Potluck Parties: We’re on a Boat!

EVENT: We’re on a Boat, in October
VENUE: Robbins Family Boat, Long Island Sound
TYPE: Nautical Potluck Lunch
MENU: Pesto Chicken Salad Sandwiches; Orange Oatmeal Cookies & Bitsy Chocolate Chip Cookies (Steph); Boursin Hummus (Sophie); Beer (James)
TUNES: Noah’s Boat Mix

A few years ago, during the height of his mid-life crisis, my friend Sophie’s dad purchased a boat. He never learned how to drive it, and neither did Sophie or her brother, Noah. Luckily, they have friends who are more capable at the wheel, and others, like myself, who are more than happy to be swept away for a cruise on Long Island Sound, even on days when the weather might not seem ideal, like say, a Saturday in October.

There are many reasons why I am friends with Sophie, but over the last few months, the boat has been one of the perks. So when she suggested one final outing before the temperature dropped from 50 to 40, and the season became officially Fall, I couldn’t think of a more glorious way to spend an afternoon, or a better reason to prematurely break out my ski jacket, wool hat, and scarf.

I held up my end of the bargain of course, and provided the mainstays of lunch (assembled beforehand, not in the galley), while Keith and James shared the title of Captain and Sophie made sure we were properly tucked under layers of towels, our bellies warmed with screw-top wine. Steph came prepared with two types of freshly baked cookies, and Rodrigo’s casual-cool demeanor, despite the cashmere sweater he was wearing, made us all feel like we were cruising around the harbors of Miami, worlds away from the New England shore.

After a few dare-devilish donuts, and some gut-wrenching air on the Sound’s sizable swells, we stopped in a small bay, hooked up to a mooring, and set up for lunch. Though we were all a little cold and soggy from the ride, the sandwiches had remained remarkably fresh and dry. While we munched and drank, we couldn’t help but dance around to Noah’s music, now that the boat was actually in a state where we could stand.

As we pulled back into Norwalk’s harbor and back to reality—Monday’s approach, summer’s end, and the onset of seasonal depression—Noah made the last call worth our while, Big Willy Style, with a last taste of Miami. I’ve tried to keep the party (and the memory of this glorious day) alive by listening to all the music from that afternoon (click on the link above for Noah’s complete mix). Even though I’m no longer on the water, these tunes transport me back to the Miami harbor (and many a 7th grade Bar Mitzvah), without any fear of rocking the boat.

From my kitchen, sometimes on a boat, to yours,


warm bellies, chilly bodies


Pesto Chicken Salad Sandwiches with Arugula and Sundried Tomatoes
Makes 8 sandwiches

I made a chicken salad to avoid having to put condiments directly on the bread, and I added two elements of flavor—pesto, and a light, subtle hit of mayo to give these non-soggy sandwiches some moisture. Instead of regular plum tomatoes, I layered sliced sundried tomatoes, and I rounded out the flavor with a healthy handful of arugula for a peppery bite and to help protect the bread.


For the Chicken Salad:

1 rotisserie chicken, all meat removed (dark and white) and shredded
1 cup pesto (see below for basic recipe, or use store bought)
3 tbsp mayonnaise
salt to taste

For the Sandwich:

2 loaves ciabatta, cut in half lengthwise
3 oz baby arugula
8 sun-dried tomatoes (preferably packed in olive oil), thinly sliced
1 lb cow’s-milk or buffalo mozzarella, torn into rustic chunks

Combine all ingredients for the chicken salad in a bowl. Taste for seasoning. This can be done one or two days before.

NOTE: if you’re using store-bought pesto, the flavor profile might be slightly different. When you taste for seasoning, if it lacks acidity or tastes rather dull, add a squeeze or two of lemon juice to punch up the flavors.

Preheat a broiler or toaster oven. Brush the ciabatta with olive oil and toast until golden brown but not hard. Allow to cool slightly, then place the bottom half of each loaf on a sheet of plastic wrap. Spread the chicken salad evenly between the two slices, top with the mozzarella, sundried tomatoes, and a handful of arugula. Place the tops on the sandwiches and cut each into four even pieces.

Secure the plastic wrap tightly around the two loaves, and then wrap each in tin foil. Store in a cooler, or keep shaded until time to eat.

Basic Basil Pesto
Makes about 1 cup

1 garlic clove
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 cups basil leaves
½ – 1 lemon, juiced
¼ cup olive oil
1/4 cup grated parmesan
salt to taste

In a small food processor pulse the garlic and the pinenuts until finely chopped. Add the basil leaves and the lemon juice and blend until the basil has begun to break down. Add the olive oil in a gentle stream, blending until the mixture is smooth and at your desired consistency.

NOTE: If making the pesto exclusively for the chicken salad, use less oil for a coarser mixture than you ordinarily would. This will keep the salad from making your bread soggy while retaining all the good pesto flavor.

Fold in the parmesan and taste for seasoning. Add salt and extra lemon juice for acidity as needed.

chocolate chip cookies, expertly baked by Steph
Posted in: Potluck Parties
  • Dan Mahoney

    You should have sandwich-based recipes more often.

  • bigBANG studio

    Hey gals! We've all got pesto on the brain! Those sammiches look OUT of this world. What a great idea- I'm going to make those exact same babies this weekend for a picnic- the sundried tomats is a brilliant little added pep to the sandwich. Great, useful day-time recipe! THANK YOU! And thanks for stopping by my studio blog! xoxo

  • Caradoran

    anyway to get the recipe for those chocolate chip cookies at the bottom??

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