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4th of July on Lake Union

09-Jul-2005

 

I woke up bright and early on 4th of July and was amazed – the sun was shining!  The forecast had called for rain overnight, then clearing around noon or so.  This was a total surprise, especially since the weather on the 4th is generally not that good.  Here in Seattle we really don’t expect summer to start until a day or two later. 

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, my friends E and BR had invited me to join them on their boat to watch the Lake Union fireworks show.  I volunteered to bring the food so I had a few things to do prior to meeting up with them at 5:00 pm.  Now I should mention that this is a very nice boat – a lovely 40-footer, tastefully appointed, so this was going to be a rather cushy experience – I have such a hard life! :-)  

On Sunday I’d done some of the pre-work:  boiled potatoes and eggs, cut up some of the onions, things like that.  On Monday I decided to start by baking the chicken and then work on the salads while it was in the oven. 

 

I started making this chicken years ago as an alternative to fried chicken. It’s not quite as crispy as deep-frying but for the trade-off in health benefits it’s worth it.  And you can use a variety of seasonings to vary it from time to time.  

 

 

 

 

Oven Fried Chicken 

Preheat the oven to 350° F

One frying chicken cut into pieces (I generally cut each breast piece into 2 pieces to make all pieces about the same size)

All purpose flour
Garlic powder
Onion Powder
Paprika
Dried Sage
Assortment of dried herbs – I generally use the "Italian" type herbs: thyme, basil, marjoram – but use whatever appeals to you
Salt and Pepper

Add one to two cups of flour to a plastic bag.  (I generally use a vegetable bag, but make sure it’s dry.) Add the balance of the ingredients.  Be generous with the spices and herbs and use more than you think you need.  You won’t use quite all of the flour so not all of the herbs and spices make it onto the chicken.  Hold the end of the bag closed and shake to mix the herbs and spices into the flour.  You should be able to see a good amount of the herbs throughout the flour – if not add a bit more and repeat. 

Wash the chicken and pat dry.  Add two or three pieces of chicken to the bag.  Hold the end closed with one hand and shake the bag until the pieces of chicken are evenly coated with flour. Remove the chicken from the bag, shake off excess flour.   Place the pieces in a lightly greased (use shortening or a spray) pan.  You’ll need a fairly large pan or two smaller ones.  You don’t want to crowd the pieces too much.  I use the bottom of my broiler pan, which also has slight ridges, which I like. 

Repeat until all pieces are coated and in the pan. 

Bake for 30 minutes, then turn the pieces over.  Bake for an additional 30 minutes. 

Remove from pan and place on paper towels to absorb excess oil.  Can be served hot or cold.  Let cool and then refrigerate until needed. 

 

 

 

While the chicken was in the oven, I started on the salads:  Potato Salad; Orzo Salad; Greek Salad.  The Potato Salad was the same salad I’ve been making since I was young – the family salad.  Probably the same or very similar to the one your family made.  The Orzo Salad is one I created a few years ago and, again, it’s very versatile – you can basically add whatever appeals to you.  The Greek Salad was the one I made for the last Dinner Club Meeting

Potato Salad

¾ pound of potatoes, boiled until fork-tender
6 hard-boiled eggs
¾ cup diced onions
¾ cup pickles, cut in rough chunks – either dill or sweet can be used, depending on preference
1 cup diced celery
Salt and Pepper

1 cup mayonnaise
1 – 2 tsp. celery seed
Pickle juice
Mustard, Dijon or "Regular" – to taste

Cut potatoes into bite-size pieces and add to large bowl.  Slice 5 of the eggs, first into rounds and then into quarters.  (I actually use an egg slicer and slice them first cross ways and then the long ways, so you almost have matchsticks.) Add the eggs, onions, pickles and celery into the bowl.  Add Salt and Pepper to taste.  Note:  All of these amounts can be varied to your particular tastes. 

In a small bowl, add the mayonnaise, celery seed and mustard. Then add a little pickle juice, stir into the mayonnaise.  Repeat until the mixture will flow from a spoon.  You want it think enough to spread easily but thick enough to "stick" to the salad. 

Gently mix the dressing into the salad, being careful not to break up the potatoes.  Put the salad into a serving bowl.  Slice the remaining egg and place the rounds decoratively around the salad.  Sprinkle with paprika, if desired.

 

Orzo Salad

1 cup dried orzo, cooked until al dente
1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup fresh cooked or frozen corn
½ cup chopped celery
¼ cup diced sweet red pepper
Chopped cilantro
Salt and Pepper
Paula’s Tangerine and Mint No-Oil Dressing

This is the list of ingredients I used on the 4th but it’s actually a little different than normal.  The orzo I had, happened to be a combination of black and white so I decided not to add Wild Rice, which I normally include.  I missed the texture of the Wild Rice.  I generally also add some sort of dried fruits – cranberries, cherries, apricots, golden raisins – whatever you have on hand and some nuts.  This 4th of July version was good, but I think next time I’ll go back to a more "normal" version. 

Basically, you just mix it all ingredients together, adding just enough dressing to make it all moist and sort of bind it and  then serve.  If you are preparing ahead of time, add more dressing then you think you need.  As it sits the orzo will absorb quite a lot. 

 

After I finished the salads, I took a little break and just packed up what I could – napkins, the bread, etc.  The next two items I wanted to make at the last minute to keep them warm until served.  This Baked Bean Recipe is one I created when I was in my teens and I still love it.  This is a hard recipe to record since I sort of make these by sight.  :-)  I know that sounds odd but it’s the truth.  I can tell by the color if I need a little more of something. 

 

Baked Beans

Preheat oven to 300° F

45 oz of Pork and Beans (Van Camps is my favorite)
1 cup of chopped onion
½ cup of chopped bacon (probably about 2 – 3 oz?)
¼ – ½ cup ketchup
¼ – ½ cup molasses
2 – 3 Tbsp. brown sugar
Prepared Mustard 

Drain all liquid from the beans.  Remove any little chunks of "pork" that you see! :-( 

Grease a 2 qt (1.8 L) casserole.  Mix the beans, onions and bacon in the casserole.  Add the ketchup, some of the molasses, some of the brown sugar and a squirt of mustard.  Mix.  You want the beans to have quite a bit of liquid but not be too sloppy.It’s better to start slow and then add more.  If you are using dark molasses you’ll need less than if you use light.  The sugar is really to taste – you want just a hint of sweetness to balance out the molasses.  Add additional ingredients, if needed.   The color should be a medium, golden brown. It will deepen to the color in the photo as the beans cook. 

Cover the casserole and bake for 1 hour.

At one hour the mixture should be boiling.  Remove the lid and bake for an additional 30 minutes – this will vary a bit depending on how much liquid you started with and how your casserole is shaped.  Wider, flatter casseroles will require less time than deeper casseroles.  You want the liquid to be like a very thick syrup. 

 

For dessert I decided to make Peach Cobbler with Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream.  I had beautiful peaches that I had picked up at the U-Dist Farmers’ Market on Saturday.  I peeled them (blanched them for a minute, then cooled them), cut them into slices, mixed them with a little brown and white sugar, pinch of nutmeg and some cornstarch.  Put them in a greased casserole, topped them with a cobbler/biscuit topping and baked 375° F for about 40 minutes – just until the topping was golden and the peaches were bubbling.  For the ice cream I used the recipe in Alice Water’s "Chez Panisse Fruit".  I made one slight alteration – I added a bit of Vanilla Paste in addition to the vanilla bean used in the recipe. 

 

 

To keep the beans and cobbler warm I loaded them into a "cooler" padded with towels, directly from the oven.  The towels, warmth from the dishes and insulation in the cooler, kept both dishes at a nice warm temperature until dinner time.  And, of course, all the salads and cold items went into a cooler filled with ice. 

I lucked out and got parking very close to the marina – the crowds were already out all along the shores of Lake Union, the houseboats filled with partiers, and boats were jockeying for the perfect anchor spot out in the lake. 

Everyone in our group arrived about the same time, so in no time we loaded up the boat and headed out to find our spot. We found a great location right at the edge of the anchor area and about three "rows" back from the front line.  (They block off quite a large area around the barge that holds the fireworks, as you might imagine.) E and BR got the boat settled, I started pouring the wine for the WBW Tasting, and R settled in with a book.  

We sipped our beverages and watched the "show" around us.  After an hour or so, I placed all the options on the table below and had everyone serve themselves buffet-style.  We ate one round, then I cleaned up that set of dishes and then served the cobbler – it was a special treat.  It was still warm and slightly melted the ice cream to form a lovely mix of hot and cold. 

I left the food out for awhile and people continued grazing off and on.  One of my favorite memories of the night (other than the actual fireworks of course!) was suddenly hearing "This is a great ice-cream scoop!   come drifting up from the cabin. I just started laughing.  You see E was having a little more cobbler and ice cream.  Being a loyal reader of this blog, he’d read my comment about the ice-cream scoop in my Utensibility post and remembered it. 

We spent the next few hours eating, talking, laughing (at one point we were all laughing our heads off and rolling on the benches – I wish I could remember what that was about!), enjoying the sun and the views.  About 10 pm the fireworks started over Puget Sound and we could see the highest ones as the soared over Queen Anne hill.  A few minutes later our show started.  It was an amazing show!!  Really one of the best I’ve seen anywhere.  And being out on the boat you are so close to the fireworks, that it’s just like you are going to be sucked in at any moment.  Love that! 

After the show we hung out for a bit, letting some of the most hectic traffic get off the lake before making our way back to the marina.  We unloaded and made our way back to our vehicles.  It was a late night and those morning meetings were going to come around pretty early but it was worth it!  I think this might have been one of the most perfect 4th of Julys ever! 

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