You will find the Svitaks gathered at the lake this weekend for our annual reunion and food fest, lawn chairs circling a table laden by the quirkiness and predictability of potluck. That means deviled eggs and chicken wings, as always, along with the usual mainstays of a summer picnic — plenty of salads and sweets. We will leave, sunburned and spent, after hours of floating on the water or sprawling on the grass, tales of the past ringing in our ears.
This is the season of potluck, whether it’s a gathering of friends and family at a reunion or a block party down the street. As guests, and occasional hosts, we cooks need something portable that will keep a lot of people happy and that can be served chilled or at room temperature. Here are some of my favorites.
Deviled eggs: Doesn’t matter what kind of gathering you have — deviled eggs are a hit whether it’s high-end or picnic fare. The traditional version, egg yolks mashed with mayo and mustard, always satisfies. But if you want to mix up the dish a bit, mash the egg yolks with a pimento-cheese blend (see recipe under Related Coverage) or include a little pesto with the mayo (and skip the mustard). Whichever way you prepare them, the eggs are guaranteed to be the first food depleted at the picnic table. Keep in mind that the best way to hard-cook eggs is to place them in a single layer in a saucepan, filled with cold water that tops the eggs by about 1 inch. Bring the water to a boil, then immediately take the pan off the burner and cover. Let the eggs sit for 15 minutes before plunging them into cold (or icy) water to chill quickly. In theory, the shells should come off easily.
Chicken: Wings are the familiar go-to for many cooks. My neighbor brought Korean marinated wings to every neighborhood function for years. (Thanks, Chae Gauer!) This version, adapted for drumsticks, has joined my regular repertoire. It offers the same heavy dose of ginger and garlic.
Cabbage salad: Slaw can be so predictable. Or not. Chef Alex Roberts made a standout version that was served in the early days of his Brasa restaurant. So memorable, in fact, I had to have the recipe for readers (well, for me, too). Finely shredded cabbage combines with an explosion of herb flavors (parsley, cilantro and mint), before being tossed with a spicy lime vinaigrette (chile included). Wow.
Summer never tasted better.
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