By Barbara Beltrami

When I was a little kid, there were three elderly women, Harriet, Tess and Bea, friends of my grandmother, who shared a beach bungalow on some little island off the Connecticut coast. Each summer we would pack the car and make our annual pilgrimage to visit them. 

It always seemed there was so much to do there. They would send us on scavenger hunts for prizes from the dime store or foraging for beach glass. We fished, dug clams, husked corn and ate cucumbers and tomatoes from their garden and helped them make jam from the wild berries along the road. We baked cakes and cookies and pies and played cards and checkers and Monopoly on the porch.  

But best of all were the picnics, the highlights of our time there. Harriet insisted there was only one menu for any real picnic, and it could not be altered or amended. Her fried chicken took center stage while Tess’ potato salad sat in a Pyrex bowl right beside it along with Bea’s deviled eggs. Sliced tomatoes were obligatory as were iced tea and lemonade and, of course, watermelon. They would never share their recipes, but I think these are pretty good approximations.

Oven-Fried Chicken

Oven-Fried Chicken

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 broiler-fryer chickens, cut into 4 pieces each

1 quart buttermilk

1 cup flour

3 eggs, beaten

1 cup plain breadcrumbs

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

½ cup vegetable or canola oil

DIRECTIONS: 

Place chicken in a large shallow baking dish; pour buttermilk over it and coat thoroughly; turn to coat other side. Cover and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours, turning once. Preheat oven to 375 F. Remove chicken from buttermilk and pat lightly with paper towels; discard buttermilk. 

Dip chicken first in flour, then in egg and finally in breadcrumbs seasoned with salt and pepper. Pour oil into large shallow baking pan; place chicken in pan and place in oven; bake 45 minutes to 1 hour, turning once, until chicken is crisp. Remove chicken, drain on paper towels and serve hot, at room temperature or cold with potato salad, deviled eggs and sliced tomatoes.

Potato Salad

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1½ pounds small new potatoes, scrubbed

½ cup minced celery

¼ cup minced red onion

½ cup minced fresh Italian parsley leaves

½ cup (or more) mayonnaise

1 tablespoon prepared Dijon mustard

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

Boil potatoes until tender but firm; cool to room temperature; cut into bite-size chunks, if necessary. In a large bowl combine with celery, onion and parsley. In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise with mustard, salt and pepper; add to potato mixture and combine. Cover and refrigerate or serve immediately at room temperature with fried chicken, devilled eggs and sliced tomatoes.

Deviled Eggs

Deviled Eggs

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 hard-boiled eggs

Salt, to taste

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 to 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

DIRECTIONS: 

Remove egg shells, then cut eggs in half lengthwise. Remove yolks and mash with salt, mayonnaise, mustard and cayenne. With a small teaspoon, scoop mixture back into egg whites. Cover and refrigerate or serve immediately with fried chicken, potato salad and sliced tomatoes.

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