We chat with cookbook author and cooking teacher Gail Monaghan about planning the perfect summertime picnic.
"Faites simple" is French for “Keep it simple,” which is the age-old advice chef Auguste Escoffier imparted nearly a century ago while cooking at the Paris Ritz, and later at London's Savoy Hotel, that is still applicable today. Gail Monaghan, cookbook author of books like Perfect Picnics for All Seasons, turns to this same phrase when planning a meal or picnic.
Since July is National Picnic Month, we asked Monaghan to spill her top four tips on how to plan a perfectly simple and delicious picnic this summer.
"The most common picnic mistake people make is not planning ahead. To avoid running out for last-minute purchases or even worse, arriving at the picnic site missing major items, start a few days ahead and do some list-making. Include the things you plan to add to your picnic basket, and prepare silverware, napkins, and non-perishables.
“Think through the location, number of guests, menu, amenities of the particular venue, seating, beverages, plates, utensils, and anything else that might be appropriate such as bug repellent and matches. Bring extra plastic baggies and garbage bags for storing leftovers, trash, and dirty dishes and utensils.”
Avoid Messy or Difficult Food
"Be sure liquids are in well-sealed containers or unopened bottles or cans. I don't bring soup on picnics but if you want to, make sure it's tightly sealed in a thermos. Don't bring foods served in liquids or messy sauces. Picnic food is easiest if it can be served at room temperature.
“I like to avoid utensils when I can and serve as much simple finger food as possible. I also avoid fragile items—such as delicate pastries—that could be easily spoiled by bumps in the road. Watermelon, whole fruits, cookies, sandwiches, quiches, crudités, fried or grilled chicken pieces, charcuterie, cheese, and hard boiled eggs all make sense."
Invest in a Good Cooler
"An efficient cooler can mean the difference between a crisp salad and wilted one, a perfect cheese and a melted one, and refreshing cold drinks versus the lukewarm. A cooler is also imperative for transporting perishables such as meats, egg products, and mayonnaise."
Don't Forget the Salt and Pepper
"My first cooking school instructor taught us that the line between too little salt and just the right amount was an extremely fine one. The amount of salt makes all the difference. And a few grindings of fresh pepper don't hurt either."