I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love a good cookout. I love planning the menu, inviting everyone I know (and, when the date coincides with the appropriate holiday, their mothers), obsessively checking the weather report on preceding days, and, if the weather gods cooperate, drinking sangria on the grass in the sunshine.
What I don’t love? Being at the mercy of a crappy Brooklyn car service to get all of our gear to Prospect Park.
Being fashionably late is one thing; arriving at your own party nearly two hours past the appointed starting time is a whole ‘nother deal. Somewhat sadly, though, I have friends who expect nothing less of me and got things started on their own; all I had to do when I finally got there was unpack my food and pour myself a drink. (What kind of drink, you ask? Why, watermelon sangria, of course. See photo, above.)
Of course, by the time I remembered to take pictures, a serious dent had been made in most of the dishes; I was a bit sidetracked, what with my tardy arrival and everything, so I’m pretty proud that I remembered to get out the camera at all. I completely forgot to snap one of the jerk pork—one of the few dishes I make over and over again, as I’d have a mutiny on my hands otherwise. I meant to take an action shot of Josh manning the grill and another shot of the results, so you’ll just have to take my word that the delicious tidbits that came off the coals and were passed around would’ve made your mouth water.
Unless you’re a vegetarian, in which case you’ll want to stick to the photos below.
Martha Stewart’s Curried Potato Salad.
Gourmet magazine’s Tuscan Beans in Summery Tomato Ragú.
Possibly the biggest hit of the afternoon: My friend John’s Poached Chicken Salad with Papaya, Mango, Watercress, and Curried Mango-Chutney Dressing. (He’s promised me the recipe, so stay tuned. Update: See below for recipe!)
Another crowd-pleaser: Dalena’s Rice and Peas. As making rice is a kitchen skill that I just don’t seem to possess, this perfectly cooked contribution was a most-welcome addition to the spread.
Note the difference between Dalena’s rice and the gummy-looking stuff you see here; I’m going to claim that my seasoning was OK, it was the texture that was just plain wrong. Adapted from Cooking Light’s recipe for Lentil Couscous with Spinach.
The remnants of Marcus Samuelsson’s Mango Sambal.
A Cucumber Sambal, also from Mr. Samuelsson.
Other things that were really, really good that didn’t get their photo ops: Shannon’s Lambrusco-based sangria, Nicole’s homemade cupcakes, Eugene’s meatball-sized burgers, Lisa’s teriyaki-marinated beef-and-green-pepper skewers, and Annika’s apple pies.
Did you get a bite of something that I’ve neglected to mention? Let me know in the comments!
Island Chicken Salad
From The New Basics Cookbook, by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins
2 chicken breasts (or more)
White wine (a bottle or less)
Lemon juice from half a lemon
Black peppercorns, whole
Ripe mango (about two larger ones)
Ripe papaya (about half a papaya)
Lime, for garnish and for dousing papaya
Curried Mayonnaise (recipe follows)
1. Put chicken breasts in a saute pan; add peppercorns, bay leaf, sprigs of thyme, juice of half a lemon, and enough wine and supplementary water to cover. Bring to a gentle simmer (foam will form, which you can skim off), just a ripple, and cook for 10 minutes. No lid.
2. Allow to cool thoroughly in broth, then discard broth, thyme, peppercorns, bay leaf. Slice breasts with the “grain” thinly on the bias.
3. Peel and slice mango, cutting into wedges or strips, and sprinkle with lime and lemon juice. Combine in a bowl.
For Curried Mayonnaise:
½ large onion, diced
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 cup mayo
Juice of one lime
Several tablespoons sour cream
2 or 3 heaping tablespoons mango chutney
1. Using a skillet, saute onion in oil over low flame, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. (John added a little sugar and balsamic vinegar to the onions as they cooked.) Add curry, cook for another five minutes. Allow to cool thoroughly.
2. Combine curried onion with mayo, sour cream, lime juice and chutney. Stir well, and refrigerate until ready to use.
3. For each serving, place a few sprigs of the watercress on a plate. Top with a fan of chicken breast slices and a scoop of mango-papaya mixture, then add a generous helping of curried mayonnaise. Garnish with lime wedge.