first picnic of the summer

As summer approaches, it is time to recall and say thanks to those families who have given so much for us all. Great friends and family activities that typically kick off on Memorial Day include picnics, barbecues and pot lucks. There are some wonderful culinary projects that make a picnic memorable, not only for being outside in the sunshine and warmth, but also for the wonderful flavors and joy of making family time truly special.  Here are a few of my all-time favorite picnic recipes.

A family favorite here is ‘dirt-fried chicken!’ This simple, but extremely flavorful recipe, comes from my time living in Naples, Italy where we would pass rotisseries literally on the edge of a busy highway – hence the name “dirt-fried chicken. As in many things truly Italian, the chicken was unforgettable. Luckily for us, it is also easy to reproduce – without the dust. If you want to show-off before you carve the chicken, my “Trussing Poultry” video will show you how to make the girl stunningly beautiful!

chef carol’s favorite rosemary sicilian chickenSicilian Chicken

  • 1 roasting chicken (about 4 pounds)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 handful of fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 1 lemon, pricked around with fork
  • fresh parsley
  • lemon slices or wedges

Combination roasting method: Preheat oven to 425°F. Or, set up your grill to cook via indirect heat, and preheat to 425°F, Wash and dry chicken. Salt and pepper cavity of chicken; place rosemary and lemon inside cavity. Rub outside of chicken generously with olive oil. Truss chicken if desired. Place chicken on a rack in roasting pan.

Roast 15 minutes at 425°F. Baste with additional olive oil. Reduce heat to 350°F and continue basting every 15 to 30 minutes. Sprinkle chicken generously with salt after browning has begun, usually about 30 minutes. Roast until chicken is done, about 1 hour (OR reduce heat to 250°F. Cooking time will be about 4 hours; this will result in really lemony, flavorful chicken) until internal temperature reaches 160°F, and juices run clear. Remove from heat, tent with foil, let stand 10 minutes before carving.

Serve on a bed of parsley and lemons.

Serves 3-4.

sauce for sicilian chicken:

If you plan to serve the chicken as a more elegant meal, this sauce is a fantastic accompaniment.

Remove the chicken and the roasting rack from the roasting pan. After removing chicken from the roasting pan, take the lemon out of the cavity, squeeze out some lemon juice for the sauce into the roasting pan.

If the roasting pan can be used on the stovetop, place it on the burner and add one small minced shallot. Cook 2 to 3 minutes. In a small bowl, make a slurry by stirring together 1 tablespoon of arrowroot or cornstarch with 2 tablespoons dry white wine; set aside. To the roasting Add ½ to 1 cup of dry white wine, the lemon juice from the chicken. Bring to a boil; add the slurry to the sauce. Simmer until ready to serve.

insalata di patate arrosteroasted potato salad

(Roasted Potato Salad)

Let’s take standard picnic fare up a notch (or two or three). Roasting adds flavor and beautiful color to the core ingredient. It’s simple and easy to obtain beautifully roasted potatoes, my short Roasting Potatoes video will show you the technique.

  • 1 pound small red potatoes, scrubbed, dried, cut into 1/2 – 1 inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 red pepper
  • 1/4 yellow pepper
  • 1/4 green pepper
  • 1 stalk celery, very thinly sliced
  • 1/4 red onion, medium diced
  • 2 tablespoons snipped parsley
  • 1-2 tablespoons snipped fresh dill (optional)

Drizzle potatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Spread potatoes and peppers on baking sheet lined with parchment. Roast at 500°F until potatoes are browned on all edges, and skins on peppers are blistered, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven, cool.

Peel skins off peppers, dice. Toss with potatoes, celery, onion. Add dressing, parsley and dill, toss again.


  • 1 to 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon salt & pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Whisk first five ingredients together, slowly add olive oil.

The World’s All-Time Best Lemonade – simple, classic and once you’ve had this, you won’t be ordering lemonade out.




Lastly, a wonderfully refreshing drink for picnics when you don’t have to drive – Gingery Gin & Tonic.




Enjoy the season, as well as your culinary creativity and talent!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *