May 27, 2021

LET’S DISH! LET’S TALK ABOUT PICNICS

By MaryAnn Miano

Drop everything, and let’s go on a picnic! A shared meal eaten in the open in the great outdoors might be the dictionary definition of “picnic,” but to some of us, its meaning is all about being in a carefree state of mind with an easy approach to living. Dining outdoors with friends heightens our senses to the pleasures of eating and makes for great summertime memories.  

Picnics were a thing during the 18th century, usually attended by the aristocracy who used the picnic as an opportunity to fill the conversation with wit. Usually, everyone invited would contribute by bringing a dish. Today’s picnic is a respite from the ordinary, an escape from the routine, and can be as simple (or elaborate) as you choose. You can create an interesting theme or have a feast filled with an eclectic mix of cold and hot foods.  

Some basic necessities for a successful picnic include a cooler (which you should keep in a shady place); refrigerator bags to use for hot or cold foods (hint: freeze juice boxes and use them to keep your food cold, then allow the juice to thaw as needed); a large thermos for a cool drink; paper dinnerware with plastic utensils, serving spoons and cups; tablecloths for a picnic table and/or an old quilted bedspread for the ground; fun outdoor games to play with kids; and a garbage bag to dispose of everything neatly. And yes, a cute picnic basket is fun to carry to make the occasion official.  

Food can be prepared at the picnic with a portable barbeque grill. Just be sure to keep any meats cold before they are cooked. Or prepare as much as you can in advance to make your picnic stress-free. Substantial food that is simple to prepare and well-cooked is the way to go. Head to the woods and follow in the footsteps of Little Red Riding Hood and her picnic basket for her grandma. It’s International Picnic Day this Friday, June 18. If the following recipes seem easy, they’re supposed to be. Try them to make your picnic a fantastic, traditional, fun and memorable one!

COLD CHICKEN VINAIGRETTE

Ingredients:

6 whole chicken breasts

3 quarts of water

1 onion studded with 2 cloves

1 carrot, coarsely chopped

1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped

1 bay leaf

6 peppercorns

1 tsp of salt

Directions:

Put the chicken breasts in a large pot with the water, clove-studded onion, carrot, celery, bay leaf, peppercorns and salt. Cover pot and bring to a boil.

Skim off foam, replace cover and simmer until chicken is fork tender, about 30 minutes. Remove chicken from pot. Bone the breasts and remove the skin. Cut breasts in half, making 12 pieces of chicken.  

Wrap in foil. The following vinaigrette sauce is spooned over the tepid chicken just before serving.

Vinaigrette Sauce

Ingredients:

4 Tbsp wine vinegar

1 cup olive oil

½ cup chopped parsley

1 Tbsp fresh chopped chives

1 Tbsp chopped capers

1 Tbsp chopped green onion

1 Tbsp chopped sour pickle

½ tsp dry mustard

2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped

2 tsp salt 

1 tsp pepper

Directions:

Blend all ingredients and let sauce stand at room temperature for several hours. Take to picnic in separate container.  

WALNUT-CHEESE BURGERS

Ingredients:

1 ½ lb. ground round steak (or sirloin)

1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 ½ tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

2 Tbsp ice water

1 cup grated cheddar cheese

½ cup chopped walnuts

Directions:

Combine the meat with Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and ice water. Mix lightly with a fork and add the grated cheese and chopped walnuts. Shape into 6 patties (1/4 lb. each), but don’t pack down the meat with a heavy hand. Hamburger should be loose or “fluffy” enough to breathe. Grill to desired color and enjoy!