There’s nothing like a picnic on a beautiful spring day.
I keep a blanket in my truck just in case the opportunity presents itself. On a sunny afternoon at a picturesque spot, my thoughts turn to dining al fresco.
Picnics can be as simple as a sandwich and a bag of chips eaten on a paper plate at a backyard table or as elaborate as ham and asparagus puff pastries served on china plates from a wicker basket.
In my youth, we’d even drive into the big city for a picnic. On nice summer evenings, my mom and dad would pack up dinner and drive 50 miles with my sister and me to the hillside theater at Hermann Park in Houston. There, we’d listen to an orchestra or watch a play on the big stage, all the while munching on cold chicken, potato salad and chocolate chip cookies.
Picnics bring happy memories. I can’t recall ever having one invaded by ants or cut short by a thunderstorm. One of the happiest days in my life came during a picnic: I proposed to my wife after lunch at a roadside turnout on top of a hill near Wimberley.
My proposal—delivered on one knee after the roasted chicken and cucumber salad—was punctuated by a honking horn and thumbs-up from a passing pickup.
Experiences like that beat eating inside any old day.
The next time you get a hankering to pack up the cooler and head to the great outdoors for a nosh, try this variation on fried chicken. It delivers less fat and fewer calories than the traditional deep-fried version, and it’s a lot easier to clean up afterward.
Crispy Potato Chicken
1 cut-up frying chicken or 3 large split chicken breasts
1 cup buttermilk
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon bay seasoning mix
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon red pepper, optional
1/4 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup Potato Buds (dried potato flakes)
Pull skin off chicken and discard skin or use to make chicken stock. If using chicken breasts, cut in half with cleaver or large butcher knife. Place in large sealable bag or marinating container along with buttermilk, garlic, black pepper, bay seasoning and salt and allow to marinate at least 2 hours in refrigerator or overnight, if possible. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drain marinade. Mix Parmesan, garlic salt, paprika, garlic powder and red pepper, if using, in small bowl. Add to bag and shake until pieces are well coated. Mix melted butter and oil and pour into bottom of 13x9x2-inch baking dish. Whisk egg in shallow bowl with 2 tablespoons water. Dip chicken in egg mixture and roll in potato flakes. Arrange in baking dish (bone side up if using split breasts) and bake for 30 minutes. Flip over chicken and return to oven for 30 more minutes, or until juices run clear. Immediately remove from baking dish and drain on paper towels.