Image courtesy of Stocksnap
“Written” by Matthew Larken
If you have read The Vital Sacrifice, then you know that I am a caterer and I love to cook. Not only do I love to cook, but I also love to share my recipe ideas with fans.
The summer is coming to an end but fun and great food doesn’t have to stop. As a matter of fact, there are some great dishes that I have in store for you in the coming colder months, including Teresa’s favorite, seafood gumbo. But, in the meantime, why not take your family or significant other on a picnic one last time before autumn settles in. And, while you are at it, I have the perfect picnic foods that you can add to your basket.
For this article, I chose three very simple items to take with you for your picnic. Grilled chicken: because it can be made at home and taken with you; or cooked while you are at the park. Potato salad: because you can chill this and take it to the park. Banana pudding: because it is such an easy and refreshing dessert to take along on a picnic.
Image courtesy of Stocksnap
Matthew’s Delicious Barbecue Chicken
The focus should be on the barbecue because this is the main dish. You can use any part of the chicken you like for this recipe but I’m going to emphasize boneless, skinless chicken breast meat. First, you un-package the meat. There is a great debate about whether to wash the chicken or not; some do some don’t; so, I will leave that up to you. Then, you can lay the pieces out on a cutting board to season it (or you are free to use the counter if you like). Sprinkle some salt and white pepper on both sides (use black pepper if you prefer). Then, use a marinade to soak the meat in for about an hour before cooking. Try to make or buy a marinade that won’t clash with the taste of the barbecue sauce like classic steak marinade or, if you want to get colorful, a pineapple marinade. I’m old-fashioned so I like to take mustard and vinegar and mix it until it is incorporated well and pour it over the meat and let it sit. While waiting for an hour, this would be the perfect time to start boiling the potatoes and preparing the potato salad. You could also work on the banana pudding. After the marinade has saturated the chicken, get the grill ready. Either propane or charcoal grills are good but I love to grill with charcoal grills. Grill the meat until done. About 15 minutes before you pull the chicken from the grill, prepare the barbecue sauce. I usually mix steak sauce or Worcestshire sauce, barbecue sauce, and a little bit of brown sugar together in a bowl. After this, you can place it in a container to pour on later once you are ready to eat; or, you can let the chicken cool and then place the pieces directly into the sauce until you are ready to eat.
Matthew’s Slammin’ Potato Salad
Potato salad is a fantastic side to barbecue. But making potato salad can be complicated for most. One false move and you may have mashed potato and mayonnaise mush rather than potato salad. I’ll let you decide on which potato to use because different people have different tastes. Skin on skin off? I’ll also leave that up to you. I usually cook with gold or white potatoes skin off and cut up the potatoes into cubes. I boil the potatoes until they are able to withstand a fork or sharp object piercing them without friction. Any longer than that, then the potatoes will be too over cooked for the meal. Once you test them and they are ready, turn them off immediately, drain the water from them and place them in a bowl. Place this bowl into another larger bowl of ice to stop the cooking process. Once the potatoes are cool, place them in the fridge for about an hour. When the potato cubes are nice and cold, this is the best time to add the other ingredients. Some do it before cooling them off but I find that mixing ingredients while it is still warm makes the salad too runny. But if runny is your thing, go right ahead and add the other ingredients while the cubes are warm (not hot). Pull out your mayo and your mustard and your relish. By the way, if you like boiled eggs in your potato salad, this would be a good time to add those, too. Do not boil the eggs for longer than 17 minutes on high in order to avoid the greenish, brownish color around the edge of the yolk. Start by adding a very small teaspoon of mustard (skip it if you don’t like mustard). Follow this with a tablespoon of relish. Add more or less if you like. Also, some like sweet tasting potato salad so opt for sweet relish. If you like for it to be more savory, opt for dill relish. Finally, add about a tablespoon of mayo to the salad. Again if you like sweet tasting potato salad, then opt for a tablespoon of Miracle Whip or mayo with a little sugar added; but, if you like savory potato salad, just use regular mayo like Duke’s or Hellman’s. If you like more than a tablespoon of mayo, then add more, but I start with a tablespoon so it won’t get too soggy. Remember, if you start with a small amount of mayo, you can always add more mayo to your liking but if its over-saturated with mayo in the beginning, you can consider the dish a “total loss.” Last, place the potato salad back in the fridge until you are ready to leave for the picnic. Make sure it is cool as possible so that it can be nice and firm. If you like, you can top it with a little paprika but it is not necessary.
Matthew’s Delectable Banana Pudding
Banana pudding is very easy to prepare because you won’t need to bake it. I know I’m committing a sin by telling you this but first, we are going to start this recipe with boxed pudding. I say use this because its just not worth the headache to try to make pudding from scratch when there are such good ones on the market. I usually use French vanilla instead of banana-flavored pudding because it gives the dish a less intense banana flavor and gives the actual bananas an opportunity to dominate the palate rather than the banana-flavored pudding. Pour the amount of milk in required for the dish and stir. I usually add a little more milk than is required and use a mixer to make the pudding nice and fluffy. At the bottom of your dish, place your cookies. Traditional recipes call for Nilla wafers but I have found that Belgian waffle butter crisps make a magnificent alternative. Follow with a layer of sliced bananas. You can cut them in circles but I like to cut them at an angle similar to the way that plantains are cut. This makes them a little longer so you don’t have to put so many in to the pudding. Follow with a layer of the French vanilla pudding (or banana pudding if you if you prefer to stick to tradition). Last you can add another layer of cookies and repeat if you like, but I usually stop with the top layer of cookies. For the last layer, I usually crumble the cookies or Belgian waffle butter crisps and sprinkle them all around the top of the French Vanilla pudding. Place the dish into the fridge and chill until it’s time for the picnic. If you like for the cookies or butter crisps to be crunchy, then eat the pudding about an hour after chilling it. If you like them to be much softer, then make the pudding several hours or a day in advance of the picnic.
Image courtesy of Stocksnap
Well I hope that you enjoy these ideas that I have shared with you! Remember you can include more items such as soda, lemonade, chips, or other nick knacks in your picnic basket. Have fun and look for my next article in which I will share with you how to prepare seafood gumbo. Perhaps this dish will win Teresa back. What do you think?
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Disclaimer: These blog articles are attributed to characters found in the novel, The Vital Sacrifice, and this blog is a fictitious representation of the characters in the book speaking on what interests them based on their role in the novel. These blog articles are post-publication characterizations and are meant to entertain niche audiences who may be interested in purchasing or have already purchased this novel.