TIME FOR A PICNIC
One of the many aspects of warm weather that I particularly like is that warm weather immediately makes me want to have picnic foods...whether served at a picnic site, backyard patio, or indoors, fried chicken is at the top of my list, with cabbage slaw or potato salad or macaroni salad and sweet cold watermelon. I will have more picnic menus in the months to come for you to enjoy so just do a "search site" for "picnic" to check what picnic foods are featured.
For the perfect picnic you'll need a beautiful picnic basket from Litoré, gifts inspired by being outdoors.
We had an unusual few days of high 80sF and low 90sF temperatures here in New York recently, and my taste buds started telling me that fried chicken needed to be on the menu. I like to dredge my chicken in flour, egg wash, and falafel mix coating, I like a cabbage slaw with Asian flavors (not a creamy dressing) would go well with the taste of my fried chicken. I also wanted a small, yet satisfying second side dish and I decided on making fresh corn fritters - I was able to find corn on the cob, from Florida, but these corn fritters are even better tasting when the corn is available at my local farmers' market in early June/July and then again in late summer.
Back up to my using falafel mix as the coating for my fried chicken. If you like Middle Eastern falafel you will love the flavors as a coating for fried chicken!
As Memorial Day in the USA is the unofficial start of Summer, I thought a "flag cake" would be most appropriate for dessert if you will be making this menu for the holiday. Before we enjoy our holiday feast, we like to take a moment in silence with our private thoughts about our men and women serving in uniform and remembering those who have gone before them to reflect on what Memorial Day truly means.
FIRST PICNIC OF 2009
Smoked Salmon Appetizer
As a first course, or just an hors d'oeuvres, smoked salmon is an easy and elegant choice. Arrange a small portion of smoked salmon on your favorite cracker - I like Kame rice crackers - add a dab of a flavored mayonnaise - you can make your own horseradish mayonnaise seasoned to your own taste. Garnish each salmon canapé with a few capers and a tiny sprig of dill.
Serve on a large platter along with a bowl of assorted olives.
FALAFEL FRIED CHICKEN
Allow at least 2 pieces of chicken per person or 3 pieces if you are like me and enjoy the wings and thighs. Sometimes I buy just the parts that I like instead of a whole chicken to cut up.
Using 3 breading pans, add salt& pepper to the pan with the flour, 3 eggs scrambled with salt & pepper, and finally, one of two packages of a falafel mix.
Wash and dry the chicken parts; coat first in seasoned flour, then coat with the egg wash, and then completely coat with the falafel mix. You can keep your hands free of the mess of this breading process by using tongs all the way through the process.
As each piece is coated, place it on a paper towel lined plate. Cover the chicken with paper towel and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the coating to set.
In the meantime, heat the vegetable oil in a deep fryer to the temperature suggested by the manufacturer for fried chicken and note the suggested cooking time for fried chicken. I don't like using the frying basket as I find that foods sometimes stick to the basket, so I just place the chicken in the hot oil to "free-fry"!
Cook the dark meat pieces together for the suggested fry-time - dark meat takes a couple of minutes longer than the wings and the breast meat to cook through. Remove the pieces of fried chicken to a cooling rack set over a tray or plate. This helps to cool the fried chicken without the coating sticking to the surface of a plate or paper towel.
When all pieces have been fried, the chicken can sit for 15 to 30 minutes before serving.
CABBAGE SLAW WITH ASIAN DRESSING
This slaw is so easy - you can make it a couple of hours ahead of serving, but not the day before. The Asian dressing flavors taste better made within hours of eating it.
How big a cabbage will you need? Well, keep in mind that thinly cut cabbage for slaw for 4 servings can be cut from a small head of green cabbage- or just from one half of a larger one. About one and a half cups of thinly sliced cabbage per serving is a nice size portion.
With a chef's knife, cut the cabbage into quarters. Cut out the solid core. Then lay each piece on the flat side and slice each quarter into thin strips. Shred one scrubbed carrot on a box grater with the larger holes. Cut the scallions in half and then slice the pieces into thin strips lengthwise.
Add cut cabbage, carrot and scallions to a mixing bowl and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Toss to combine the ingredients.
In a small bowl, mix together about 1/2 cup of rice wine vinegar, a teaspoon or so of sugar (or one packet of Splenda®) about 1/4 cup sesame oil and Ponzu sauce. Whisk the mixture together - taste and adjust to your taste by adding more of any or all of the ingredients.
Add the mixture to the cabbage a little at a time, use tongs to toss well after each addition. Once the cabbage is coated with the mixture, taste again. You may want a pinch more salt and pepper, but that is up to your taste.
Cover the bowl and let it sit for at least one hour before serving. If making a couple of hours ahead, refrigerate until serving time.
FRESH CORN FRITTERS
Add corn kernels to a large mixing bowl. Add milk, egg, sugar, baking powder, salt and pepper. Fold in cornmeal and white whole wheat flour.
Heat about 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a non-stick skillet until oil is hot. Drop a heaping tablespoon measure into the hot fat – cook until lightly browned on one side and then flip over to cook the other side for approximately 1 – 2 minutes. Transfer cooked fritters to a paper towel lined dish to drain. Repeat with remaining batter.
Yield: 4 servings
Note: The batter can be made a few hours ahead of time - as they fry up quickly, they will taste better if you make them just prior to serving time.
Chocolate Flag Cake
Heat oven to 350° F. Butter and flour a rectangular baking pan (13" x 9" x 2").
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes. In a small bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add to the butter mixture alternately with the water. Blend just until combined.
Pour cake batter into prepared pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes; remove from pan and let cool completely on a rack. Place cake on an oblong serving tray or on a piece of stiff cardboard at least one inch larger all around than the cake. Cover the cardboard with aluminum foil.
Frost the cooled cake with vanilla butter cream frosting. Arrange blueberries in the upper left corner of the cake creating a 4"x 5" area to resemble the stars on the U.S. flag. Arrange strawberry halves cut side down in rows to resemble the stripes.
Vanilla Butter Frosting
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine sugar and butter. Add vanilla and milk; beat to a spreading consistency. Frost a 13 x 9 x 2 -inch cake as directed above.