Everyone’s favorite season is upon us. School’s let out. Vacation planning is in full swing and the culinary world opens to all sorts of opportunities:
Beach Parties and Bonfires
It is hard to argue, summer in the Northwest is the most perfect place and time in the country. Full sun, almost no rain, low humidity and few bugs. So let’s get outside and take full advantage of this glorious time!
Grilling. Steaks, burgers, chops and kebabs. A little seasoning or basting. Keep it simple.
Barbecue. Not to be confused with grilling. This is slow, smoky, with a focus on pork. Research true barbecue. Our country features several distinct regions, each with their own unique take on this truly American specialty.
Outdoor Dining. From food carts to elegant patios, Portland is crazy for dining outside. No city in the US has more restaurants with space outside. The feeling is relaxed. The weather, as already noted is perfect. And there may be no better spot than your own back yard.
Beach Parties and Bonfires. OMG, Clam Bakes!! What can be more evocative of summer? You can’t dig for clams in Oregon but you sure can buy everything you need. Lobsters, Clams, maybe mussels and shrimp... Potatoes and corn. All “baked” over a bed of coals. If you have never tried this, read about it and do it. It’s a bit of work buy the results, and the experience are wonderful.
Picnics. I saved the best for last. Imagine a quiet park. Or a secluded pasture. The blanket, the baskets of food. A cooler of you favorites. Cold fried chicken, wrapped sandwiches. A couple of salads and a Pyrex of gooey brownies. You eat a bit, drink a bit. Then lay back and watch the clouds do their magic. Are you kidding me?!?! Perfection.
A Few Tips
If you don’t know this by now, Montreal seasoning is magic for steaks and burgers. As a second option, years ago at McCormick and Schmicks, we dipped our burgers in Worcestershire before grilling. And it was the best burger in town!
Way too much to talk about here. My tip is to go out and see what true BBQ should be at Podnah’s, Russell St or one of the other great joints in town. The key is to be true to the regional roots of the style.
Out Door Dining
I wasn’t kidding. Our favorite spot in the city is our own backyard. My tip is to find some elements of your space to make very special and beautiful for you! Then enjoy and don’t worry about who’s driving home.
Beach Parties and Bonfires
My favorite experience of summer is visiting our dear friends Paula and David O’Keefe at their home on Puget Sound. Clams from their beach, a few other additions and the fire pit. The time on the water - tide out, tide in - can be mesmerizing. My tip is to find your own Paula and David.
Again it is all about the overall experience. I’m thinking mellow. The food and beverages can be anything you like. But the blanket. Soft, thick, so wonderful to sit and lay on. And those clouds...
And Now for Some Recipes
If our family was to go on a picnic, the two things I would consider essential for the occasion would be cold fried chicken and sub sandwiches. And NOT from a second-rate sandwich shop! So let me share both. With thanks to my Mom whose fried chicken was legendary.
Fried Chicken (Served Cold)
There are many, many ways to do this classic. Here’s ours, down from my Mom.
Chicken, whatever you like, on the bone.
Flour, seasoned well with salt, pepper and garlic powder.
Oil, for frying.
The key is the crispness of the exterior! Skin especially!! And served cold, though the skin won’t be crisp, the memory of the crispness will linger
Pre-heat the oven to 350.
Dust the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Yes even thou you season the flour you still need to season the chicken.
Now dust the chicken with the flour and let it rest for 10 minutes. Then dust it again.
In one or two large preferably cast iron skillets, heat the oil till just at the smoking point. There should be just enough oil in the pan(s) to reach ½ way up the chicken.
Add the chicken skin side down and fry until nicely browned, a deep golden. 10 minutes maybe.
Flip the pieces and do the same on this side. 10 more.
Remove the pieces onto paper towels to drain.
Place the chicken on cookies sheets and bake in oven for about 20 minutes. This will finish cooking the chicken and “set” the crust.
Take straight to the picnic if you wish but the chicken must cool at last to room temperature so the crust doesn’t get soggy or fall off on the way to the park.
I like to dip my chicken in mayonnaise spiked with Tabasco!
Sub Sandwiches (Straight From the East Coast)
As close to the real deal as is possible out here
Sub Rolls, 12-18” long
Good Quality Ham
Good Quality Salami
Great Quality Cappacola
Mortadella (If You Want To)
Shaved Iceberg Lettuce
Thin Sliced Tomatoes (Need I Say Good Quality?)
Thin Sliced Onion, Red or Yellow
Thin Sliced Pepperonccini
Hot Cherry Peppers or Cherry Pepper Relish (Optional for Wimps)
Red Wine Vinegar
Salt & Pepper
Build the sandwiches laying each ingredient on the roll in the order listed.
Sprinkle just a little of the oil and vinegar.
Then shake a bit of the oregano and S & P
Close the sandwich and, for the real deal, wrap in deli paper and cut the sandwich I half through the paper. This keeps it tightly together.
Place in basket, place basket in car, proceed to idyllic location.