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Let these baked chicken nuggets and tahini potato salad power your next picnic

Fried chicken and potato salad are a favorite summertime combo. Still, to enjoy it the old-fashioned way ⁠ — the way my mother made it ⁠ — with bone-in, battered deep-fried chicken and potato salad mixed with lots of chopped celery, pickles and eggs takes so much time and makes a bit of a mess in the kitchen.

On a warm summer evening, I decided to see if I could come up with a weeknight version, a simpler approach to the classic picnic dishes.

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For the chicken, I substituted boneless, skinless breasts, cutting them into two-bite chunks. I coated each piece with a bit of Creole mustard and then pressed each into highly seasoned bread crumbs mixed with Parmesan. I tried baking them several ways, including on a rack set inside a baking sheet, but I was not satisfied.

Then, a colleague here gave me a tip: She adds a generous slick of oil to a rimmed baking sheet when baking breaded chicken. This way the sizzle of the hot oil creates a crunchy bottom while the rest of the chicken crisps in the oven.

Tahini came to the rescue for the potato salad. It adds rich flavor, with a bit of oil and lemon for just the right consistency. I tossed creamy, quick-cooking baby potatoes with fresh parsley and scallions in that come-together-in-minutes dressing.

To round out the meal, I added boiled corn on the cob and a few salted red, ripe tomato slices — like summer on a plate.

I may still pull out the Dutch oven and make myself a batch of golden fried chicken before the fall arrives, but this is the way to go on a weeknight, when I want to scratch that summer picnic itch.

Get the recipe: Baked Chicken Nuggets with Warm Potato Salad