The fourth of July is a great day for a picnic. Many towns have firework displays to celebrate the nation’s birthday. It’s a great day to spend time outdoors with family and friends.

What are the best foods for a picnic? There are too many answers to that question. In my opinion, the best foods for a picnic are dishes that can be eaten at room temperature. That’s what makes these following recipes great for picnics. They can be transported without refrigeration or ice and does not need to be heated to be enjoyed. Fried chicken is a popular food on Mardi Gras day. It is often bought the night before or early in the morning and enjoyed all day.

Is Fried Chicken a New Orleans dish? Of course it is. Popeye’s, the second largest chicken chain, was created in New Orleans. Al Copeland’s spicy chicken is known the world wide. His daughter Bonnie, a friend of mine, has told me stories of eating chicken 7 days a week, while Al was developing his recipe. I spent 2 years managing a Popeye’s in New Orleans. One day, I thought I could duplicate his recipe. Here is my result. If you wish, you can leave out the cayenne pepper.

Fried Chicken

Canola Oil
2 Fryer Chickens, cut into 8 pieces each
Creole Seasoning
1 cup Buttermilk
4 Eggs, well beaten
1/3 cup Water
2 cups Flour
2 tablespoons Granulated Garlic
4 teaspoons Granulated Onion
4 teaspoons Paprika
4 teaspoons Cayenne Pepper

Preheat large skillet filled with 2 inches of oil to 350℉.

Wash Chicken pieces and pat dry. Sprinkle generously with Creole Seasoning.

In a medium bowl, combine buttermilk, eggs and water; mix well. In another bowl, mix dry seasonings with flour. Dip chicken pieces in the buttermilk mixture and dredge in flour, shaking off the excess. Fry chicken for approximately 10-15 minutes until brown on both sides. Chicken is done when juice that runs out shows no trace of red. Drain well on paper towels before serving.

Perry Street is in New Orleans. It is where my wife and I lived before we moved to Searcy. This dish was created there. It is easy to prepare and great for any type of gathering. I often bring it to summer events, since it is delicious served cold or at room temperature. It is also one of my most requested recipes.

Perry Street Pasta Salad

24 ounces Rainbow Rotini, cooked al denté
1 medium Green Bell Pepper, diced
1 medium Red Bell Pepper, diced
1 medium Yellow Bell Pepper, diced
1 bunch Green Onions, sliced thin
1 pint Grape Tomatoes, washed
1 can (2.25 ounces) Sliced Black Olives, drained
1 pound Ham, diced
1 tablespoon Italian Seasoning
1 tablespoon Creole Seasoning
1 tablespoon Granulated Garlic
1 bottle (16 ounces) Robusto Italian Dressing

Cook pasta according to package directions. Cool with running water. In a large bowl, add pasta, vegetables and ham; toss well. Add dry seasonings to the salad and toss. Add salad dressing and mix well. Refrigerate for at least two hours to allow flavors to blend. Toss before serving. This can be served either cold or at room temperature.

My wife, Peggy, loves pecan pie. It is a dessert that is often asked for. Looking for a variation, I saw a picture of a Chocolate Pecan Pie. After a few attempts, here is the results. Now, I get as many request for this as I do regular pecan pie. It is the perfect balance of chocolate and pecan.

Chocolate Pecan Pie

3 cups Sugar
Pinch Salt
7 tablespoons unsweetened Cocoa
4 large Eggs
1 tablespoon Vanilla
1 can (12 ounces) Evaporated Milk
1 stick Butter, melted
1 cup Pecan Halves
2 unbaked Deep Dish Pie Shells

Preheat oven to 350℉.

In a medium bowl, mix the sugar, salt and cocoa together. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla and milk. Stir into the dry ingredients. Add the melted butter and stir until well blended. Sprinkle pecan halves in the pie shells, about 1/2 cup per shell. Pour the filling over the pecans. Bake for 40-45 minutes. The pie is done when a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean.

Have a Safe and Happy 4th of July!