July was National Picnic Month. The word “picnic” dates back to 1692 where piquenique was used in reference to a group of people eating together and bringing their own wine. I did not do much research on that, but loving food the way I do, I don’t really need a reason or historical facts to enjoy eating.
And if there are no nasty meat bees, ants or flies or other creepy crawlies or flying insects bothering me, then the great outdoors is a perfect setting for a feast.
There are so many foods to choose from these days, from old-fashioned traditional things such as fried chicken and potato salad to gourmet international foods, including vegan, vegetarian and meatasaurus style.
I feel in the mood for some traditional picnic foods, as even though the newer, fancy ones are good, I never hear any complaints about the tried-and-true versions. Grab your picnic baskets and weather cooperating, let's find a nice place to enjoy our feast. No bugs invited.
Old-fashioned potato salad
You could use any firm-fleshed potato for this, including white and yellow or gold. Maybe blue potatoes would work, but I have not ventured there yet.
2 pounds red boiling potatoes, scrubbed
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (I use a little less)
3 hard-boiled eggs
1 celery stalk, strings removed
1/4 cup chopped sweet pickle (Not relish. My mom always uses dill pickles)
3 green onions (or equivalent of sweet onions)
2 tablespoons chopped, fresh parsley
1/2 cup mayonnaise, or as needed
2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds, optional
1. If the potatoes are large, cut in half or quarters. Place potatoes in a large pot with water to cover. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until potatoes are fork tender. Drain, rinse under cold water and drain again. Cool slightly.
2. Cut warm potatoes (peel or not, your choice) into 3/4-inch dice. Layer them in a bowl, season with the red wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Cut eggs, celery and pickle in 1/4-inch dice and thinly slice scallions (or dice the sweet onion). Add to potatoes, along with parsley. Stir in mayonnaise, mustard and celery seeds (if using) until everything is combined. Sprinkle some paprika over the top. Chill, covered, before serving. Makes 6 servings.
I hope you’re a better chicken fryer than I am. No matter what I do, the coating tries to fall off. Sometimes it does help if I roll the chicken pieces in flour, then dip in an egg and milk mixture, then use the coating mixture. But still ...
1 3-pound broiler/fryer, cut up
3/4 to 1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 to 2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground sage
1/4 teaspoon ground thyme
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
Oil for frying
1. Pat chicken pieces with paper towels; place in shallow baking dish. Pour buttermilk over chicken; cover, and allow to soak at least 1 hour or overnight in refrigerator.
2. Combine coating ingredients in large resealable plastic bag. Add chicken pieces, one at a time, and shake until evenly coated with mixture. Lay coated pieces on waxed paper for 15 minutes to allow coating to dry a bit, which will help it to adhere during the frying process.
3. In an electric skillet or deep fryer, heat 1/2 inch oil to 350 or 360 degrees. Fry chicken, several pieces at a time, for about 3 minutes on each side. Reduce heat to 325; cook chicken, turning occasionally, for 25 to 35 minutes or until juices run clear and chicken is tender. Remove to paper towels and keep warm, or chill in refrigerator for serving cold at your picnic. Makes 6 servings.
Classic deviled eggs
I like to add a tiny bit of minced parsley and green onion to this and a small dash of Louisiana hot sauce.
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut into half lengthwise
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon dry ground mustard (wet mustard will work in a pinch but add less mayonnaise)
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar (I like cider vinegar)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Paprika, for garnish
1. Carefully remove the yolks from the cut eggs. Place all of the yolks into a mixing bowl and mash with a fork.
2. Add the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly, then spoon or squeeze the eggs mixture back into the halved egg white. Lightly sprinkle over the tops of the eggs with paprika. Makes 6 servings (2 halves per serving).
Sweet picnic squares
4 cups crispy rice cereal
1/2 cup butter
1 bag (10-oz.) marshmallows
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips
1. In a large saucepan, melt together the butter, marshmallows and peanut butter.
2. When the marshmallows are melted, turn off heat and stir in the chocolate chips and butterscotch chips.
3. When the chips are melted, stir in the crispy rice cereal.
4. Spread the mixture into a greased 7-by-11-inch pan. Cut into squares when the bars are completely set and firm.