Food & Drink

RO’s Recipes: Picnics on the Fourth of July, Part 2

For the elegant picnic Ro Howe, chef/owner of Barraud Caterers, in New York City (see Part 1), has devised to mark the day of our Revolution, she offers these grilling recipes, as well as suggestions for sparking games for both children and grown-ups.—Ed.

Your menu is planned, so now you should make lists that not only cover the food items, but also all the equipment you’re going to need for cooking, serving, plating, drinking, and eating. If you don’t have the convenience of picnic tables and chairs and are having a floor picnic, then take a large, sturdy blanket. (Underline it with tough garbage bags to water- and dirt-proof it.) Provide cushions, if you have the room, and ask your guests to bring their own.

Select a cool, shaded area to lay your blanket. If it’s a beach feast, then umbrellas are a must, to keep you cooler and the cooler out of direct sunlight.

Which brings me to food safety: please don’t be tempted to save the leftovers if they contain eggs (mayonnaise), processed foods like vegetable dips, dairy, or primary protein. For every degree above 40 degrees, the bacteria present double every 20 minutes, on average. This may not kill you, or even make you unwell, but do you really want to take the chance? Of course, uncut and unprocessed fruit and vegetables will not be affected by the lack of constant refrigeration. The processed-food exception is wine—but there’s a good chance that will have been happily disposed of.

Consider the event’s entertainment—just as you do when you invite guests to your home and decide to greet them, say, with a light jazz piece playing in the background. If children are part of the group, they must be provided with some games and activities with an adult coach or monitor. For example, assign an adult to plant the clues for a scavenger hunt to entertain the children later.

Plan some games for the adults, too. They don’t have to be physical or boisterous—in fact, preferably not the latter if there are other picnickers within hearing. You can have planned ahead by asking each guest to devise a riddle to tease fellow guests, or to come with a short poem or prose text to read and discuss. If some of your guests play an easily transportable musical instrument, ask them to regale everyone with a short piece or two. The important thing is to make all this optional if it doesn’t feel right, and to relax and go on discussing, chatting, sharing stories, or paddling in the water.

If your excursion is likely to tread into twilight and beyond, be sure to take a working flashlight for each person. Stumbling around in the dark in an unknown place on unfamiliar terrain is a pretty sure bet for an accident, especially under the influence of vinous jollity.

Remember to take garbage bags for trash as well as for soiled containers, plates, and utensils. Along with the beer or wine, juice, and mineral water, pack extra water for rinsing fingers, along with some wipes and dries. Most picnic areas have toilet facilities, but if you haven’t visited them beforehand, my advice is to take along some personal TP and soap as backup.

Also consider uninvited guests. Insect repellant in whatever form you prefer is a must for outdoor summer activities. But you should also consider the small rodent guests that come late to the feast. Most picnic grounds urge you to dispose of your litter responsibly when you leave.

For the suggested menu, see Part 1. That article also provides links to several recipes in addition to the two below.

Grilled Sriracha Flank Steak with Honey Drizzle

Yield: Six portions accompanied by other dishes

Equipment: grill or grill pan, measuring spoons and cups, tongs, instant-read thermometer, small bowl, small fine wire whisk, plates and bowls for condiments

One whole piece flank steak—about 2 pounds
¼ cup Sriracha (from Asian groceries)
¼ cup sambal oelek (from Asian groceries)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Separated leaves from one Boston lettuce
2 cups store-bought kimchi
¼ cup chopped, roasted peanuts
1/3 cup thinly sliced scallion
1 cup cilantro leaves

½ cup honey
¼ cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil

Combine the Sriracha and sambal and vegetable oil.

Pat the flank steak dry with paper towels. Smear the marinade over the flank and place in plastic container, covered, in refrigerator overnight.

Wipe off marinade and season steak with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Heat a large sauté pan. Add vegetable oil. When shimmering, add flank and sear over high heat for two minutes each side.

Remove to cooler part of grill and cook until internal temperature reaches 115 degrees—about 8 to 10 minutes. Rest, covered, for 10 minutes.

To serve, plate lettuce leaves, kimchi, peanuts, scallions, and cilantro leaves for guests to serve themselves. Slice steak and drizzle with soy-honey. Let guests help themselves to more as desired.


Ginger-Chili Lobster with Grapefruit

Yield: Six portions accompanied by other dishes

Equipment: Large saucepan or pasta pot with lid, tongs, half sheet tray, two and a half quart sauce pan, measuring spoons and cups, wooden spoon, wire whisk.


Three 1½-pound live lobsters

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 red onion, peeled & chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
¼ cups peeled, chopped fresh ginger
2 6-inch stalks lemongrass, outer leaves removed & finely minced
2 bird’s-eye chilies, seeds & ribs removed, but reserved
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
¼ cup ketchup
½ cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon fish sauce/nam pla
6 tablespoons grapefruit juice
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro


Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add lobsters one at a time and bring back to a boil. Boil for eight minutes. Remove to sheet tray to cool. Repeat with remaining lobsters.

When cool enough to handle, remove body and claw shells.

Cut the lobsters in half and remove digestive tract. Chill.

If serving at a picnic without knives, cut the lobster bodies into large one-bite pieces for ease of eating.

For the sauce, heat a two and a half quart saucepan over medium heat.
Add oil, onion, garlic, ginger, lemongrass and chilies. Sauté until the onion is translucent—about 6 minutes.

Add the vinegar, ketchup, coconut milk, fish sauce, and grapefruit juice.

Season with salt and pepper. Cook till flavors are melded.

If you want more heat, add back the reserved seeds and ribs.

When the sauce is cool, blend in a food processor and pass through a strainer, pressing to extract all the juices. If the sauce is too thin, whisk in the extra vegetable oil.

To serve, pour the cold sauce over the chilled lobsters.

Sprinkle with chopped cilantro.


Happy Fourth!


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