Picnic Sandwich Cheat Sheet

Time to look forward to picnics and dinners on the grass! And I always get a little stumped when it comes time to make sandwiches for a crowd. You, too?

Here are some simple cheats for sprucing up your picnic fare…

Look to salads and cheese platters for sandwich inspiration. For example, if you love caprese salads, consider variations on those ingredients (think: basil pesto, a mild whole-milk cheese, and tomatoes) and then decide whether or not to add another protein, like turkey. If you think aged cheddar tastes wonderful with jam (it does!), pair those ingredients with prosciutto—and maybe some arugula (for pepper).

Buy pre-made ingredients. Pick up a rotisserie chicken from the grocery (they often will even sell just a half). For one of the sandwiches pictured, I wanted a some crispy, flavorful breading in the sandwich, so we picked up two chicken breasts from KFC! (Shhhhh!) And many groceries sell small servings of spreads, like pesto or olive tapenade at the deli counter, that can be labor intensive or expensive. Don’t forget to choose a special bread—ciabatta rolls make nice alternatives to the classic French Baguette (though I do love the crunch factor of a baguette).

Gather everything in one place and set up an assembly line. If you’re using tomatoes, consider slicing them and giving them some salt and then setting aside in a colander so that any juices run into the sink rather than into your bread, where it might make it soggy, while you lay out your bread and all your fixings.

Season your sandwiches ahead of time with salt and pepper. But try to avoid making anything so far ahead that you have to put your sandwiches back into the refrigerator. Obviously, safety is the priority, but bread is never as good afterward, most cheeses taste best at room temperature, and tomatoes should never be refrigerated.

Bust out the panini press. You can press the bread and then add the ingredients if you don’t want your cheese heated or your ingredients compressed. Or press it after adding ingredients to make a particularly bulky sandwich more manageable. I think toasting your bread with some butter or olive oil makes sandwiches taste so much better!

Oh, and a little waxed paper (and maybe some kraft paper, too) can go a long way toward making your sandwiches feel special.

Three sandwiches pictured? Fourme d’Ambert Bleu, pear, and honey; Chicken with goat cheese and fig preserves; and Ricotta, heirloom tomatoes, basil tips, olive oil, and sea salt.

Toss in a side salad with some of your leftover cheese and herbs, something fizzy or sparkly to drink, and you’re set!

What are your go-to picnic sandwiches?

P.S. A (take-out) picnic on along the Hudson river in Manhattan.

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