There is something about the Fourth of July that demands a picnic.
Sure, it's hot, and it seems like the ants, mosquitoes and lightning bugs have just been waiting for this opportunity to join us at table. But mainly, there are fireworks, and how can you resist eating under the glow?
With that in mind, we put together a Maryland picnic menu featuring four tasty traditional dishes for the Fourth.
The main dish is Maryland fried chicken, so-called because after it is rubbed with dry mustard and deep-fried, it is sprinkled with Old Bay, to give it that local feel.
The slow-cooked baked beans are flavored with green peppers, onions, tomato and molasses. The potato salad is soothing, with celery added for crunch. The grilled corn was grown in Maryland (though admittedly, the lime that is squeezed on it was probably an import).
With these go a slice of watermelon, a fixture on the Fourth, and a glass of sweet iced tea.
These recipes have been a fixture at picnics past; the eaters loved them, as did the bugs.
Maryland Fried Chicken
Makes: 6 servings
4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces (breasts halved crosswise, leg quarters separated into thighs and drumsticks)
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups peanut oil or vegetable shortening Old Bay seasoning to taste
Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Combine the mustard, garlic powder and salt in a small bowl and sprinkle evenly over the chicken. Combine the flour and baking powder in a shallow dish and, working with one piece at a time, dredge the chicken parts until well coated, then shake off excess. Refrigerate on a plate for 30 minutes, or up to 2 hours.
Adjust an oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
On the stovetop, heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or similar vessel, over medium high heat to 375 degrees. Arrange half of the dredged chicken, skin side down, cover and cook until well browned, about 5 minutes per side. Lower the heat to medium, adjusting the burner as necessary to maintain oil temperature between 300 and 325 degrees. Cook the chicken, uncovered, turning with tongs as necessary, until cooked through, about 5 minutes. (The internal temperature should register 160 degrees for the white meat and 175 for the dark meat on an instant-read thermometer.)
Transfer the chicken to a wire rack set over a baking sheet, season with Old Bay and place in the warm oven.
Bring the oil back to 375 degrees and repeat with the remaining chicken.
Adapted from The Cook's Country Cookbook
Makes: 6 servings
2 cans pork and beans containing a total of 44 ounces (one 2-pound, 9-ounce can plus a 16-ounce can)
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoon horseradish
1 small onion, diced
1 medium tomato, diced
1/2 medium green pepper, diced
1 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon salt Black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/2 cup molasses (you can substitute brown sugar)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 strips of uncooked bacon, halved.
1 tablespoon butter
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
In a large bowl combine all the ingredients, except the bacon. Mix well.
Grease a large casserole with the butter. Place the mixture in the casserole and top with bacon strips, Bake covered for 1 hour, then remove cover and bake for 1 more hour.
Source: Maxine Dellinger
Makes: 8 servings
4 pounds all purpose potatoes
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 1/2 teaspoons salt Fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced green pepper
1 tablespoon celery seeds
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1/8 teaspoon paprika
In a large pot or stockpot cover the potatoes with a generous amount of salted cold water. Bring to boil, cover, and cook for 40 minutes or until tender.
Drain and peel the hot potatoes (put on thick kitchen mittens to avoid burning your fingers) and cut into 1-inch cubes. You should have about 10 cups of potatoes.
Pour the vinegar mixed with sugar over the hot potatoes, add the onion and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Set aside for 1 hour.
Toss the celery, green pepper and celery seeds into the potatoes with your hands. Mix in the mayonnaise. Taste and correct the seasoning. Sprinkle with paprika.
Source: " A Passion for Potatoes" by Lydie Marshall
Makes: 6 servings
6 ears of corn, shucked and kernels rubbed with butter
2 limes, quartered
Heat a charcoal or gas grill to high. Rub corn with butter. Grill over direct fire, turning occasionally until kernels are brown, 3-4 minutes.
Remove corn from grill, squeeze lime juice on corn, and serve immediately.
Sweet Iced Tea
Makes: 6 servings
6 tea bags of Orange Pekoe or similar tea
1/2 cup sugar Ice cubes
Cut lemon in half, squeeze the juice. Put lemon halves and juice in the bottom of a large pitcher.
Add the sugar to the lemons and juice.
Bring a kettle of cold water to a boil. Place tea bags in tea pot, add hot water, let steep for five minutes.
Pour hot tea into pitcher, stirring the lemon, tea and sugar mixture with a wooden spoon.
Add ice cubs so that as they melt, the volume of the mixture is almost doubled. Stir well, remove lemon halves , serve in tall glasses over ice.
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