I must admit, this southern-inspired picnic spread is quite different from the picnics of my childhood, where we’d climb up the jagged rocks of the Pacific and make do with a sharp, scratchy seat. We’d pack a simple spread of peanut butter sandwiches and grapes, and somehow it always tasted perfectly of salt and sand and ocean air. It was simple, rustic, and my favorite way to spend the afternoon.
And while I've traded in a view of the sea for rolling hills and grassy knolls, I still love a good picnic just the same. Only now, it means laying a soft throw on a plush lawn, with a bottle of chilled Rosé and just enough humidity to remind you you're still outside.
Heat or no heat, there's just nothing like grazing under a shady Magnolia tree to make you feel blissfully lazy and content. I like to bring foods that are easy to pack, simple enough to eat and complimentary of course.
For this southern-inspired picnic spread, I knew I wanted to begin with fried chicken brined overnight in a bath of pickle juice. And while that might sound like an odd combination, the result is a cool, dill-flavored chicken that’s incredibly juicy. It pairs so well with the extra crispy fried coating that takes on a subtle hint of spice from the blend of cayenne, nutmeg and black pepper. Somewhere in the middle it gets dipped in a bowl of buttermilk, so you can just imagine how flavorful it all is.
To compliment the fried chicken, I prepared a simple salad of cucumber, fennel and radish. Lightly dressed with a bit of greek yogurt and lemon juice and sprinkled with fennel fronds, it was the perfect way to cool down and still leave room for a bit of goat cheese with lavender and peppery wafers. For dessert, we nibbled on a bowl of sweet cherries and washed it all down with a glass of Rosé. A perfectly Southern afternoon, I must say.
Here's hoping this spread inspires your own, and as always, thanks for stopping by!
Pickle-Brined Fried Chicken
For the Brine:
- 8 Chicken Drumsticks (or a mixture of chicken breasts, thighs or drumsticks)
- 3 cups dill pickle juice
For the Frying:
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 Tbsp. ground black pepper
- 1 Tbsp. paprika
- 2 Tbsp. sea salt
- 1/2 Tbsp. cayenne pepper
- 2 Tbsp. baking powder
- 1 Tbsp. garlic powder
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 2 quarts vegetable oil, for frying
1.) To brine the chicken, place the chicken pieces in a large ziplock bag and set the bag in a large bowl to keep it upright. Then, pour the pickle juice in the bag, squeeze out the excess air and seal. Make sure each chicken piece is coated evenly with the juice and place in the refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight.
2.) To fry the chicken, place the flour, black pepper, paprika, salt, cayenne pepper, baking powder and garlic powder into a large bowl and mix well. Then, in a separate bowl, pour the buttermilk. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and place on a baking sheet or plate and pat dry with a paper towel.
3.) Next, place a large dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat and pour in the oil. Use a cooking thermometer to gauge the temperature and heat to 350 degrees.
4.) While the oil heats, take each piece of chicken and coat it in the flour mixture, then dip it in the buttermilk and then finally, coat it in the flour mixture once more. Shake off the excess flour and set each piece on a cooling rack until all pieces are coated and the oil is heated to 350 degrees.
4.) Finally, carefully set each piece into the oil and let fry for 13-15 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken is at 165 degrees. To ensure even browning, work in batches to prevent overcrowding and turn the chicken occasionally.
5.) Once cooked through, use tongs to carefully remove the fried chicken from the oil and place on a cleaned cooling rack over paper towels. The cooling rack prevents the fried chicken from getting soggy and will ensure an evenly crisp coating. Let cool for about ten minutes, then enjoy!
Creamy Cucumber, Fennel and Radish Salad
- 1 English cucumber, thinly sliced
- 1 fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced, plus 2 Tbsp. of fennel fronds, chopped
- 5-6 radishes, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup greek yogurt
- 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
- salt and pepper
Place the cucumber, fennel, radishes and fennel fronds into a bowl and toss to combine. In a separate bowl, place the greek yogurt, lemon juice and 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Then, add as much or as little of the creamy dressing to the cucumber mixture and toss. Add salt and pepper to taste.