Picnic potluck: 6 simple, classic recipes

St. Louis Post-Dispatch on

Published in Entertaining

Deirdre was invited to a picnic. Deirdre went to the grocery store and bought a plastic tub of potato salad. Everyone else brought homemade food and regarded Deirdre with barely concealed contempt.

Don’t be Deirdre.

It’s picnic season again. Even people who are not good cooks can take this opportunity to avoid embarrassment by making their own dishes for the occasion.

I’m not talking about anything fancy or difficult. It doesn’t have to impress. All your friends and family will be appreciative if it just comes from your own hands.

It’s the difference between a homemade Mother’s Day card made with crayons and glitter, and a mass-produced one bought at a store.

Let’s stick with the basics, the simple staples that are welcomed at every picnic and potluck: potato salad, coleslaw, pasta salad, egg salad and chicken salad.


OK, let’s get just a little fancy. We’ll make an ordinary American chicken salad and also a curried chicken salad. I love curried chicken salad.

What all of these recipes have in common is mayonnaise. None of them has a lot of it — too much mayo can detract from the main ingredient of the salad — but each has just enough to build flavors from a creamy, smooth base.

For potato salad, I always use red potatoes; their firm texture holds up best to boiling, their skins add just the right astringent note to balance the richness of the mayonnaise and their taste is the best to play off the other ingredients.

In this case, the other ingredients of note are red onion, Dijon mustard and minced sweet pickles. It’s subtle, but there is a bit of a sweet-and-sour vibe going on in this dish.


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