A Picnic (Inside) at the Red House

Let me begin this post by telling everyone I’ve been getting a lot of spam lately most notably by some outfit called New York City Divorce Lawyers.  Are they trying to tell me something?  Like the Red House has put the husband over the edge and he’s calling it quits?

Unfortunately, because of our busy work schedules, we hadn’t been up to the Red House in over a month and he was actually looking forward to being up there. Was it the anticipation of more spackling and taping, or the fact that he thought we might actually be able to put  on a coat or two of paint?  Hard to say.  I, on the other hand, was looking forward to being in a different place (the Red House is perfect for that), and thinking of things I could cook without the benefit of a real working kitchen.  That’s when it came to me.  I was tired of winter and longing for summer.  Summer at the Red House means eating outdoors.  Could I make something akin to an (indoor) picnic at the Red House?

Reality check.  It’s still March and the snow has barely melted.  Since we have little to no heat in the Red House, having a picnic inside was kind of like eating outside on a nippy day.  So, once again I planned and packed and lugged food up to the house.  Here’s what I came up with.

The Picnic Menu

Chopped Liver Pate

Cold Shrimp Vinaigrette

Fried Chicken

Potato Salad

Mini Cheesecakes With Cherries

Prep The Night Before

The night before we drove up, I quickly sauteed some chicken livers and threw them in the food processor with a generous dash of brandy, a shallot and a hard boiled egg.  Done.

I boiled the shrimp, drained them, let them cool, then tossed them with some olive oil, lots of lemon juice and sprinkled them with salt and pepper and some red chili flakes.  Perfect.

Shrimp Salad

I figured I had at least two dishes under my belt, the rest I could make when I got up there.  But remember my dilemma — I’m a two burner girl up at the Red House.

Instead of leaving on a Friday night after work, we decided to leave early on Saturday morning. (Note to reader: early for some people means 5 a.m., early for us is 10 a.m.)  Not only did we not hit any traffic leaving that Saturday morning, but the snow had melted enough so that we didn’t have to shovel a path to reach the front door.  How awesome is that! OMG!! (Sorry, had to channel the teenage daughter for a moment.) Consequently,  we pretty much had the whole afternoon in front of us to contemplate painting, spackling, and all those other good things.

Lynn went around turning on the water and pretending he was turning on the furnace.  I, on the other hand, walked from room to room imagining big comfortable sofas in such impractical colors as white with a couple of shag rugs scattered about, and lots of art and pictures on the walls.  Then I went into the kitchen.

Remember my kitchen.  It’s disappearing soon (or so my contractor tells me.)  Look at the burnt beams on the ceiling from a previous kitchen fire (not mine).  Since it’s dark and scary and I’m always afraid something is going to fall on my head as I’m cooking (dust, dirt, a beam, a rodent), I like to do what I have to do in the space, quickly, and get out.

Kitchen Ceiling

I start to think about what I’m going to cook.  Since I think you can’t have a real picnic without some fried chicken, I start to make some.  I cup up some of the chicken I brought with me, dip the pieces in some egg mixture and then into a plate of homemade breadcrumbs. That goes into a frying pan sitting on the big burner.

Modest Fried Chicken

I have one burner left and attempt to make potato salad.  The water however takes forever to get to a boil and frankly the kitchen is just to darn cold to stand in for very long so I have to keep going in and out of the kitchen just to warm up.  (I did briefly think about getting into my car and turning on the heated seats (butt warmer seats as we like to call them) but I had to remind myself that this is what I wanted — a large house, a lot of property, and most importantly a place to escape to.

Finally, the water starts to boil, and I throw in some potatoes. When they’re done, I use the same pan to quickly fry up some pancetta, thinking I’ll do a German-style potato salad and toss the potatoes with the pancetta, add a chopped up red onion and lots of salt and freshly ground pepper.

Not Your Average Potato Salad

I lay everything on the table including some cheese and baguette and it’s a nice picnic to behold.  We dig into the food but occasionally have to get up and move around because even though we are both wearing THREE LAYERS OF CLOTHES, it’s a tad nippy in the house, so we need to keep moving.

The Spread

While I loved the chicken liver pate as an appetizer, I thought the rest of the meal was just fair.  Maybe it’s because I was cold and perhaps I should have made soup to start?  But who has hot soup at a “picnic?”  No one.  I was hoping dessert would be the clincher.  How about those mini-cheesecakes I had brought from home?

A few weeks ago I had a family get together and had leftover filling from a cheesecake I threw together. Not one to waste anything these days, I poured the extra filling into ramekins and put them in the freezer.  Luckily I also had some leftover cherries from a jar and spooned on top,  they were a nice ending to the first (and hopefully last) indoor picnic.

Cherry Cheesecake

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