Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Dinner to go::or, another over-long food post

Our first night at the beach on Sunday brought to mind a few lessons I learn every year, and then promptly forget. Mainly, that it's really more hassle than it's worth to do the actual grilling of food down there.

Better to bring something ready to eat, so that Tim doesn't have to manage a fire, we don't have to pack and carry the kitchen sink, and the food can be handed out to kids on a need to eat basis, rather than trying to get everyone to sit down all at once while it's hot.

We're there, after all, to let them run and play, and to have a chance ourselves to relax.

So, I've been thinking about the next meal down at the river, and I've come up with a few ideas.

Some sort of cook-ahead chicken recipe seems to be one answer, and if I buy a mix of breast pieces and drumsticks, I'll have something I can hand off to a hungry wet child with out having to even slow them down for a plate.
Erin's go-to chicken recipe sounds like the perfect thing. I used to use the Silver Palate's lemon chicken recipe, but like everything they do, it required way too many ingredients, and every pot and pan in the house. Let's make it a little easier on ourselves, why don't we?

In the Magnolia cookbook, there is a great pepper and onion relish, which I usually make to go on top of burgers, but I think would be amazing on the chicken, or any sort of sandwich. I can make that at home before we leave for the beach, too. And if there is any left over, I can attest to the fact that it makes the most amazing lunch the next day, as a filling with goat cheese in a quesadilla.

Tim's always pushing the sandwich idea, but when I picture a smushy pb&j, it just doesn't jive with my vision of the beach club dinner. But, of course, it doesn't have to be like that. With good bread and a few nice things-some turkey and apples, or salami and pickles, or mozzarella and tomato, that relish-well, sandwiches sound just about perfect. Plus, everyone can put theirs together themselves, freeing me up to sit and drink wine, so they get what they like.

Green salads don't usually go over so well at the beach: whether it's that they're too hard to dress and eat at a picnic or whatever, I've learned that they just don't get eaten. Better to make something like cucumber salad, panzanella, or even a simple mozzarella+tomato+basil. Plus, leftovers of these sorts of salads fare much better than greens.

For years, I brought tablecloths and napkins, jelly jars for wine and candles, cutting boards and thermoses full of tea. And it was lovely. But exhausting. And, I'll grudgingly admit, a bit of overkill.

I'm not ready to go totally bare bones: a tablecloth is easy enough, and covers up what might be a messy picnic table, but napkins? I think we can make an exception and use some (recycled) paper ones. And I can probably enjoy my wine out of a plastic cup just as much as a jelly jar, but I do like to have some votives on the table; once it gets dark, this is actually useful as well as pretty. And tea, although really comforting on a chilly night down at the river, is often the straw that breaks the camel (that's...ahem...me). We get enough tea at home.

But, when it comes to dessert, while cookies and watermelon, or brownies and grapes all get gobbled right up, there's one thing the kids are looking for, and one thing that can buy us that extra twenty minutes, while the grown-ups finish talking, have another beer, maybe. And that's roasted marshmallows.

I guess Tim is going to have to get up and start that fire after all.

Magnolia pepper + onion relish::
Saute 2 cups chopped mixed yellow/red/orange bell peppers and 1 1/2 cups chopped onions in 3T olive oil + 1 T butter. Toss in one clove of garlic, minced, and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes, until very tender and slightly caramelized.

Nana's Agurke Salat (Danish cucumber salad)
Peel and slice cucumbers very thinly. Make a mixture of 1 C water, 1 C white vinegar and 1 t sugar. Mix well to dissolve the sugar. Add a generous amount of black pepper, and pour over the cukes. Add 1/4 C chopped fresh dill. If you need to, add equal parts water and vinegar to cover the cucumbers. The longer you can let it sit, the better it will be.
{two notes: you don't really have to peel the cucumbers if you don't want to, and, some people salt the cucumbers first, but I don't add any salt at all to this. Just lots of black pepper.}

What do you make for dinner to go? I'd love to hear your ideas/favorites/suggestions.

More tomorrow. Thanks for reading.

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Blogger julochka said...

i love to make a sandwich-agtig thing which is really a hollowed out loaf of bread stuffed with all kinds of good stuff (like your pepper/onion relish), cheese, leftover meat & peppers/onions/mushrooms from fajitas (yes, we put mushrooms in our fajitas)--in fact, i've made it a number of times with leftover fajitas. it has to be a crusty bread that will withstand the juices and you have to leave enough of the bready bits inside, then then you replace the "lid" and smoosh it and by the time you're at the beach and ready to eat...heaven.

and i'd take a thermos of creamy, sweet iced coffee (w/a little baileys in it for good measure) for the adults. while the marshmallows are roasting...

and now i'm hungry.

June 2, 2009 1:07 PM  
Blogger spread your wings said...

your meal ideas are making me hungry.

June 2, 2009 10:43 PM  
Blogger tangled sky studio said...

ok here's a long winded response:

picnick version of chicken marbella (silver palate cookbook pg 86) : get 4 or five boneless, skinless breast and cut them into kabob size pieces and marinate them overnight in a big tupperware or ziplock. on picnic day skewer them and bake 304-0 minutes with wine and brown sugar as directed and pack them up. these are great hot, warm, room temp or cold (really)

parmesan chicken (finger food): 5 or 6 boneless skinless breast cut into 3 or 4 pieces each (i like to flatten mine slightly)
whisk together:
3TB dijon mustard, 1 tsp white wine vinegar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp ground pepper, add chicken pieces and toss to coat well
in a shallow bowl mix 1 1/2 cups panko bradcrumbs with 3/4 cup finely grated parmigiano reggiano and 1 TB melted butter
dredge each piece of chicken in the breadcrumb mixture and put on a baking sheet
bake 15-20 min at 450
these are great at any temp too!
bon apetit!

June 2, 2009 10:52 PM  
Blogger Char said...

my favorite chicken marinade has three ingredients - lemon juice (fresh), worchestershire sauce and melted oleo. yum every time. works well with pieces or boneless/skinless. my favorite beach thing is always crusty bread, cheese, frozen fruit, veggie sticks (with ranch) and cold drinks. Not fancy but everyone loves these and it's no muss/no fuss

June 2, 2009 11:07 PM  
Blogger Anna Ander said...

Haha, you and I would make the best picnics together! I can very much see myself in your post, with the tablecloth and the glasses and the candles and the napkins... But I've tried to give myself a little more of a break lately, and it does make everything more manageable. Will get back to you on what to eat, am supposed to start a meeting. Oh. Right now.


June 3, 2009 3:25 AM  
Blogger Jane said...

What a great post...since we just had our first picnic at the lake on Friday. The fire didn't go well and there was a lot of waiting. Cold chicken is going to work well and I love Tangle Sky Studio's idea about chicken fingers. We have a locker at the lake so I'm able to keep candles, tablecloth etc there so I don't have to haul it home all the time.
Thanks for the recipes!

June 7, 2009 12:05 PM  

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