Savannah lends itself to a lot of gorgeous places to have a picnic…from the outer beaches of Tybee to Bonaventure Cemetery….to innumerable other locations. The theme for this week’s Carnival of the Recipes is “On the Road,” so check it out over at “Booklore.” The General has taken a particular quote from John Egerton’s Southern Cooking that I thought was very fitting for this occasion.
This was written by Ward McAlester (1890) in the book
Society As I Have Found It.
“I was then able to show my guests a Savannah picnic, which is an institution peculiar to the place. Leaving the city in a river steamer our party consisting of one hundred people, after little over an hour’s sail we reached an island in the Atlantic Ocean , known as Dawfuskie (sic), a beautiful spot on which stood a charming residence, with five acres of roses surrounding the house. The heads of families carried, each of them, huge baskets containing their dinner, and a full table service, wine, etc., for say ten or a dozen people. On our arrival, all formed into groups under the trees, a cloth was laid on the ground, dishes, plates and glasses arranged on it, and the champagne at once frapped in small hand pails. There was then a dance in the open air, on a platform, and in the afternoon, with cushions as seats for the ladies, these improvised dinner-tables were filled. Each had its separate hostess; all was harmony and pleasure. As night approached, the people re-embarked on the steamer and returned home by moonlight.”
Savannah has not lost an ounce of this “party spirit” over a hundred years later!
Just to up the fun level of producing our picnic this week we have invited a couple of new found friends over to help us produce our picnic as well as consume it. For today’s menu TG has taken 2 recipes from Mike Mills’ book
Peace, Love and Barbecue.
The first is “Right off the Jar” Potato Salad (p.216):
2 lbs. potatoes (5 or 6 medium), peeled and cut into 3/4 ” chunks
1 C Hellman’s mayonnaise
2 T vinegar
1 1/2 t salt
1 t sugar
1/4 t ground black pepper
1 C thinly sliced celery
1/2 C chopped onion
2 hard cooked eggs, chopped (optional)
In a 4 quart saucepot, cover potatoes with water; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes until potatoes are tender. Drain and cool slightly.
In a large bowl, combine mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, sugar, and pepper. Add potatoes, celery, onion, and eggs. Toss gently. Serve chilled. or at room temperature.
The second is Blue Smoke Deviled Eggs (p. 217)
12 large eggs
2/3 C mayonnaise
1 1/2 t tarragon-infused champagne vinegar
2 1/2 t Dijon mustard
3/4 t mustard powder
1/4 t cayenne
1/2 t curry powder
Finely ground kosher salt and ground black pepper
Magic Dust or your favorite dry rub
Place the eggs in a saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for exactly 9 minutes. Pour off most of the water and immediately run cold water over the eggs.
Crack the eggshells and peel the eggs under running water. Cut a small sliver off both ends of each egg and halve them through the equator, forming round cups.
Remove the yolks and pass them through a fine sieve into a bowl. Add the mayonnaise, vinegar, mustards, cayenne and curry powder to the bowl and mix together with a rubber spatula until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Spoon the egg-yolk mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe the mixture into the egg whites to form rosettes. (Or use a teaspoon to mound the yolk into the egg whites.) Sprinkle the top of the eggs with Magic Dust. Keep chilled until ready to serve.
***After cooking from Cape Cod to San Diego, TG experienced a problem in boiling the eggs. The shells did not want to give up when trying to peel them. And totally tore up the surface of the egg white. A little bit embarrassing, but we talked to a couple of our chef friends and they admitted that it was all too common a problem. The theory is that sometimes the eggs are too fresh and you get the easiest shell removal from one that has “been around” for a while. An antidote for the problem is to pierce the large end of the egg with a small pin hole…also adding a little vinegar to the water. I have since found out that on an institutional basis one can purchase already boiled and peeled eggs.
Now for the main course for our picnic, I decided to cook The General’s Championship Chicken using leg quarters. Leg quarters are probably the most inexpensive cut of the chicken, and when you have a large amount of people to feed…and not much of a budget, this is the way to go. Most of the time they are priced under a dollar a pound. But actually it contains the best part of the chicken which is the thigh meat. Being raised in the South, we always had chicken breasts and it has taken quite an adjustment and cooking on the competition circuit to realize how juicy and tender thigh meat is. But the leg is also a favorite…so you get both.
Round out this picnic with some sliced watermelon and a glass of Cline Red Truck table wine!
Here are a few food safety tips for a picnic:
1. If you are going to use mayonnaise and mustard for your sandwiches, buy a small jar of both at your local supermarket. And don’t open them or refrigerate them until you intend to use it at your picnic. This may seem silly since you probably already have mayo in your fridge, but it is a lot safer! We like Hellman’s mayo and Grey Poupon Dijon mustard.
2. Always refrigerate your cold items in a cooler. Sam’s sells a great insulated bag for about $7.00. Use Zip Loc bags for your food and you can also use Zip Loc bag for your ice to keep the ice from melting and running all over your food.
3. Consume any foods that are not “shelf stable.” For instance, fried chicken should be iced down or consumed within a two hour period. Potato chips are shelf stable and you can leave them out until they turn stale.