As long as it is not raining outside, spring along the Gulf Coast is the best. It's sunny and not too hot. Yes, I know July and August are on the way.
This is the perfect time for a backyard party or even a picnic at a park or the beach, whatever suits best.
A new cookbook soon to be released and featured on QVC is hitting the market just at the right time for all those springtime food activities. Louisiana native and food blogger Aimee Broussard turns everyday recipes into memorable celebrations in "Picnics, Potlucks & Porch Parties," published by Quail Ridge Press.
"Why when we throw a get-together, you can be sure, we are going to shower you with our very best recipes," Broussard says in her book.
She not only gives readers some of her favorite recipes but also ideas for presentation and decorations, all sure to make a spring, or anytime, party a hit.
I'll share a few of Broussard's recipes and entertaining suggestions, along with favorite recipes from two readers, that will work for any backyard party or even for a nightly meal. Few things beat crabmeat potatoes and orange-gin
ger glazed barbecue ribs.
Broussard offers 10 menu plans for 10 different types of parties, a country cozy fried chicken picnic, lovely little lunch on the porch, muffins for mom's recipe exchange, backyard barbecue-family reunion, Easter bunny brunch, patriotic porch party, neighborhood potluck gathering, it's tailgate time, friendsgiving feast and home for the holidays.
"Picnics, Potlucks & Porch Parties" is divided into beverages, appetizers, barbecue and grilling, breads, breakfasts and brunch, casseroles, slow cooker, seafood, main dish meats, soups and salads, vegetables and sides, cookies and candies, cakes, pies and other desserts. Whew! Broussard has packed a lot of good eating into 224 pages.
Fried chicken and picnics are synonymous, so I am sharing a few recipes from Broussard's country cozy fried chicken picnic menu.
"Have you ever been to a summertime picnic without fried chicken? Yeah, me neither," says Broussard in her book.
She does confess to be terrified of frying chicken herself, but she's picky about the crispiness of the skin, so she does it herself.
SOUTHERN-FRIED PICNIC CHICKEN
1 (2-3 pound) whole chicken, cut up
2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons salt, divided
4 teaspoons black pepper, divided
1 tablespoon Creole seasoning
3 cups shortening
Rinse chicken with cold water; pat dry with paper towels, and set aside.
Whisk together milk and eggs in a bowl.
Combine flour, 2 tablespoons salt, 2 teaspoons black pepper and Creole seasoning in a quart-size zip-top plastic freezer bag.
Dip 2 chicken pieces in flour mixture, then into egg/milk mixture. Place chicken back into flour mixture in plastic bag; seal and shake to coat. Remove chicken, and repeat with remaining pieces.
Melt shortening in a Dutch oven over medium heat to reach 350 degrees on a thermometer. Fry chicken in batches 10 minutes on each side, or until cooked through and golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with remaining 2 teaspoons salt and 2 teaspoons black pepper.
BAKED MAC & CHEESE MUFFINS
1- 1/2 cups crushed Ritz butter crackers (about 25)
2 cups grated Cheddar cheese, divided
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 (16-ounce) package elbow macaroni, cooked, drained
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 8 cups of a 12-cup muffin pan.
In a bowl, combine crushed crackers, 1 cup Cheddar cheese and melted butter. Divide mixture among prepared muffin cups and press firmly into bottom and up sides.
In a large bowl, mix cooked macaroni with 1/2 cup Cheddar cheese.
In a separate bowl, combine eggs, milk, sour cream, 2 tablespoons cold butter pieces, salt and black pepper. Stir into macaroni mixture.
Spoon 2 tablespoons macaroni mixture into each muffin cup filled with cracker mixture, and evenly top with remaining cup Cheddar cheese.
Bake until cheese is browned and slightly crispy, about 25 minutes. Allow muffins to cool slightly before removing. Serve warm.
Makes 8 muffins.
1- 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cubed
4 teaspoons cornstarch
1- 1/2 cups fresh blackberries (OK to use frozen, thawed)
Whipped cream and mint for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
In a large bowl, whisk together 1 cup sugar, baking powder, four, salt and lemon zest. Using a pastry blender incorporate cubed butter and egg until crumbly.
In another bowl, combine lemon juice, cornstarch and remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Gently toss in blackberries.
Put half of crust mixture into pan. Top with blackberry mixture, then crumble remaking crust mixture on top. Bake until top is golden brown, 35-40 minutes.
Let cool completely, then refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Cut into small bars and garnish with whipped cream and mint, if desired.
Even if picnics are not your style, who could resist Broussard's recipes? Check out the book on QVC shopping channel May 18Alison Hill and Kathy Dooley share two recipes they thought readers might enjoy for spring events.
"My mother ran and owned Ocean Springs Seafood Market," Hill said. "This recipe is the crabmeat potatoes that she sold for years."
RUBY FAYARD'S CRABMEAT POTATOES
16 medium Idaho potatoes
1 pound white crabmeat
3/4 pound margarine
1 pound shredded Cheddar cheese
1 pound sour cream
Paul Prudhomme's vegetable seasoning
Salt to taste
Red cayenne pepper to taste
Paprika to taste
Bake potatoes until done (about 1- 1/2 hours for 16)
Cut potatoes lengthwise and scoop out potato meat from skins, setting the skins on the side for later.
Place the potato meat in a large bowl or pot and add margarine, cheese, sour cream and seasonings and start mixing until well blended and there are no large chunks of potatoes. Add the crabmeat and mix again.
Spoon the mixture into potato skins and sprinkle with paprika. Wrap individual potatoes in plastic wrap. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to use. Warm in oven and serve.
-- Submitted by Alison Hill
ORANGE-GINGER GLAZED BARBECUED RIBS
4 pound pork loin back ribs or meaty pork spareribs
1/3 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup frozen Florida orange juice concentrate, thawed
2 teaspoons fresh gingerroot, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 Florida oranges, peeled, thinly sliced and seeded
Cut ribs into serving-size pieces
For barbecue sauce, in a bowl, combine thawed orange juice concentrate, onions, ginger root, Worcestershire sauce, garlic and pepper.
In a covered grill, arrange medium-hot coals around a drip pan. Test for medium heat above the pan. Place ribs on the grill rack over the drip pan.
Cover and grill for 1-1/4 to 1- 1/2 hours or until ribs are tender and no pink remains, brushing occasionally with the barbecue sauce at least 10 minutes of grilling.
Serve with orange slices.
To roast, place ribs, bone side down, on a rack in a shallow pan. Roast in a 350-degree oven for 1 hour. Brush with the sauce then roast 30 to 45 minutes more and until no pink remaining, brushing occasionally with sauce.
-- Submitted by Kathy Dooley
Wanted: Phoenicia recipe
"I'm hoping either you or one of your readers might be able to help me out," said Lynn Tuite of Ocean Springs. "The vegetable medley that is served with entrees at Phoenicia in downtown Ocean Springs is absolutely delicious. Seasoned well but gently, and the veggies (zucchini, yellow squash, onion and red pepper, maybe something else) are always crisp, even as leftovers the next day. But I can't figure out how to copycat the recipe, especially how they get the veggies 'al dente.' They do not seem to be sautéed. Could you please help?"
Perhaps the chefs at Phoenicia will share the recipe, or maybe readers know or have a similar recipe.
If so, please send it to me.
Andrea Yeager, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi MS 39535-4567.