THE SALTY CHEF – with Chef Stephen Hunter

Let’s Eat Outside

The concept of eating outdoors is, of course, not new. We have been eating outside for most of human history. But it’s now a special occasion to gather with friends outdoors, everybody contributing something to a casual feast.

The history of the word in English is fairly recent, being mentioned in a letter in 1748, but it comes from the French “pique un niche” which means ‘to pick a place’. Generally that meant something a little out of the way, preferably pastoral, and with a view. It was most often used to describe a meal taken while on the hunt in 18th century England. The word was used to differentiate the outdoor meal eaten by workers in the field.

Of course picnics are mentioned in popular culture. Songs such as Teddy Bears’ Picnic and films like The Sound of Music feature the idea prominently. Alfred Hitchcock even included a flirty picnic scene in his 1954 film To Catch a Thief. In it Grace Kelly suggestively asks Cary Grant if he would prefer a leg or a breast.

While picnics today can include barbequed foods and can get quite involved, we’re going simple and a little old school with an easy salad, bread, cheese, charcuterie, veggies, olives, and cold soft drinks.

There is a beautiful park just down the street, so find a shady spot and invite your friends.

German Potato Salad

4 large new potatoes, washed and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 Tbsp plus 2 tsp kosher salt
6 slices of bacon, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 cup finely minced onion (about 1 small)
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp white sugar
1 Tbsp whole grain Dijon mustard
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh chives
The Microfarmers pea shoots for garnish

Place potatoes and 1 tablespoon salt in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 10-15 minutes until potatoes are just cooked but still have a little firmness. Strain potatoes and set aside.

While potatoes are cooking, place bacon in a large skillet and cook over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon and leave the rendered fat in the pan. Pour out all but about 3 tablespoons of fat from pan.

Add onions to pan with bacon fat and cook over medium heat until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, sugar, mustard, 2 teaspoons of salt, and pepper to make the dressing. Add the dressing to the pan with the onions and warm through.

Place potatoes, bacon, parsley, and chives in a large bowl. Add dressing and toss gently to combine. Allow to cool and add pea shoots as garnish.

Photo credit: Laura Weatherbie/Salty

About Stephen Hunter

Stephen Hunter teaches the à la carte practical program at The Culinary Institute of Canada at Holland College in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. He's also the Chef Instructor for evening dining at the Lucy Maud Dining Room.

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