Tag Archives: chicken salad

I’d Be Peachy Keen

In these fleeting days of summer, I find myself drawn to the light.  The last rays before the sun drifts behind a hillside.  Don’t go, day, don’t go.

As a chill presents itself in the evening air and the day end creeps dangerously close to dinner time, before we know it, it’s winter.  Under the cover of nightfall, we find ourselves holed up, hunkered down, and ordering in.  In these final days of summer, I refuse to submit.  I’ll keep the picnic dream alive with one last summertime favorite.  Chicken salad — with peaches. Double down or walk away.

I still remember the day of the epiphany.  Apparently pulling one over for years of my youth, I found my mom in the kitchen, passing off canned “chicken” with mayo as the real deal homemade.  Living under the pretense that an aptitude for recipes such as chicken salad came only by way of a generation gap and an arsenal of secret ingredients, I was appalled.  The thought of a dressing untempered by even so much as mustard nearly brought tears to my eyes.  What do you mean that’s all it is? Just, just…mayonnaise?

Appalled at the simplicity, I developed a leniency towards recipes bulked out with cranberries, almonds and the like.  A balanced tang countered with a delicate sweetness.  Not to mention a limited quantity of mayonnaise.

This time looking for something a bit different, I took to the internet.  I landed on a recipe that incorporated Dijon and capers in addition to fresh fruit.  I substituted peaches for fresh grapes, timidly mixed in the capers…and was delighted!  Perfect for those endless summer nights.

Chicken Salad with Peach, Nuts and Capers

Adapted from epicurious.com

Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds chicken breast

5 cups water

2 chicken bouillon cubes

1/3 cup plain yogurt

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 cup diced peach

1 cup (3 ounces) coarsely chopped walnuts, pecans, macadamia, whatever you have on hand

3 tablespoons drained capers, chopped

Bring water and bouillon cubes to a boil in a large saucepan, then add chicken and cook at a bare simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until just cooked through, about 5-8 minutes. Drain and cool, then dice into 1-inch chunks.

Meanwhile, stir together yogurt, mayonnaise, and mustard.

Stir chicken and remaining ingredients into dressing with salt and pepper to taste.

(This is, of course, best when eaten alongside a blended margarita.  Keep the summer dreams alive!)

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Bite Me

Speaking with your mouth full is not encouraged.  Just the same for spewing debris from an overflowed mouth. Minding your manners can prove exhausting.  Particularly when everything you’ve come to know goes out the window. 

I was raised in a household where sneaking a rest on an elbow during a meal was comparable to committing arson.  Speaking of arson, the stares I’d receive down my mother’s nose in response were enough to burn a hole in your conscience.  Not normally an advocate of fear-mongering, I suppose in this case it proved effective.     

One inconsistency in my mother’s no-nonsense policy was the regular schedule of visits to a local sandwich joint.  Primanti’s sandwiches put Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on the (glutton-based) culinary map, and they’re a primary reason why I’ve purchased a flight home this summer. 

Let’s see what you’re made of.

French fries and coleslaw on a sandwich? Indeed, my friend, you will not be disappointed.  Prove your dedication by adding an egg inside as well. 

When we’d make our visits to Primanti’s, the biggest challenge was not deciding between pastrami or capicola, as you might assume.  Rather, it was figuring out how best to dislocate your jaw to enjoy the monstrous delight.  Not normally a stiff-upper-lip accredited form of dining, the experience was an exception to the table rules.  Filling your mouth to capacity was encouraged. 

A lot was in the handling.  Once you raised the sandwich for the initial bite, it was time to demonstrate your commitment.  You must not release the hold until down to the very last morsels.  Disregard, and disaster would ensue.  The delicate balance would crumble into an intimidating pile of slop.  It was in your best interest, as dining with forks at Primanti’s is viewed as rather pretentious. 

This regular exercise in grip-centered technique proved useful when I found myself at my first teacher’s dinner in Korea.  A mainstay of employment in this country, the outings are considered just as much an obligation as showing up on time for class.  Explained to me as crucial for developing working relationships, nothing says bonding like acting as crutch to a stumbling deskmate. 

It sent me into a tizzy when slurping was a sign of enjoyment and I was faced with the almighty lettuce wrap.  Seeming impossible to consume in one bite, thankfully, I came with experience.      

Wrapping up morsels of food in crispy lettuce blankets is kind of a staple of the Korean diet.  It eliminates the need for plates, and adds a nice amount of freshness.  Referred to as ssam, there’s often a basket of leaves present on the table. 

Like Primanti’s, the art of ssam congestion is a delicate one.  Nimble fingers are a bonus, and a lot is contingent upon finding the right balance between fill capacity and leaf surface area.  Forget attempting multiple bites, you only end up with mangled gristle looking unsightly on your chin. 

My personal plan of attack is the bag o’ gold method.  I find it works best to gather the loose edges in one cluster around the center of the leaf.  With a wide open mouth, I then shove the whole bit, bag first, into my mouth.  It’s a one-handed technique, and you may want to set aside a good minute for chewing. 

Like Primanti’s, don’t waver once committed to the bite.

With weekend dinners out not proving enough to keep my techniques sharp, I decided to whip up something  at home.  It’s becoming crucial that my jaw is in shape for my visit(s) to Primanti’s this August.  I came up with a variation of curry chicken salad that’s perfect for the picnic-friendly weather.  It’s spiced up with ginger and orange, and perfect to keep in the fridge for an urge to practice on short order.    

The challenger

Curry Chicken Salad Ssam 

Serves 4

4 cooked chicken breasts, shredded (about 4 cups)

2 cups julienned carrots (about 1 large carrot)

2/3 cup sliced green onions

1 small container plain yogurt (3 oz./85 grams)

2 Tbsp mayonnaise

1 Tbsp orange zest

1 Tbsp orange juice

2 tsp finely minced ginger

1 tsp curry powder

Lettuce or cabbage leaves (any variety)

1.  Combine chicken, carrots and green onion in a medium-sized bowl.

2.  In a small bowl, mix remaining ingredients until smoothly blended to make the dressing. 

3.  Pour dressing over chicken mixture, and stir until evenly distributed. Serve as wraps in leaves of your choice.

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