Gulf Coast Cooking

Make Memorial Day special with a picnic

Memorial Day is the day we honor those who have fallen in service to our country. No matter what you do on Memorial Day, please remember to take a few moments to contemplate their sacrifices -- visit a national cemetery, pay your respects and then rejoice in the freedoms we enjoy because of their sacrifices by gathering with your friends and family to celebrate.

What better way to celebrate than with a traditional American picnic? You can make yours a great one with a little advance planning and a couple of out-of-the-box recipes. It starts only by making a few notes.

If you're going to the beach or a park that has some facilities it will make your outing a lot easier, but make a list and pack everything you might need. Besides the food, on the top of the list should be paper towels and trash bags.

Remember to pack out everything you pack in.

An ice chest with lots of ice is also a necessity as it's getting hot and drinks and some foods need to stay cool. If you're going to cook, and I really do not recommend it, a grill, charcoal and gas for your gas grill and matches are a must. It is pretty easy to make a great picnic in advance and lugging a grill with all the possible complications that could arise seems unnecessary. But, if you are a grill master and have got that routine down, go for it.

Other items that are a must are knives and forks and any other utensils you might need. Take a few folding chairs and an umbrella for those who might need a bit of shade. Don't forget lots of sunscreen and remember to reapply it often. This is just a partial list, so sit down and give it a good going over. Don't let your picnic be ruined by poor planning.

Now on to the most important part of the planning, the recipes:


Mortadella is an Italian pork sausage from which we have derived the much maligned bologna of our youth, but Mortadella is not in the same class by a long shot. It is seasoned with black pepper, pistachios and nutmeg and the pork it is made from is of a high grade. As you might guess it is primarily made in Bologna, Italy.

In Sao Paulo, Brazil, they make

a famous sandwich that combines Mortadella, provolone cheese, sourdough bread, mayonnaise and Dijon mustard. Using this as a base, I added a Southern fling for my Memorial Day Po-boy.

1 loaf crusty French bread

12-14 jumbo shrimp

12-16 thin slices of Mortadella

1/4 cup mayonnaise

Sliced vine ripe tomatoes

Valentina hot sauce

Butter as needed (replace with a little olive oil)

Marinade the shrimp in Valentina hot sauce for at least 30 minutes. Combine your favorite mayonnaise with Valentina hot sauce, taste as you go and make it as spicy as you like. Slice the bread, butter it and toast to a crispy brown. Heat a sauté pan hot and cook the shrimp in two batches about one minute on a side. Spread as much of the spicy mayonnaise as you like on the toasted bread, layer the Mortadella on the bread, then add the shrimp and top with the tomatoes. Wrap in butcher paper and secure with rubber bands. Don't forget a bread knife to portion the sandwich out.

Serve with an ice cold locally made beer.

If you want to take this sandwich idea over the top garnish with coleslaw, but add the slaw just before serving so the bread doesn't become too soggy.


I am fond of spinach pasta, but you can use almost any that you like in this recipe. Pasta is generally divided into four categories -- long, ribbon cut, decorative and short extruded. The latter two would be best suited for this recipe.

1 pound pasta (farfalloni, rotini, penne or fusilli would be good choices)

2-3 yellow crooked neck squish

1/2 cup chopped smoked pork sausage

4-6 fresh basil leaves, julienned

1/3 cup curry mayonnaise (replace with 1/3 cup good quality olive oil)

Optional pecans for garnish

Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain and allow to cool. Make the mayonnaise by combining mayonnasie and green curry paste (powder if you can't find paste). Start with 1/3 cup mayo and add the curry a little at a time as it can quickly become very spicy, if necessary cut it with lemon juice. Sauté the sausage until well browned, then drain and discard the oil. In the same pan sauté the chopped squish, seasoning with a little salt and pepper, until done, but do not overcook. Combine all the ingredients and chill before serving. Add the basil leaf garnish just before serving. Roll the leaves into a tube, and then chop cross way to make a julienne cut.

This is best placed in a plastic contained with a tight fitting lid. Make sure to bring a large spoon for serving.

Serve with a chilled white wine such as Riesling or Pinot Gris.

The short-cut picnic

Some of you may just not find the time to put your Memorial Day picnic together, but there is a pretty good option for you, too. You can use store or restaurant bought food, but you should be careful in your selection. Don't buy all you need at one stop; I know of no grocery store or restaurant that has the best of everything. Some local grocery stores make good fried chicken; some of the fast food fried chicken places have good slaw, biscuits or beans. Shop around a little bit, and you can put together an impressive picnic basket, but the same rule of advance planning applies. Don't forget the paper towels, trash bags, utensils and sunblock.

Julian Glenn Brunt, who has been a Mississippi Gulf Coast resident for more than 20 years, has a deep and abiding interest in art, culture and the culinary heritage of the South. His column runs weekly in Taste. You can contact him at