I’m going to a concert at the Hollywood Bowl this weekend. Aside from the usual excitement about the concert itself, I get into the whole picnic-under-the-stars thing. I love the idea of eating and drinking outside while listening to great music. In all honestly though, I am picnic basket challenged. So much so that I don’t even own a picnic basket, but that’s beside the point.
I’ve been on picnics many times before, and I have done my share of assembling meals of cold chicken, sandwiches and salads. But this time I wanted something more. Something that would be fun, satisfying and different from the usual lackluster picnic food of my past.
I found it. And it’s been lurking in one of my favorite cookbooks all this time.
You will need an 8-inch round loaf of sourdough bread. I was able to find this one in the bakery section of my local grocery store.
Slice the top off and begin to pull out chunks of the bread that you will reserve for another use like bread crumbs or something like that. Mine didn’t make it that far. My kids and their friends were eating the bread chunks as fast as I pulled them out. You’ll want to leave about a half-inch thickness along the bottom and sides of the bread. Be careful not to make holes in the sides or bottom.
In a small bowl, add softened butter and seasonings. I went for fresh herbs instead of dried herbs, as the original recipe indicated. You have so many options here, and this is where the versatility of this dish shows itself. You can make any type of herb butter or move the seasonings into a Tex-Mex or Italian direction with little effort. Play around with it to find what you like.
Spread the butter mixture along the bottom, up the sides and along the previously cut off top of the bread. Set aside.
I used some large chicken breasts (that I had to cut in half), lightly seasoned, dredged in flour and briefly sauteed just to set the color. You could even grill the chicken – just watch the cooking time. I had to stuff the partially-cooked chicken breasts into the bread basket, and I was amazed that you can get quite a bit of chicken in there. Place the top back onto the bread basket, wrap with foil and pop into the oven. The chicken needs to finish cooking.
If you’re transporting this to a picnic, you obviously wouldn’t unwrap it after it comes out of the oven. Instead, leave the hot, foil-covered bread and chicken basket intact, cover it with multiple insulating layers of newspaper and pack it into your picnic basket (or whatever you use).
Once you are at your destination and ready to serve, remove the chicken and tear off portions of the bread basket. I would serve this with a side salad and mixed fruit kabobs. I love that the chicken basket is completely edible and leaves no container to deal with later.
You will definitely be the envy of those near you when you pull this from your picnic basket!
Hollywood Bowl Chicken In A Basket
Adapted from California Sizzles: Easy and Distinctive Recipes for a Vibrant Lifestyle
9/10/10 update: After making this multiple times, the amount of butter has been scaled back to 1/2 stick (or 1/4 cup). Because of the juices rendered in the baking process, the bottom crust of the bread was way too gooey for my taste. Using less butter and buttering the sides of the bread first and only lightly buttering the bottom had better results.
2 to 3 tablespoons of fresh basil, chiffonade
1 teaspoon dried oregano (This is one herb I prefer dried rather than fresh.)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon celery seed
2 tablespoons chopped Italian Parsley
1-1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/2 stick of butter, softened
8 inch round sourdough bread loaf
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (these vary in size but try to get medium-sized ones)
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 cup flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix herbs, garlic powder, celery seed, parsley, lemon zest and butter together. Set aside.
Cut lid off bread and remove most of the dough from the loaf, leaving a soft crust around the sides. Butter the inside with herb mixture.
Season chicken with salt and pepper and dip into flour seasoned with paprika. Saute in skillet about 7 minutes on each side.
Place chicken in bread. Put lid on and wrap in foil. Bake for 30-40 minutes. (I baked mine for 30 minutes, partially opened the foil to reveal the top of the bread loaf and let it would crisp up for 5 minutes.)
Over-wrap foil with newspaper or other insulating material to transport to your picnic spot. Serve each person a piece of chicken and a piece of the “basket.”