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.
Salt, spray, sea air, and warm sand underfoot are all the pleasant sensations of a day at the beach which stir cravings for good and hearty food. A perfect refreshment is a traditional beach-blanket banquet, complete with charcoal-grilled corn on the cob. You can prepare this picnic to feed a crowd or simply the family on any summertime trip to the beach. For a small group, you may want to take only half of the salad and leave the rest at home for a midweek supper.
Crunchy Egg Dip
Red Onion Slices
Barbecued Corn on the Cob
Mixed Bean & Artichoke Salad
Honey Applesauce Cupcakes
Beverages of Your Choice
Bake the cupcakes on the day of the picnic or bake them ahead of time and then freeze them. If they are frozen then let them thaw to room temperature on the morning of the outing. Frost them after they have thawed (if you are frosting them). Prepare the bean salad a day ahead and refrigerate it so the vegetables have time to marinate. Hard-cook the eggs for the salad garnish and the egg dip at the same time. On the morning of departure, slice the onions and tomatoes, and prepare the lettuce leaves; seal them in individual plastic bags or in small containers. Then prepare the egg dip and get the corn ready. Refrigerate the food that needs to be kept cold before packing it in the cooler. Have ready one or more large bags of potato chips and enough hamburger patties and French rolls for your picnicking party. You’ll also need a portable barbecue; potholders, a spatula, and tongs; and charcoal, charcoal starter, and fireplace matches.
Packing Your Picnic: Place the chilled beverages in the bottom of a roomy cooler. On top, pack the ears of corn and the egg dip. Tuck in the parcels containing the hamburger patties, garnishes for the salad, hamburger condiments, and butter for the corn. Carry all of the barbecue equipment in a sturdy box. In a roomy basket, pack the unbreakable items first, including serving spoons for the salad, a bottle opener, salt and pepper, and a knife for the rolls (unless they’re presliced). Fit in the cupcakes and the salad. Place the rolls and potato chips on top. For a sandy picnic, it’s always wise to carry extra paper plates, napkins, and pre-moistened towelettes.
At the Site: Start the charcoal about half an hour before you want to begin cooking; wait until the coals turn gray before grilling the meat and corn. Meanwhile, spread the blanket and let people nibble on potato chips and dip. If your site is very sandy or some of your guests are quite young, you may prefer to wait until the hamburgers and corn are almost ready before you unpack the rest of the food. Before serving the salad, stir it well; then garnish it with the egg slices, if desired, and artichokes.