boy (the Bronx), and I kid you not, has never been on a picnic. I was trying to plan what to pack and how to make it, and I started thinking about the perfect menu for someone's first picnic and I'm a bit stumped.
So -- what are your suggestions? What is the best food to have on a picnic? Neither of us drinks, so in all likelihood, we'll have some homemade strawberry lemonade, but other than that. I'm wide open for ideas.
I'd go for cold chicken legs, blanched asparagus wrapped in thin proscuttio, maybe some stuffed mushrooms (chop stalks and saute in butter with spring onion or leeks and chopped bacon, then add pine nuts, fresh breadcrumbs and herbs (best to use a food processor). Fill then bake for 20 - 30 mins), some fruit and cheese and a chocolate cake.
I think the definitive first picnic should include cold chicken and deviled eggs or potato salad if you have some way to keep things cool beforehand. If not, I think various good cheeses, good bread, and fruit. It doesn't really matter what is on the menu, because food always tastes so good on a picnic, I don't know why, but it does.
america's test kitchen has a great "cold picnic chicken" recipe:
Spice-Rubbed Picnic Chicken
If you plan to serve the chicken later on the same day that you cook it,
refrigerate it immediately after it has cooled, then let it come back to
room temperature before serving. On the breast pieces, we use toothpicks to secure the skin, which otherwise shrinks considerably in the oven, leaving the meat exposed and prone to drying out. We think the extra effort is justified, but you can omit this step. This recipe halves easily.
*5* pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces/ (breasts, thighs,
drumsticks, or a mix with breasts cut into 3 pieces or halved if small),
trimmed of excess fat and skin/
*2* tablespoons kosher salt/ /
*3* tablespoons brown sugar/ /
*2* tablespoons chili powder/ /
*2* tablespoons sweet paprika/ /
*2* teaspoons ground black pepper/ /
*1/4-1/2* teaspoon cayenne pepper/ /
1. Use sharp knife to make 2 or 3 short slashes in skin of each piece of chicken, taking care not to cut into meat. Combine salt, sugar, and spices in small bowl and mix thoroughly. Coat chicken pieces with spices, gently lifting skin to distribute spice rub underneath but leaving it attached to chicken. Transfer chicken skin side up to wire rack set over rimmed foil-lined baking sheet, lightly tent with foil, and refrigerate 6 to 24 hours.
2. Secure skin of each breast piece with 2 or 3 toothpicks placed near
edges of skin.
3. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 425 degrees. Roast
chicken until thickest part of smallest piece registers 140 degrees on
instant-read thermometer, 15 to 20 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 500 degrees and continue roasting until chicken is browned and crisp and thickest parts of breast pieces register 160 degrees, 5 to 8 minutes longer, removing pieces from oven and transferring to clean wire rack as they finish cooking. Continue to roast thighs and/or drumsticks, if using, until thickest part of meat registers 170 to 175 degrees, about 5 minutes longer. Remove from oven; transfer chicken to rack and let cool completely before refrigerating or serving.
This is all GREAT stuff. Thanks so much! Chicken and deviled eggs are definitely a good plan, and the prosciutto-wrapped asparagus sounds very good. I am also thinking of a tuna tartare on crispy wontons. But more ideas are welcome. More more more. Thank you thank you thank you!
TOMATO SALAD WITH FETA, OLIVES & MINT
To buy: tomatoes, feta, cuke, kalamata, lemons, mint, red onion
--leave the tomatoes and lemons and mint whole and out on the counter. You’ll get to those at the last minute.
--crumble the feta and put in a small container. Halve the olives and put in another small container. Chop the cuke into dice (no seeds) and add red onion to them, or scallion.
When ready to eat: Slice the tomatoes and put them on a plate. Add to them some salt and a pinch of sugar.
On top of the tomatoes, put the cuke/onion mixture.
On top of the cuke put the olives and the zest from the lemon.
On top of that put the feta and chop up some mint to put over all.
Dress with olive oil and lemon juice. You don’t need much of either one.
Sprinkle with a little salt and some pepper.
Oooh, we LOVE picnics!
One of our favourite things is a version of Pan Bagna which is a kind of stuffed bread. Only our version doesn't use tuna or anchovies because my kids don't like them. Pan Bagna is perfect for picnics because it should be prepared the day before and is easily transportable. The top of the loaf is lopped off, the soft bread is removed to form a cavity that is stuffed with your favourite filling. In essence, the bread becomes a container with a lid -- definitely not your usual boring sandwich.
Feel free to substitute the filling ingredients with those you love!
ITALIAN STYLE PAN BAGNA
What you need:
1 large round crusty Italian or Farmer's bread loaf
extra-virgin olive oil
12 slices of salami (or your choice of spiced deli meat)
200g sliced mozzarella
12 slices mortadella (or your choice of cheese -- we like Brie also)
50g baby greens leaves, trimmed (e.g. arugula, watercress, baby spinach, etc.)
3 ripe but not over-ripe tomatoes
20 basil leaves
What you do in the kitchen:
Make the pan bagna the night before you plan to eat it.
Slice off the top of the loaf and reserve. This sliced-off piece will be the "lid".
Remove all the soft bread filling from the loaf, leaving the crust to form a case/container. Brush the inside of the bread with a little extra-virgin olive oil.
In the cavity that is formed within the loaf, layer the salami, mozzarella, mortadella, baby greens leaves, tomato slices and basil, PRESSING well on each layer and seasoning with salt (to taste) and ground black pepper as you go.
When the bread case is full (but not overly full), drizzle with a little extra olive oil and replace the bread lid.
Press the lid firmly down in place and wrap the loaf tightly in several layers of plastic wrap. Place in fridge and place a weight or heavy breadboard on top and chill overnight.
To serve at the picnic, unwrap and cut the loaf into quarters (or smaller) with a sharp knife.
For a picnic dessert, I make the following super-easy yet oh-so-yummy pineapple cake:
EASY PINEAPPLE CAKE
What you need:
1 - 19oz can of crushed pineapple, plus juice
2 cups flour (I use either whole-grain or unbleached but white all-purpose works best)
2 cups sugar
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
Mix all ingredients in a bowl by hand and pour in a greased 9" x 13" pan. Bake at 350F for 40-50 minutes.
Frost with your favourite cream cheese icing (see below):
CREAM CHEESE ICING
1 - 8oz package of cream cheese
1/2 cup soft (room temp) butter
1 1/4 cups icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Combine all ingredients together on low mixer setting.