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Grab your picnic basket

August 4, 2018

Arnold Gatilao/Wikimedia Commons
Whether you use chicken parts or tenders, fried chicken is a traditional and very welcome feature at many picnics.

Except for some pesky uninvited guests, such as ants, meat bees and flies, picnics are fun adventures to enjoy good food and summer weather. With the added safety of good insulated containers, we can enjoy cold foods as well as warm ones. Take potato salad, for example.

 

Many recipes call for mayonnaise or some sort of dressing that may spoil in warm weather. Pack it so it stays as cold as possible when traveling with perishable edibles. I prefer a picnic table or a tailgate to spreading a blanket on the ground, as it is a lot more comfortable to get up and down and fewer chances of crawly bugs checking out my plate.

 

If you have a favorite picnic spot in mind, think about gathering the family for an old-fashioned picnic this summer. The seasons change so quickly, especially if we keep putting things off. So get out and enjoy and stay safe.

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


Paprika, 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).


3. 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.

Sesame noodles


1 pound Chinese noodles or angel hair pasta, uncooked


2 tablespoons sesame oil


1/2 cup soy sauce (low sodium, if desired)


1/4 cup rice wine vinegar


2 tablespoons sugar (or substitute)


2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped (optional)


1 tablespoon ginger root, grated


1 teaspoon hot chili oil


1 cup green onions, sliced diagonally


1 cup fresh pea pods
 
1. In a large pot, heat water to a boil. Cook pasta in rapidly boiling water until done. Drain and rinse with cold water.


2. In a large bowl, mix together sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, cilantro, ginger root and chili oil. Add noodles and toss gently to separate the noodles and distribute the sauce.


3. Add the green onions and toss. Let stand, tossing occasionally, until all the sauce is absorbed into the noodles. Add pea pods, stir and chill.

Brined and fried chicken tenders


Of course, you can purchase chicken tenders already cut. Start this the day before you plan to serve it.

1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 12 2-ounce chicken tenders


4 cups buttermilk


1 teaspoon Louisiana-style hot sauce, such as Crystal (or more to taste)


For the breading:


3 cups self-rising flour


1/2 cup cornstarch


1/2 cup potato starch


2 tablespoons sea salt, plus more for seasoning


4 tablespoons paprika


1 teaspoon baking soda


2 tablespoons onion soup base, ground in spice grinder until fine


7 teaspoons (1 ounce) Italian Herb Spaghetti Sauce Seasoning Mix (see Note), finely ground


Vegetable oil for frying

1. Brine the chicken: In a large, nonreactive bowl or resealable plastic bag combine the chicken, buttermilk and hot sauce; cover and refrigerate overnight.


2. Bread the chicken: Sift all breading ingredients 3 times through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl, discarding any lumps. Working in batches, remove 4 or 5 tenders at a time from the buttermilk marinade and toss in the breading, coating well. Transfer to a baking sheet and let rest until the breading adheres, 15 to 20 minutes.


3. Fry the chicken: While the chicken rests, add 2 inches of oil to a large (at least 6-quart) pot and heat to 300. Working in batches, fry 4 to 5 tenders at a time until brown and crisp, 5 minutes per batch. Remove to a paper towel to drain. Once all the chicken is fried, season lightly with salt.
Note: If you can’t find this type of spaghetti seasoning mix, grind 2 teaspoons each sugar, salt and dehydrated onions with 1 teaspoon each dried basil, oregano and 1/2 teaspoon each chile flakes, black pepper and garlic powder.

Blueberry muffins


Fresh fruit is a good dessert for picnics, but if you would like to provide something a bit more sweet, try some muffins. They travel well.

2/3 cup sugar


1 large egg


1/2 cup vegetable oil


1/3 cup milk


1 teaspoon vanilla


1 1/4 cups flour


1 teaspoon baking powder


1/4 teaspoon salt


1/2 cup sour cream (you can substitute plain yogurt)


1 cup blueberries


About 1 tablespoon sugar for the top, optional

1. Preheat oven to 375. You may want to lightly grease the muffin tin so the crown of the muffin doesn’t stick to the pan. Place eight muffin liners in the pan.


2. In a mixing bowl, combine sugar, egg, oil, milk and vanilla; stir until well mixed.


3. Once the baking powder and salt are well mixed with the flour, stir them into the wet ingredients until combined. Don’t overmix. Just stir until it is no longer lumpy.


4. Stir in the sour cream just until well blended. Fold in the blueberries (you can leave about half for the tops so they will be visible on the muffin crowns.)


5. Evenly distribute the batter in the muffin tin. If you are making 8 high-crowned muffins, you will be filling them all the way to the top. If you want to make shorter muffins you could probably fill 12. If you saved some berries for the top, sprinkle them on and press them in lightly. Sprinkle the tops with the 1 tablespoon of sugar if you desire.


6. Bake muffins for about 25 minutes. If you’re using frozen berries it will take about 5 minutes longer. Also depending on how many muffins you decided to make, it can take a shorter time. Just be sure you get them out as soon as a toothpick comes out clean.

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