Magazine article Sunset

How to Organize a Seize-the-Day Picnic

Magazine article Sunset

How to Organize a Seize-the-Day Picnic

Article excerpt

How to organize a seize-the-day picnic

Even if you purchase the foods needed for the spur-of-the-moment picnics on page 76, you'll have to do a little organizing; directions follow. If you decide you'd like to cook some of the foods yourself, those directions are here, too.

The picnic planned for California's Central Valley has the most time-consuming cooking projects: roast duck and a pastry. Remember, you can instead buy Chinese roast duck (a roasted chicken from the deli will do in a pinch) and a bakery pastry. The onion mixture, savory butter, and salad dressing are quick to make.

Sandwiches for the bicycling picnic need marinated peppers, but you start with peppers in a jar.

For the snow picnic, nachos can be made with canned chili, or make the family's favorite and take a quart of it. Heat the chili at home or at the cabin.

Roast Duck

Rinse a 4 1/2- to 5-pound duck inside and out and pat dry; reserve neck and giblets for other uses. Prick duck all over (heavily in fattiest parts) with a fork. Rub with 2 tablespoons lemon juice, the lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper. If desired, quarter 1 medium-size orange and tuck into the body cavity (the fruit adds more fragrance than flavor).

Place duck, breast down, on a rack in an 11- by 13-inch baking pan. Roast in a 500| oven for 25 minutes. Turn breast up. Continue to roast until breast is a light pink at the bone near the wing joint (cut to test) but no longer soft and wet-looking, 25 to 30 minutes longer; discard drippings. Seal hot duck loosely in foil or baking parchment, then wrap in several pretty towels and pack in an insulated chest; serve within 3 hours. Makes 2 to 4 servings.

Onion Confit

4 medium-size onions, sliced

8 sprigs (each 2 in. long) fresh thyme or 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

3 bay leaves

6 sprigs (each 2 in. long) fresh marjoram or 3/4 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves

1/4 cup olive oil or salad oil Salt

In a 10- to 12-inch frying pan on medium-low heat, simmer onions, thyme, bay leaves, and marjoram in oil, covered, until onions are very soft and golden, about 1 1/2 hours; stir occasionally. Add salt to taste. Let cool; serve at room temperature. If made ahead, cover and chill up to 3 days. Transport in an attractive jar. If picnic is for 2, leftovers hold well and don't require chilling until you get home. Serves 4.

Prosciutto Butter

In a food processor or blender, whirl 1/2 cup (1/4 lb.) room-temperature unsalted butter or margarine with 1/8 pound (about 4 thin slices) prosciutto and 1/4 cup parsley. If made ahead, cover and chill up to 5 days. Transport in an insulated chest. Makes 1/2 cup.

Mustard Flower Vinaigrette

In a small jar, combine 1/4 cup olive oil or salad oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon each Dijon mustard and honey. Cover tightly and transport to the picnic. Mix with 4 to 6 cups salad greens (rinsed and drained miner's lettuce or butter lettuce) and 1/4 cup freshly gathered, rinsed, and lightly packed mustard flowers, optional. Add salt to taste. Makes about 1/3 cup dressing, to dress salad for 2 to 4.

Aromatic Spice Almond Tart

1 1/4 cups each whipping cream and sugar

1/4 teaspoon each ground cardamom and ground coriander

2 cups (about 11 oz. …

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