Grilled chicken is an all-American summer classic, perfect for a picnic or a backyard dinner. But when you soak it in a buttermilk brine for extra moist and tender results and add subtle Indian-inspired spices, it suddenly becomes special.
Nobody wants to be stuck in the kitchen on sultry summer nights, so we've devised a flexible alfresco menu that lends itself to anything from a beach party with the kids to a nighttime concert in the park with friends and a bottle of wine.
Our buttermilk-brined chicken is savory and juicy, whether you grill it ahead of time or at your picnic site. Fresh corn and arugula salad combine the best vegetables of the season with the delicate flavor of crushed coriander, while cornmeal pound cake with chai spices sets off a topping of ripe summer fruit. Buy some chewy onion flatbread to nibble alongside, and serve a crisp Riesling and fresh lemonades to sip.
A flexible feast
You can do all of the time-consuming elements in this picnic menu ahead of time. Here's the plan. (Follow notes in recipes for storing foods; if they are chilled, transport in an ice chest.)
2 days ahead. Shop for all ingredients, including wine, lemonade, and onion flatbread (available in well-stocked supermarkets and in Indian markets). Brine chicken, if you are grilling it 1 day ahead. Crush coriander seeds for salad.
1 day ahead. Grill chicken (step 4) if serving it cold; or, if grilling chicken just before serving, brine it now. Make dressing for salad. Bake pound cake.
4 hours ahead. Mix salad. Prepare fruit and whip the cream for the cake.
Just before serving. Grill chicken, if serving hot. Mix salad with dressing and top with crushed coriander. Slice cake and top with fruit and cream.
More: 20 great chicken dinners