The decision to celebrate Labor Day at the beginning of fall had a pragmatic reason.

In the late 19th century there were no official holidays between Independence Day in July and Thanksgiving Day in November. So one extra paid day off right in the middle of this five-month period looked like a very good, humane idea to pay tribute to the labor of workers all around the country.

On the other hand, the first week of September is a perfect time to get outdoors and enjoy the last touches of summer warmth on our shoulders breathing in the aromas of early fall.

This year we are going to observe the official part of Labor Day on September 4, on Monday. But why not start a bit earlier to pick some nice bargains in the holiday sales, and get ready for a gourmet picnic?

Why Do We Like Picnicking on Labor Day?

Not only because it is a day off and the weather is usually wonderful. Although these are weighty reasons, definitely.

A Labor Day cookout is part of the holiday tradition. The original form of the first celebrations in the 1880s was a street parade followed by a large public picnic. The parade was aimed at demonstrating the strength and solidarity of trade and labor organizations. At the same time, the hearty picnic and various entertainments for workers and their families added fun and ease to the holiday atmosphere.

Your To-Do List for the Best Holiday Cookout

To make sure that the atmosphere of your celebration will be maximally cozy and relaxing, let’s check this brief picnic to-do list.

  • Make the menu.
    It should include portable and quick-to-cook or no-cook foods. And don’t forget about drinks.
    Below you will find a menu guide with a few simple but inspiring and mouthwatering ideas.
  • Take the barbeque grill. (Or whatever you use to grill meats and vegetables.)
    Make sure you cleaned it after the last cookout and have enough charcoal to prepare heavenly beef steak, pork tenderloin, or salmon fillets.  
  • Pack convenient and environment-friendly dishes and utensils.
    Add the number of people in your picnic company to the number of dishes you are going to serve. The sum you get is the exact number of plates, forks, and other cookware items you will need.
  • Get enough paper towels and wet napkins.
    They are worth their weight in gold at picnic spots.
  • Take your first aid kit.
    You should better be equipped for any contingency.
  • Tell kids (friends) to come up with games and other activities.
    Delegating is an important skill nowadays.

Your Guide to the Gourmet Labor Day Picnic

The best picnic menu is full of foods that your family and friends love, and that can keep their original shapes and flavors while being transported to the picnic destination.

Let’s explore your wide choice of transportable delicacies, acknowledged by the most discerning aficionados.

Festive picnic antipasto to please all kinds of foodies

Labor Day

The all-inclusive scrumptious antipasto is the right dish to start the picnic.

First, it’s very simple to prepare. You just need to arrange the sliced veggies, cheeses, and meats on plates, unpack the pates and dips, and place everything on the table or blanket.

Second, each of your dearest and nearest can nibble at whatever they want as long as the main dish is grilling. This is convenient, isn’t it?

Here are a few festive antipasto ideas.

French-style antipasto

Stock up on baguettes. They will make a crunchy complement to these delectable representatives of the French gastronomy.

  • Selection of cheeses: try combining Brie, goat cheese, Bleu D’Auvergne, and Saint Andre.
  • Duck foie gras or duck mousse with port wine.
  • Black truffle paste. (Why not?)
  • Greens (the French prefer leaf chicory and lettuce).
  • Fruit and vegetables to taste.
  • French wine: try Red Bordeaux, Chenin Blanc, or Rosé.

Italian-style antipasto

Small home-baked pizzas for each kid and adult will be a good solution. But what about letting everyone make their own Italian-style sandwiches with focaccia and their favorite delicacies?

  • Yes, cheeses: serve Parmesan, Provolone, Gorgonzola, and Taleggio.
  • Prosciutto, surely.
  • Olives.
  • Iconic Italian veggies: tomatoes and zucchini. You can grill them too if you like.
  • Italian wine: try Barolo, Barbaresco, or Prosecco.

Spanish-style antipasto

You can try traditional Spanish bread, pan basico, or get your favorite one. Whatever you choose, it will taste piquant with these Spanish specialties.

  • Let’s place meats first: select from the variety of jamons, paletas, and lomos.
  • Add cheeses: Manchego, Cabrales, and Valdeon.
  • Marinated artichokes.
  • Serve the delicacies with grilled asparagus and eggplant.
  • Spanish wine: try Sherry, Mencia, or Rosado.

Seafood and caviar antipasto

If this year’s Labor Day you would like to go fishy and opt for grilled salmon or tilapia as the main festive dish, this seafood antipasto will surely heat up your company’s appetites.

  • Tinned tuna fillets, pickled anchovy fillets or sardine fillets.
  • Salmon mousse.
  • Clams in brine.
  • Squid bites in olive oil.
  • Pickled mussels.
  • And a jar (or two) of caviar, served with crackers.  
  • Drinks: try gin, mojito (you can make it non-alcoholic for kids), or your favorite beer.

Supplements (or alternatives) to grilled meats and veggies

Each family and bunch of friends has those two very special people who are always in charge of preparing meat and grilling it. These two (rarely more) people have their own secrets, shared only with the chosen ones. The rest of their family and friends can only enjoy the flavorful results of their culinary sorcery.

What’s more, each family and bunch of friends has their own traditional grilled dish – ribs, steaks, hot dogs, kabobs, or kebabs, vegetarian or non-vegetarian. And even if someone else dares cook the same recipe, they will never get the same dish.

Does your picnic company have such recipe?

Below you will find two dishes that could become your own picnic specialty or accompany the traditional dish you already have. Meet the cheesy burger and the triple-decker sandwich!

Jalapeño popper burger from Chelsea Lupkin

Labor Day

Your dearest and nearest will love this guy at first bite.

You will need:

  • 6-8 burger buns, depending on the number of kids and adults
  • 6-8 beef patties, depending on the number of kids and adults
  • 2 minced jalapeños
  • 8-10 bacon slices, cooked and chopped
  • 1/2 c. shredded Cheddar
  • 1/2 c. shredded Mozzarella
  • 4 oz. cream cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste.

Your action plan:

  1. In a bowl, mix the jalapeños and cheeses. Season with salt and pepper. Fold in the bacon.
  2. Spoon the mixture onto one beef patty and place a second patty on top. Then, pinch edges to seal the burger and reshape into a disc. Repeat with the rest of patties. Season the burgers with the paprika, salt, and pepper.
  3. Preheat the grill to medium-high. Place the burgers on the grill and cook until the meat will look perfect to you (about 6-8 min. per each side).
  4. Sandwich the meat with the buns and serve hot.

Grilled triple-decker hot dog sandwich from Jeff Mauro

Labor Day

It does look strange. But whatever you see in it – the house or the spacecraft of the future, this hot dog sandwich is fabulous.

To build it, you will need a pinch of fantasy and

  • 6-8 hoagie rolls, halved lengthwise
  • 6-8 sausages, halved lengthwise
  • 1/3 lb. salami, sliced thinly
  • 1/3 lb. sliced Cheddar
  • 1/3 lb. sliced Provolone
  • 2-4 sliced tomatoes
  • 1 head sliced iceberg lettuce
  • 1/4 c. mustard
  • unsalted butter for brushing
  • celery salt for serving
  • nonstick cooking spray.

Your action plan:

  1. Heat the grill up to 400F. Cook the sausages until they get best for you and your company (about 3-5 min. per each side).
  2. Meanwhile, butter the cut sides of the roll halves, place them on the grill cut-side down, and keep them on the grill for 1-2 min.
  3. Use a skewer to poke ten holes in the bottom of a TK pan, and spray the pan with the cooking spray.
  4. Layer one third of the sausages, Cheddar, Provolone, salami. Repeat the layer two more times.
  5. Place the pan on the grill and close the lid. Cook until the cheeses have melted (8-10 min.). Remove the pan from the grill and let rest for 5-10 min.
  6. Loosen the loaf by running a paring knife around the edge of the pan. Turn the pan out onto a cutting board or large plate, unveiling the sausage loaf.
  7. To build the sandwich, start with the sausage loaf on the bottom roll half, top with the mustard, tomatoes, and lettuce. Sprinkle with celery salt and finish with the top roll half. Serve hot.

Additional collection of sauces for the meatiest BBQ

If you don’t mind the combination of meat savor with tomato tanginess, herb pungency, or spiciness, here is the selection of condiments to accompany your main course.

  • Dijon mustard is versatile, fragrant, and needs no comments. It is a classic that adds a spoonful of perfectness to many dishes.
  • Harissa is a hot chili pepper paste originating from North Africa. The piquant paste highlights the tastes of the grilled meat and fish, complementing them with expected spicy bitterness.  
  • Italian pesto traditionally consists of basil, garlic, nuts and hard cheeses. It will perfectly pair with grilled vegetables. But also, you can try walnut pesto or sun dried tomato pesto, which will add an interesting twist to the meat.
  • Shallot and red wine sauce will be best for grilled steaks if you want to spoil your taste buds with the combination of meaty, smoky, and vinegary flavors.
  • Peppercorn sauce will add the pungency you want to taste in fillets, ribs, wings, and whatever you are grilling. Just make sure that you don’t overdo with the condiment when there is a lavish portion of pepper in the meat marinade or seasoning.

When you all are full enjoying the flavors of the antipasto and grilled meats, but still wish something light and juicy, various fruit will be a very timely and fresh idea. If you bring apples, pears, or peaches, you can grill them and serve with ice cream. Yes, bring ice cream too if you are sure of the refrigerator in your car.

Labor Day celebrates the work we do and our contribution to prosperity and happiness of ours and our families. Let’s toast to it.

Marky’s wishes you and your family a happy and relaxing Labor Day 2019! And have a gourmet picnic!