Labor Day Weekend is the perfect weekend for a picnic. To celebrate the end of summer I’ve organized a feast of some of America’s favorites – from fried chicken to chocolate cake, cheeseburgers to homemade strawberry ice cream.
Parsley Potato Salad
Mushroom Artichoke Salad
Chile-Spiced Bean Salad
Crusty Parmesan Chicken Breasts
Chocolate Buttercream Cake
Strawberry Ice Cream
Packing the picnic: The salads can be prepared a day in advance. It’s probably not necessary to double the recipes unless you have a large crowd to feed. Be sure to include a serving spoon for each salad. The Crusty Parmesan Chicken Breasts can be served either cold or warm. Either bake it a day ahead, refrigerate it, and carry it in a cooler; or pop it in the oven about an hour before you leave and transport it hot. The deviled eggs can be made from your favorite recipes or one from Tiny New York Kitchen. They will need several hours to chill and must be packed in a cooler, along with the assortment of vegetables (each in a plastic container). Take along a basket or platter for the chicken, a tray for the eggs, and serving forks.
All of the barbecue equipment can travel in a sturdy cardboard box, if there’s room, lay the buns and cheese on top so they don’t get squished. The hamburgers and condiments should be packed in a cooler.
You can bake the cake and prepare the frosting well in advance; both can be stored in the freezer. After thawing, the frosting should be beaten for a few minutes with an electric mixer. A round plastic serving plate with a high, tight-fitting cover is ideal for transporting the cake; remember to carry along a knife and a cake server.
In a cooler, pack the ice cream custard, berry mixture, and ice, each in its own container. Take a hammer and large, heavy dishtowel for crushing the ice cubes, and rock salt for the ice cream freezer (which would be a non-electric one). Pack the fragile ice cream cones and berries for garnish last.
Keep the beer in the cooler. For the lemonade and coffee, you will need a couple of thermoses. Preheat the one for the coffee; don’t forget to take cream (kept cold) and sugar. Pre-chill the other thermos and fill it with cold lemonade.
At the site: Assemble the ice cream freezer and begin hand-cranking, taking turns so that everyone can participate. If the ice cream is ready before it’s time for dessert, remove the dasher, cover the container, and let it stay in the freezer to ripen; don’t forget to dump out the salty water and pack the freezer with fresh ice.
Fire up the barbecue about 30 minutes before you want to begin cooking. Grill the cheeseburgers when the coals are gray. Arrange the chicken in a basket, set out the rest of the food, and dig in.