Celebrate the French Connection on Bastille Day with a French Pique-nique
The French celebrate their National holiday on July 14th pretty much just as we Americans do ours on July 4th, with parades and fireworks, singing the national anthem, waving red, white, and blue flags, and of course with grilling or picnicking with family and friends. They grill simple fare in their backyards, such as skewers of chicken or lamb, merguez sausages, or even fresh sardines. Or they pack up picnic food and bottles of wine in coolers or baskets and head for riverside beaches. Here is a simple, prepare ahead “peek-neek” for 4 people:
- A fresh crusty baguette or two
- Charcuterie Plate with thin sliced hard salami (3-4 slices per person) and prosciutto slices (1 per person), young, fresh, washed whole radishes, and oil cured black olives
- Cold Roast Garlic chicken and garlicky aioli made the night before and refrigerated
- French Lentil Salad, made the night before and refrigerated
- A round of ripe Brie and fresh washed cherries or apricots
- A 3L Box of Rose
Lemon Garlic Roast Chicken
- Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated with Microplane
- 2 TBS plus 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 medium clove of garlic, finely grated with Microplane
- 1 TBS thyme leaves, finely chopped
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 3-to-4-pound whole organic, rinsed and patted dry
- 2 TBS melted butter
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- In a small bowl, combine the lemon zest and kosher salt, rubbing them together with your fingers. Add the garlic, thyme and black pepper.
- With your fingers, gently lift the skin of the chicken away from the meat to create pockets. Evenly spread the lemon/spice/herb mixture under the skin. Where you can't get under the skin, rub a little of it on the outside of the skin. Allow chicken to stand at room temperature for 15 minutes to dry out.
- Line a roasting pan with parchment and place the chicken, breast-side up, inside. Truss chicken and rub melted butter all over the skin.
- Place in oven and roast for 20 minutes, then lower the temperature to 400° and continue to roast for another 20 to 25 minutes or until the juices run clear when you pierce the thigh or breast. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before refrigerating.
- Before packing for picnic, carve chicken, separating wings, legs and thighs. Split breast and remove breast meat from each half in a whole piece. Slice breast meat. Put chicken into a plastic container or large sealable bag. Serve with Garlicky Aioli as a condiment.
- Note I usually cook a couple of chickens at the same time and serve one hot. I also freeze the carcass to use for making stock.
Green Herb Aioli
- 2 egg yolks (large)
- 2 TBS lemon juice (juice of ½ lemon)
- 1 TBS water
- 1 medium clove of garlic, chopped
- 1 C mixed fresh herbs, loosely packed (parsley, tarragon, basil and chives)
- 1 C canola oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- In a blender, combine the egg yolks, lemon juice, water, garlic, herbs, and blend, stopping occasionally intermittently to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula. It will still be runny at this point.
- With the blender running, pour the oil in a slow, steady, thin stream. Continue blending until aioli is thickened to a smooth, mayonnaise consistency, stopping once to scrape down the sides. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper as needed. Store in an airtight container and chill until ready to serve.
French Lentil Salad
- 5 C low salt chicken stock (vegetable stock or water for vegetarian)
- 2 C French green lentils from Le Puy, rinsed and picked over
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 medium cloves garlic, grated on the Microplane
- 2 small celery stalks, finely diced
- 2 small carrots, finely diced
- 1 medium onion, finely dices
- 1 ½ tsp fresh thyme, minced
- ¼ C + 1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
- 3 TBS red wine vinegar
- 1 TBS smooth Dijon mustard
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Pour water, washed lentils and bay leaf into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, and then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add 1 tsp salt and simmer for 8-10 more minutes or until lentils are tender but still hold their shape. When lentils are done cooking, drain into a colander and rinse with cool water. Discard bay leaf.
- While lentils cook, heat 1 TBS extra virgin olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add celery, carrots, garlic, onion, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook about 5 min, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent. Take off heat.
- In a small bowl, whisk vinegar, mustard and remaining ½ teaspoon salt together quickly. Add remaining ¼ C olive oil in a thin, steady stream, whisking quickly and constantly, until sauce is thoroughly blended.
- Add lentils and sauce to the pan with the cooked vegetables and stir to mix. Serve warm, cold or at room temperature. Leftovers will keep for 3-4 days in the fridge.
- Note: French Green Lentils from Le Puy are great for lentil salads as they hold their shape and have an amazing nutty, spicy flavor. If you cannot find these, make sure you cut the cooking time by a few minutes.
Pairing Pique-nique with wine
This is the food and the occasion for a 3 Liter box of dry rosé. A 3L Box is equivalent to 4 bottles of wine, and once chilled stays cold much longer than a bottle. The wine is dispensed from a spigot on the side of the box, so fruit flies and yellow jackets, who love to hover at the mouth of a wine bottle, are not a problem. If you and your friends finish the box, it is disposable or light weight to carry out. If you don’t finish it, the wine will be good for another month as it is vacuum packed. The French have been enjoying good wines from boxes for decades.
TRY: La Vieille Ferme Cotes-de-Ventoux Rosé 3L 2017, a classic rosé blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault grapes, is the driest vintage they’ve experienced in 30 years. The wine is clean and long, firm and crisp, with tangy berry flavors and a hint of stone dust reminiscent of the sunny hills of Provence. Wine & Spirits Best Buy, Year’s Best Rosés, 90 Points
TRY: Black Box California Rosé 3L The latest offering from Black Box Wines, this is a medium dry style, rosé blend from California that includes Merlot and Syrah, so it is slightly fruitier and sweeter than the French one. This is refreshing with a hint of strawberries and watermelon flavors.
TRY: Bota Box California Rosé 2017 The 2016 Vintage was from Chile. this one is California, light, crisp and refreshing, low alcohol with refreshing acidity, and made with Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and some aromatic whites. Not a traditional rosé, but a really nice wine!
The French are inclined to make the picnic a “dine fine” affair and often tote dining room worthy dishes, and serving platters, cloth napkins and stemmed wine glasses for the pique-nique. I have even seen French families in gravelly roadside turn offs, seated in chairs and dining at a card table covered with a linen cloth.
But I’ll admit, for picnics, I always use paper plates, paper napkins and sturdy plastic tableware. I drink wine from small Mason jars, and serve the food from covered containers. A pair of kitchen tongs, a large serving spoon, and a medium sized sharp kitchen knife are standard! And a corkscrew, of course, just in case!
Roz Mayberry, has been buying the wine for the D&W Fresh Markets for nearly 20 years, and tastes it all, of course. She leads a team of thirteen enthusiastic wine and food knowledgeable Stewards who keep the customers interested and happy in the stores every day.
Roz grew up on the east coast, where she spent most of her childhood outside, just rummaging around in the woods, or reading and daydreaming. She loves nothing better than summer camping, especially on the northern coast of Maine, looking up into the night sky, listening to the Atlantic rush over the rocks, and drinking Sauvignon Blanc with lobster. She moved to her new home on the beautiful shore of Lake Michigan in the early 1970s.
Travel-to-eat and years of life in France have made her a hopeless foodie.