Friday, June 5, 2009

Date night with the Crew.

So, MANY years ago I had my first ever experience going to the drive-in with some of my friends. I was instantly enamoured with this format, even though I loathe seeing movies in the theater. Anyone who knows me would realize that sending me to a place with a bunch of strange people with whom I cannot talk, where I have to sit still for 2 hours, and where my shoes stick to the floor is a recipe for disaster. The drive-in allowed me to do away with all of these attributes, I was in heaven.

Now, I've done the cheesy thing of taking a few dates to the drive in, but this is not my favorite use for such a great venue. Over the years I've taken advantage of the flexibility of the drive-in and had many a great night out with friends. I've come to the conclusion from all of my extensive research that the best recipe for a good time is to gather about 3-4 friends, pile them into a truck, pack a picnic basket full of goodies and head over to catch the latest double feature.

Last night, I had the opportunity to catch this perfect storm and gather my favorite crew from Woohattan and head over to Strasburg, Ohio to the Lynn Drive-In. This place was spartan, compact, and likely hadn't been updated for 30 years. I was again, in heaven.

For this adventure I packed a picnic basket (well... plastic bag in this case since I was running behind again as usual)for everyone to enjoy. If I look back at my treks to the outdoor screens, I notice that I've tried many things with which to fill the basket: Calzones, salads, even potluck style dinners. But by far my favorite is this recipe that I developed about 6 years ago specifically for a trip to the drive-in and I've been making it ever since. I call it a picnic sandwich, and it draws inspiration from a stuffed loaf, and a pita. It's perfect for this type of gathering because it's completely self contained, easy to transport and serve, and (the element I'm most concerned with) it looks unavoidably delicious. So unavoidable in fact that I may have to send one of my friends flowers to apologize for forcing her to break her diet. Sometimes when I make a dish, it looks phenomenal, but falls short of the taste mark. These are the dishes that are never seen again. The fact that I make this sandwich repeatedly for many occasions is a testament to it's ability to deliver on all fronts.

I start by heating a bit of olive oil in a deep skillet, in order to sautee some sliced portabella mushrooms. Once these are nice and tender, I add sliced roasted red and yellow peppers, a handful of roasted garlic cloves and if you like, Kalamata (or Black) olives, Diced oven roasted chicken, chopped fresh basil and oregano, black pepper and salt to taste. Reduce to low heat and allow to cook for a few minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Remove from heat and place in a bowl. Fold in a small handful of shredded parmesean cheese. Then in the same pan wilt spinach with about 2 tablespoons of water and sea salt. remove from heat when complete. Next take a whole loaf of bread. (here I used a round loaf of whole wheat house sourdough from Broken Rocks Cafe in Wooster) Slice lengthwise to creat a top and bottom half. Remove the soft bread from the middle of the loaf creating a cavity for the filling. fill the bottom half with the chicken mixture. Place a layer of sliced provolone cheese on top of this, and then top with the wilted spinach and place the top half of the loaf back on top. You should not be able to see the filling from the side. This actually does two things, keep the filling from spilling out, and retain the heat of the filling. Wrap the entire loaf in 2 layers of foil and place into a 325 degree oven for 15-20 mins.

Leave it in the foil to pack it, and bring along a bread knife to cut it. this will definitely impress each time you bring it along. Pair it with a wine or even better, a beer (but don't blame me if they kick you out for having alcohol.) and make sure to pack a bold dessert that stays together on it's own. This time around I made my mom's Peanut butterscotch Rice Crispies Squares (which I'm sure I'll eventually post the recipe for in a future blog.) for dessert to make for one filling meal that kept even my overactive mouth quiet for the movie.

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