There is just sort of something wonderfully nostalgic about a picnic. “Picnic” embodies lazy afternoons where pretty girls in swooping hats sit on checked blankets in the sun drinking fresh squeezed lemonade delicately through striped paper straws giggling about the movie playing at the drive-in. At the edge of the blanket is a woven basket brimming with all sorts of delights: hand pies, watermelon slices, pasta salad and chilled fried chicken.
I am not sure where this idyllic garden party image of mine came from. The picnics of my people were a little more of the egg salad sammie and old dutch chips variety. They were fun and festive, but there were no girls in frocks perched on linen throws… there were cut offs sprawled on old blankets though. And if I am honest, while the pretty girls swept into croquet at their picnic, a caterpillar was probably crawling up someone’s pant leg at mine. There were also less baskets and more coolers. And it in the cooler that we win. One would be full of dixie cup ice cream. Those little paper cups with those little wooden non-spoons… they were awesome. Especially the kind with a fake bit of strawberry running through that creamy cold goodness. Yep, pretty girls, that is right: dixie cups kick the ass of a mint julep or whatever you think is sinfully picnic divine.
So, in honor of the summer outdoor meal, we attempted to have a backyard picnic complete with dixie cups to celebrate a birthday. We were thwarted by mother nature who had no such delusions about a sunny evening fading away slowly into a warm dusk. Nope, she huffed and puffed and then she rained. So, our picnic ended up as an indoor affair but was lovely none the less.
An indoor picnic for Audrey. She loves wine so we corked some. She loves music so we listened to some. She loves blue cheese so we ate some. She loves her meat well cooked so we cut her off some. She loves catch-phrase so we lost two and won none. Basically, she loves a good party so we brought her one.
And while the birthday lady would probably rip that cardboard lid off a dixie cup with her Scottish glee, I did think I should step it up a bit for her birthday sweet. She deserves better than a splinter in her tongue at her own picnic party. So, I went with an almond brittle orange semifreddo IN a dixie cup. And rather than smearing sugared -up-jam into the semifreddo to mimic those veins of fruity goodness in the original dixie cup, I made an orange sauce and poured it on top. It basically came out like a creamsicle that you eat with a spoon, but with little crunchy almond bits, like a blizzard. I feel it is safe to say, it honored ‘the awesome’ of the dixie cup.
Happy Birthday Aud.
Orange Semifreddo with Salted Almond Brittle
Adapted from Bon Appetit
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 cups blanched whole almonds, toasted, coarsely chopped (I used slivered)
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp flaked sea salt (such as Maldon)
Coat rimmed baking sheet with 1 tablespoon butter. Combine sugar, corn syrup, 1 cup water, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in heavy large saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil. Boil without stirring until mixture turns amber and thermometer registers 330°F to 340°F on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat; immediately stir in remaining 1 tablespoon butter, then almonds and baking soda (mixture will bubble). Working quickly, pour mixture out onto prepared baking sheet. Using offset metal spatula, quickly spread mixture into irregular 15×10-inch rectangle. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon sea salt evenly over brittle. Cool brittle completely at room temperature until firm (about 2 hours). Break into pieces. I chopped some of it in a food processor so they would be easy to layer into the mini semifreddos. Retain 14 larger pieces to place on top of each cup.
- 5 large eggs, separated
- 1 cup sugar, divided
- 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
- 2 Tbsp finely grated orange peel
- 2 cups chilled heavy cream
Fill large bowl with ice cubes and water. Whisk egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar, tangerine juice, and tangerine peel in medium metal bowl. Set bowl with yolk mixture over saucepan of simmering water. Whisk constantly until mixture thickens and instant-read thermometer inserted into mixture registers 160°F, about 3 minutes. Remove bowl from over hot water and set over bowl with ice water. Using electric mixer, beat mixture until thick and cool, about 3 minutes. Remove bowl from over ice water.
Beat cream in another large bowl until peaks form; set aside. Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in another large bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and beat until stiff but not dry. Fold 1/3 of egg whites into yolk mixture to lighten. Fold in remaining whites in 2 additions. Fold in whipped cream in 2 additions until just incorporated.
Pour a small amount into each cup – should be enough for 14. Sprinkle 3/4 cup chopped brittle evenly over each. Repeat layering with half of remaining semifreddo mixture; sprinkle remaining 3/4 cup brittle over, then spread remaining semifreddo mixture over. The cups will be full, just ensure there is a small space left for the sauce to sit on top. Place in the freezer for at least 4 hours.
- 4 Tbsp honey
- 2 cups fresh squeezed orange juice
Combine in a saucepan over medium low heat. Allow to simmer until it reduces to about half. Allow to cool in the fridge and then pour on top of each dixie cup.