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Picnic potluck: 6 simple, classic recipes

St. Louis Post-Dispatch on

Published in Entertaining

More important, though, is the vinegar. Potatoes by themselves are bland, but these are greatly enlivened by being tossed in red wine vinegar with salt and pepper while they are still warm. The potatoes absorb the seasoned vinegar to become bright, lively and delightfully invigorating.

A Classic Chicken Salad is similarly easy to make. I begin by poaching boneless, skinless chicken breasts and chopping them up with celery, green onions, parsley, mayonnaise and, for a little sprightly pep, a couple of splashes of lemon juice.

So far so good. But I like my Classic Chicken Salad with a classic twist, a sprinkling of fresh tarragon that really wakes up the flavors. Fresh basil will do the same. But if you don’t want the trouble, the dish is absolutely wonderful without the fresh herbs, too.

Curried Chicken Salad takes the same basic idea and builds on it. It begins with curry powder, obviously, though not very much of it — the curry is more a hint than an assault. Halved grapes deliver a hit of contrapuntal sweetness, and toasted sliced almonds add a little burst of enjoyment in nearly every bite.

I add chopped apples to mine. I like the way they add a bit of crunch to the salad and some sweetness to help tame the curry.

The Classic Egg Salad is, as its name implies, classic. It is not encumbered by pickle relish, green onion, sweet onion, cream cheese (cream cheese?), paprika or any of that extraneous stuff. It’s simple, clean and basic: chopped eggs with mayonnaise, red onion, Dijon mustard, lemon juice and parsley.

 

It’s pure egg salad.

I happen to prefer creamy coleslaw, which is to say coleslaw with mayonnaise, to sweet and sour coleslaw, which has vinegar and sugar. But the kind I like to make is surprisingly complex precisely because it is made with, yes, vinegar and sugar.

It just has less vinegar and sugar than the sweet-and-sour version. Plus mayo, of course.

It also benefits from a clever trick, courtesy of the folks at America’s Test Kitchen. Before making the slaw, you toss the shredded cabbage with a little salt and let it sit for an hour or more. Cabbage has a lot of water in it, and this method draws some of that water out, leaving more good, undiluted cabbage flavor behind.

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