Picnic on a stick: Try these ideas for your Memorial Day outing

May 21, 2014 

May can be the most beautiful time of the year in Florida. It is not yet too hot, the humidity may be on the rise, but it isn't too uncomfortable yet. What better way to spend Memorial Day, or any beautiful spring day, than on a picnic at your favorite outdoor spot?

Picking the right location may be the most important decision. The beach seems a natural, but if it is a windy day, it might not be such a good idea. Sand in your ice cream does not work so well. A park or even a shady spot on a nature trail could be grand, but in this instance a nice breeze just might keep the mosquitoes and gnats away.

A fundamental consideration is the type of picnic you would like to have. Is it a family affair or a romantic twosome? Would you like to make it a joint venture, and ask everyone to bring something, or do you want to keep the spotlight to yourself? Careful planning can make all the difference, so take a few minutes and give it a good think.

Picnics have long been enjoyed in pleasant weather by people around the world. The Italians would describe a picnic as al fresco, a casual outdoor get together, but the romantic American landscape painters in the early 1800s often depicted picnics as a pass-time of the wealthy. But, a picnic doesn't have to be so. Put just a few things together, buy prepared goodies at the local deli, or just grab a bottle of wine, a nice piece of cheese, and a loaf of crusty bread.

If you have visited a developing country, you have almost certainly seen street food being served on a stick. Here are some ideas for a Memorial Day picnic borrowing the practicality of using handy wooden skewers.

CHICKEN ON A STICK

Chicken on a stick usually

consists of deep fried chicken, potato and pickle, all battered and deep fried golden brown. Here's a healthier version that can be grilled, baked or deep fried.

1 package boneless chicken thighs

4-6 slices thick cut smoked bacon cut into 1-inch pieces

12 small red potatoes

1 large green bell pepper

12 wooden skewers

Olive oil

Black pepper

Red pepper flakes

Salt as needed

Optional: barbecue sauce

Start a good size fire in your barbecue pit, using hardwood charcoal or preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the chicken from the package, give it a good rinse, then cut into manageable pieces suitable for the skewers. Toss the chicken in a little olive oil and season aggressively with the black pepper and red pepper flakes. Let it marinade for at least an hour. Cut the red potatoes and bell pepper into bite-size pieces, but not so small they crumble when placed on the skewer. Load the skewers with the chicken, bacon, potatoes and bell pepper, alternating ingredients. When the fire is ash hot, place the skewers carefully on the grill and turn every 2 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. If you overcook the chicken it will be dry and unappealing. If you opt for the barbecue sauce, brush it on in several layers the last 3-4 minutes of cooking.

If you choose the baking option, place the skewers on an oiled hotel pan and bake for 20 minutes. Turn once and apply barbecue sauce as you do so.

BEST CORN DOG

Corn dogs might not be on a gourmand's menu of choice, but they can be fun and delicious, too. The trick is in using the best-quality dog you can find. If you want to really give it some zip, use a good-quality smoked sausage. This recipe uses grits instead of corn meal, so the texture is a bit coarse. I think you will like the difference.

3/4 cup self rising flour

3/4 cup yellow corn grits

1/4 cup sugar

3/4 tablespoon salt

3 tablespoons baking powder

2 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

12 hotdogs cut into big bite sizes

12 skewers

In a large, deep pot filled only halfway with oil, heat to 350 degrees. Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly, add the buttermilk and the eggs, continuing to mix as you go. Skewer the dogs, dip in the batter and deep fry until golden brown. As with all things deep fried, serve immediately for best results.

CHICKEN SATAY

This recipe is by far best cooked on a charcoal grill.

1 package boneless chicken thighs

1 cup yogurt

1 tablespoon grated ginger

2 tablespoons chopped garlic

1-2 tablespoons curry paste

6-8 wooden skewer

Rinse the chicken off and cut into big bite sizes. Combine all of the ingredients, add the chicken and marinate at least 2 hours. Skewer the marinated chicken on wooded skewers and grill over a hot charcoal fire. Chicken satay is great with a Thai style peanut sauce. Check out your local Asian market for sauces that are premade.

SIMPLE FRIED CHICKEN

Here is a simple fried chicken recipe that is great hot and still delicious served cold on a picnic.

1 package boneless chicken thighs

2 cups buttermilk

Hot sauce, as much as you can stand

2 cups self-rising flour

Preheat a deep fryer to 350 degrees. Marinate the chicken in the buttermilk and hot sauce that has been heavily seasoned with black pepper for at least one hour. Add the flour to large bowl and season again. Drain the chicken from the butter milk and then dip to coat in the flour. Drop carefully in the deep fryer and cook for about 10 minutes. Remove, drain on paper towels and serve.

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