Picnic Recipes for an Above Average Basket
Nothing says “spring” quite like a picnic. But just because the meal is al fresco, doesn’t mean the expectations should lower, especially when a group of Wine Enthusiast editors gets together. Here, we’ve picked our favorite chef-driven recipes and a bottle of wine to pair, to create a connoisseur-worthy potluck ready for the great outdoors.
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Courtesy Joshua Rogers, chef, Smyth at the Iron Horse Hotel, Milwaukee
This simple, addictive snack is a traditional potted fish, but its flavor profile is inspired by the trendy Calabrian sausage spread ’nduja. The melted butter “seal” allows it to stay fresh outside the refrigerator for several hours, which makes it perfect for picnics.
- 1 pound salmon, very thin sliced
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 cups unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon harissa
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Bread, for serving
In glass pie dish or small baking dish, lay salmon in single layer. Sprinkle with salt and let sit for 30 minutes. Melt butter and pour immediately on top. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes.
Remove salmon and reserve butter. Combine salmon, harissa, paprika and cayenne in food processor. Pulse until chopped, add about 6 tablespoons butter, and continue pulsing to achieve paste-like consistency. Add more salt or spices to taste.
Pack tightly into mason jars or other containers. Top with remaining melted butter. Refrigerate up to 5 days. Serve with bread. Serves 6–8.
Underground Wine Project 2016 And Why am I Mr. Pink? Rosé of Sangiovese (Columbia Valley). JP Quidore, food and beverage director for the Iron Horse Hotel, which houses Smyth, says, “a nice Sangiovese rosé combines hints of strawberry and a touch of acidity that perfectly complements the dish’s richness without overwhelming the flavors. Though if you love the bubbles, the understated red fruit of a brut sparkling rosé can be an excellent choice, especially at a picnic.”
Courtesy Sara Lukasiewicz, executive chef, The Amsterdam, Rhinebeck, NY
Crispy, craggy fried chicken is always a crowd pleaser at a picnic: It’s easy to pack, has a perfect ratio of salt, protein and fat, and good at any temperature. When it comes to buttermilk fried chicken, Sara Lukasiewicz makes some of the best. She usually wedges it into a sandwich, but her recipe here is perfect for whenever or wherever you break out the picnic basket.
- 1 5-pound chicken, quartered, or 5 pounds bone-in chicken thighs and wings
- ½ quart buttermilk
- 1¼ tablespoons kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons fresh-ground black pepper
- 8 ounces all-purpose flour
- ⅛ teaspoon ground ginger
- ⅛ teaspoon granulated onion
- ⅛ teaspoon granulated garlic
- ¼ teaspoon sweet pimenton
- Canola or vegetable oil, for frying
In 9×11-inch baking dish, arrange chicken pieces in single layer. In large bowl, mix buttermilk, ¾ tablespoon salt, sugar, ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper and 1 teaspoon black pepper until combined. Pour over chicken, and ensure meat is submerged. Cover and place in refrigerator for 12–48 hours.
When ready to fry, combine flour, ½ tablespoon salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, ginger, granulated onion, granulated garlic, ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper and sweet pimenton in shallow baking dish. Remove chicken from buttermilk and dredge in flour mixture. Shake off excess, then coat once more in buttermilk mixture and once more in flour mixture. Let rest on baking sheet lined with damp towel.
Warm 2–2½ inches oil in large, deep, heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat until oil reaches 325˚F. Using tongs, carefully add chicken to oil. Work in batches, if necessary. Cook, turning occasionally, until brown and crispy and internal temperature registers 165˚F. Transfer to paper towels. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until ready to pack. Chicken can be fried 24 hours in advance. Serves 4–6.
Meurgey-Croses 2015 Vieilles Vignes (Viré-Clessé). For a pairing that’s sunshine-appropriate and can hold its own opposite fried chicken, James Jusseaume, general manager/sommelier at The Amsterdam, looks to a Chardonnay. “This wine is what I call a patio-pounder,” he says. “Aromatic and floral, it cries ‘picnic’ to me. It also has hints of citrus peel and spice balanced with some mineral notes that complement the dish very nicely.”
Adapted from Plenty (Chronicle Books, 2011), by Yotam Ottolenghi
The cookbook Plenty was released years ago, but it remains a staple. This recipe is a classic for outdoor summer entertaining. It’s simple, delicious and adaptable—you can use other grains like pearled barley, spelt or wheatberries. It also travels well, which makes it picnic-perfect.
- 5¼ ounces farro
- 2 red peppers
- Juice of 1 medium lemon
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon honey
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika, plus extra for garnish
- ½ garlic clove, crushed
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 10 pitted black olives, quartered lengthways
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or picked thyme leaves
- 3 spring onions, thin sliced
- 3½ ounces feta, broken into large chunks
Put farro in pot of boiling water. Reduce to simmer, and cook until just tender. Strain, and rinse with cold water. Let dry.
Cut around stalk of each pepper, and remove with seeds attached. Arrange peppers on baking sheet. Set broiler to high and place peppers in oven on top rack. Turning occasionally, char peppers until totally black, at least 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cover tray with foil. Once cool enough to handle, peel peppers and tear flesh into ½-inch strips.
Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, honey, allspice, ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika, garlic and sea salt, and set aside.
In big bowl, combine farro with peppers, olives, herbs, spring onion and most of feta. Add dressing, and gently mix together. Sprinkle with remaining feta and paprika. Serves 4.
The Blacksmith 2015 Barebones Cinsault (Paarl). A light-bodied red wine from South Africa, with juicy fruit, subtle tannins and lively acidity, will provide a perfect partner to the nutty farro as well as the softly smoky and roasty pepper and paprika additions in the salad. The Blacksmith’s Barebones bottling offers just that: a fresh, fruit-forward and low-alcohol sip that’s as sunny and pleasant as the bluebirds chirping around you.
Courtesy Famille Dietrich, Au Raisin d‘Or, Mittelbergheim, Alsace, France
Tarte a l’oignon, or onion tart, is a creamy, savory treat. It combines humble ingredients into a dish with killer flavors. The trick is to cook the onions very slowly, until soft, before you bake the tart. In Alsace, it’s often eaten during the wine harvest out in the vineyards. It’s easy to transport, not in desperate need of refrigeration and totally delicious.
- 3 cups, plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon butter, plus more for pan
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 6 yellow onions, thin sliced
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 ounces smoked bacon lardons
Gently combine 3 cups flour, ¾ cups butter and ⁄8 teaspoon salt with enough cold water to form dough. Refrigerate while completing other steps.
Heat oven to 350˚F.
Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in large saucepan over low heat. Add onions, and cook until soft but not browned, about 30 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Add remaining 2 tablespoons flour, eggs, milk, cream, black pepper, nutmeg and ⁄8 teaspoon salt, and mix well.
Grease 12-inch tart pan with butter. Roll out dough, and press into pan. Add onion mixture, and sprinkle lardons over top. Bake 45 minutes, or until crust turns golden brown. Serves 12.
Boeckel 2015 Zotzenberg Grand Cru Sylvaner (Alsace). The crisp, lively nature of Sylvaner makes a wonderful, refreshing match for onion tart. Its acidity is a sharp counterpoint for the tart’s creaminess, while its herbal edge sings with the sweet onion flavor. From the same village, Mittelbergheim, comes this richer style of Sylvaner, an ideal pairing.
Courtesy Justin Cucci, executive chef/owner, El Five, Denver
Many picnics are heavy on fried or grilled meats and starchy sides, so you need a vegetable dish like this for balance. This one comes from El Five in Denver, which focuses on responsibly grown and sourced, innovatively simple, vegetable-forward menus. Using vegetable scraps for the ash is tantamount to nose-to-tail eating in the meatless world.
- 1 pound vegetable scraps (like onion, carrot peels, celery, broccoli or cauliflower stems)
- 2 pounds medium carrots
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon salt
- Ras el Hanout Yogurt (see below)
- Basil Vinaigrette (see below)
- 1 tablespoon dill, chopped
- 1 tablespoon chives, chopped
- 1 tablespoon mint, chopped
- ½ cup pine nuts, toasted
- ½ head fennel, thin sliced
- 3 radishes, thin sliced
- Granola, for garnish (see below)
Heat oven to 500˚F. Spread vegetable scraps on baking sheet. Roast until completely black. Turn off heat, and keep tray in oven for 2 hours. Remove from oven, and set aside. (Ash can be made ahead and used multiple times.)
Heat oven to 450˚F. Toss carrots with olive oil and salt. Spread on baking sheet, and cover with ash. Roast until fork tender, about 35 minutes. Let cool, and remove from ash.
Spread ras el hanout yogurt on bottom of large serving platter. Cut carrots into bite-sized pieces. Toss carrots with basil vinaigrette, and spread atop yogurt. Top with dill, chives, mint, pine nuts, fennel and radishes. Garnish with granola. Serves 4.
- 2 tablespoons flax seed
- 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
- 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds, toasted
- 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
- 2 tablespoons hemp hearts
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon grapeseed or other neutral oil
Heat oven to 325˚F. Combine all ingredients together in bowl and spread in thin layer on rimmed baking sheet. Bake for approximately 20 minutes until golden brown, stirring every 5 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely
- 1 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
- 2 teaspoons ras el hanout spice blend
- 1 tablespoon honey
- Juice of 1 lemon
Combine all ingredients. Let sit 1 hour to allow flavors to blend together.
- ½ cup basil, chopped
- ½ cup mint, chopped
- 1 ounce Sherry vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 teaspoon agave syrup
- 2 ounces extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 ounces grapeseed oil
Place all ingredients except oils in blender. Purée until smooth. While blender runs, slowly drizzle oils to emulsify mixture.
Ouled Thaleb 2016 Moroccan White Blend (Zenata). “Made from Faranah and Clairette, this floral and aromatic Moroccan white has notes of grapefruit, orange blossom, passion fruit, elderflower and spearmint with a refreshing finish,” says Kelley Pottle Graham, sommelier at El Five. “It has good weight with citrus notes and spice that pair well with the roasted carrots.”
Courtesy Helen Jo, pastry chef, Le Pigeon, Portland, OR
Lingering just a little too long in the sun to eat strawberries is a spring pastime, but these sweet rolls take that to the next level. Rosemary-cashew brittle and black pepper streusel keep the treats from being cloying. Just as importantly, they make these seem impressive and cheffy. Don’t worry, those components are easy to make (but crucial to end your picnic on the right note).
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1½ cups cream
- 1 large egg yolk
- ⅓ cup strawberry jam (see below)
- ⅓ cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- Rosemary-Cashew Brittle (see below)
- Black Pepper Streusel (see below)
Sift flour, baking powder and ½ teaspoon salt into medium bowl. In another medium bowl, mix together cream and egg yolk. Use plastic spatula to fold flour mixture into cream mixture until crumbly dough forms.
Transfer dough to clean surface, and knead until solid and no longer sticky. Cut dough in half, and sandwich each between pieces of parchment paper. Using rolling pin, mold dough pieces into 12-inch squares, about ⁄8-inch thick. Chill dough in refrigerator for 15 minutes.
Peel off top parchment from first chilled dough sheet, and lightly brush with melted butter. Spread 3 tablespoons jam across dough. Sprinkle ½ cup brown sugar on top, then sprinkle ½ cup of rosemary-cashew brittle and ⁄8 teaspoon salt. Carefully slide parchment paper onto sheet pan, and place in freezer. Repeat with second dough sheet.
Slide parchment paper with first dough sheet onto work surface. Carefully roll dough toward you as tight as possible. Place roll back in freezer, and repeat with second sheet. Keep in freezer 20 minutes.
Heat oven to 400˚F. Lightly coat silicone jumbo-muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray, and place on baking sheet.
Slice dough rolls ¾-inch thick. Stack 3 slices face up into each mold, so spirals are visible. Sprinkle black pepper streusel over top, and bake 10 minutes. Rotate baking sheet, and decrease temperature to 375˚F. Bake another 5–7 minutes, until rolls bubble with strawberry jam and caramelize on top.
Let sticky buns rest for 5 minutes. Carefully use mini offset spatula or pairing knife to release sides, and ease them out. Makes 6–8 buns.
- 1 quart strawberries, chopped
- ½ cup to 1 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons pectin
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- Pinch of salt
Combine strawberries, ½ cup sugar and ¼ cup water om medium saucepan. Cook on a low heat and stir frequently using a plastic spatula (to avoid burning on the bottom of the saucepan) until strawberries have broken down and resemble purée. At this point, adjust sweetness with more sugar if needed. Combine 1 teaspoon sugar with pectin and stir into strawberries. Continue cooking until strawberry mixture is thick enough to coat spatula well (it should slowly drip down when the spatula is held up). Finally stir in apple cider vinegar and salt, cook for a few minutes, then chill.
- 1 cup chopped toasted cashews
- ⅔ cup butter
- ½ cup sugar
- 1½ tablespoons corn syrup
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon fine-chopped rosemary
Heat oven to 350˚F. Spread chopped cashews on silicone-lined baking sheet. Toast until tan in color. Set aside.
In medium saucepan, warm butter, sugar and corn syrup with 1 tablespoon water over medium heat. Stir until sugar and butter melt, and mixture turns to light amber color. Whisk in baking soda, immediately followed by salt and chopped rosemary. (Note: Baking soda will cause mixture to bubble and rise.) Carefully and quickly, pour hot mixture on top of toasted cashews. Let cool to solidify. Break into small pieces with rolling pin or hands. Using food processor, pulse until pieces are roughly ⅛ inch.
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup cold butter, cut into small cubes
In small bowl, mix sugar, salt, pepper and flour. Crumble butter in with fingers until mixture appears pebbly. Chill.
Ca’ d’Gal 2016 Lumine (Moscato d’Asti). Andrew Fortgang, co-owner/wine director of Le Pigeon, has one thing in mind when pairing this dessert: fun. “And what is more fun than a sparkling dessert wine?” he says. “Moscato d’Asti is usually a fun wine, but not a serious wine—something that a producer also makes, in addition to reds. Not here. This estate has been making just Moscato d’Asti for four generations.”
- 1Salmon ’Nduja Recipe
- 2Buttermilk Fried Chicken
- 3Farro and Roasted Red Pepper Salad Recipe
- 4Tarte a l’Oignon Recipe
- 5Ash-Roasted Carrots with Super Seed Granola
- 6Strawberry Rosemary-Cashew Sticky Buns