One Pretty Picnic

One Pretty Picnic

As spring slowly begins to surround our stay-at home lives, we find ourselves searching for something different to do. A little change of pace. A supper to look forward to.

I have a plan based on my new favorite corner pub, the end of my driveway! Driveway drinks is my new normal during cocktail hour… but that’s another (socially distancing story).

For now, I’m thinking about setting up the ultimate picnic, and have the perfect recipes in mind.

What makes this supper special is that you can prepare it in advance (like even the day before). It tastes better served at room temperature than it does right out of the fridge. And, you can leisurely enjoy the meal. There’s no rush. If you are a grazer like me, eating this supper will take up some valuable time during these very long days.

For my supper, I’ll include three dishes

The first is a caprese salad. This dish is simply arranged by layering slices of tomato, mozzarella cheese and basil. Drizzle the dish with a splash of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. But, here’s the secret. Make this salad several hours before serving and DO NOT REFRIGERATE it. The salt and olive oil will bring out the flavor of the tomatoes.

The second dish is a riff on Niçoise salad, but in place of tuna, I substitute salmon that has been simply roasted with a rub of brown sugar, chili powder, lemon juice, salt and pepper. I include olives, hard boiled eggs, simply sautéed green beans, roasted baby potatoes and a white balsamic vinaigrette.

The third dish is one of my very favorites! Based on the Italian dish, Vitello Tonnato, cold poached veal with a tuna and caper sauce, I substitute chicken for the veal. The chicken is poached in wine and broth.

The liquid is flavored with onion, lemon and celery, but you can add whatever you like. Parsley, fennel and radishes are excellent additions. The trick is that the chicken is moist and retains that moisture by covering it with the very flavorful sauce. Again, although you refrigerate the dish to marry the flavors, the chicken is best eaten at room temperature.

So, set up your picnic table, lay out your platters, pour a glass of something FUN and leisurely enjoy the first picnic supper of the season.

Let’s look forward to many more to come….. together!

 

Poached Chicken

In a Rich Tuna Sauce

serves 6 to 8

For chicken:

2 large (or 4 medium) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

2 cups dry white wine

2 cups chicken broth

1 small white onion, peeled and cut into quarters

1 small lemon, sliced

2 to 3 stalks celery

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon coarse black pepper

For tuna sauce:

1 (7-ounce) can tuna packed in oil

4 to 5 anchovies

2 tablespoons capers, drained

Zest of 1 lemon, about 1 tablespoon

Juice of 1 lemon, about 2 tablespoons

1 cup mayonnaise

Place the chicken breasts into a pot. Pour in the wine and chicken broth. Add the onion, sliced lemon and celery. Add the salt and pepper. Bring the liquid to a simmer (some steady bubbles but not a mad bubbling volcano). Cook the chicken in the poaching liquid until it is just cooked through, about 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the breast. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. About 165° is perfect. Remove the pot from the heat and keep the chicken in the poaching liquid,

Place the tuna, anchovies, capers, lemon zest and lemon juice into the bowl of a processor. Pulse to combine. Transfer the tuna mixture to a bowl. Fold in the mayonnaise. Remove one breast from the poaching liquid and place onto your cutting board. Cut the breast (across the grain) into ½-inch medallions. Fan these out onto your serving platter. Continue with the remaining chicken. Smooth the tuna sauce over the chicken. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour (or up to several hours) so that the sauce seeps into the chicken.

To serve, remove the platter from the fridge and bring to room temperature. Garnish with slices of lemon, capers and fresh parsley.

This Summer Salad is French, Delish & Super Easy!

This Summer Salad is French, Delish & Super Easy!

Is it summer yet? With Memorial Day right around the corner, and a heat wave oppressing the south, it sure does feel like it. My very own version of a favorite French salad is easily put together, and works with just about any fresh veggies and tuna/salmon you have on hand. It’s perfect for when you have graduation ceremonies, recitals and tee-ball playoff games to attend, yet need a refreshing entrée salad to whip up and fortify you before going into Mom mode.

This simple yet sophisticated salad is made up of tomatoes, olives, anchovies (my favorite) and hard boiled eggs. In this particular version of Nicoise, I left off the olives, and to my sweet surprise it still tasted like a classic Nicoise. The great thing about this quintessential summer salad is not needing everything you think you do to make it great – everything works! Let your creative license run wild!

On many American menus, you can find a version of a Nicoise salad that includes tuna, crisp-tender haricot verts and par-cooked potatoes.

Mine, of course gives a nod to the original French dish, and whole lotta latitude with this creative adaption. Let me know how you tweaked yours, and I just might show up for dinner!

Jorj’s Nicoise Salad
Serves 4
30 minute cuisine

For the salmon:

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

For the vinaigrette

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium shallot, chopped

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Juice of a lemon, about two tablespoons

1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar

For the baby potatoes:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Sea salt and pepper to taste

For the Salad:

1 (2–pound) whole salmon fillet

1 pound seared tuna

1 (7-ounce) tin flat fillets of anchovies, packed in oil

¾ pound green beans, trimmed

1 pound Baby potatoes, boiled and peeled

Juice of a lemon, about two tablespoons

½ pound fresh Brussels sprouts, about 12, trimmed, about 2 cups

5 large eggs, hard-cooked and peeled

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

 

Boil the baby potatoes until the tines of a fork can penetrate easily, about 10 minutes. Toss the potatoes with olive oil, fresh parsley, salt and pepper. Cool these to room temperature. Blanch the green beans and Brussels sprouts in boiling water, throwing them into an ice-water bath to cool down; then toss in the lemon juice.

Make a salmon rub from brown sugar, chili powder, cumin, onion and garlic powders. Smush the powders onto a whole filet of salmon, drizzled with olive oil and roasted in a 375°oven until still very moist on the inside, about 20 minutes.

Add the seared tuna, anchovies, hardboiled eggs and grape tomatoes.

Make a vinaigrette from chopped shallot, mustard, lemon juice, white balsamic vinegar and olive oil. You can store the dressing in any container that you like, and add to the salad per your own taste. I like to drizzle my salad with vinaigrette right before I eat it.

Lay everything onto a platter and chill for at least an hour (and as long as all day).