Category Archives: chicken

Shake it off

za'atar-crusted chicken 1

Sometime in January, I started a list in my music files called “Inspiration 2012.” I imagined it being a sort of year-long anthem for life, with songs landing on the list every few days, but so far, there are only two: “Shake it Off,” by Florence + The Machine, and “Don’t Carry It All,” by The Decemberists. They’re very different songs, about very different things, but they both send me a very simple, portable, digestible message. They say let go.

The first, sung by a woman who tends to perform dressed much more modestly than the average pop-ish beltress, is the one you’ll find me singing in the car with the windows down. There’s a line in there that’s always gotten me, deep down inside, behind the heart, between the shoulder blades. She says, “it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back, so shake him off.” She’s right, you know, and I think she gets righter the louder I sing. And it’s her voice that’s followed me around these last few (busy) weeks. I can’t say who the devil is—not because I’m being cagey, but because I really don’t feel like I know—but he’s there, clinging. He needs to cut his fingernails.

I haven’t been very still lately. We spent a week in March in Whistler, for our anniversary, skiing with old friends. We flew immediately back east, to celebrate the life of a dear, close family member I’m still not sure how to miss and love and cherish properly. We came home for a few days, then I went back east again, for a conference in New York. There was drinking and eating and learning and exploring and cursing myself for being so bad at New York, but there wasn’t much sleeping.

spring recipe card sets

I came home, and Hannah and I finalized the printing on the spring recipe card sets, and tied them all with pretty yellow bows. (They’re here!)

Then a certain little boy turned three, and there were turtle cupcakes and a Thomas the Train cake and parties and family. Then there was a za’atar-crusted chicken for Passover, and there was Easter breakfast, and now it’s Monday. And as much as I’d like to think I have the power to stop it, I know Tuesday is coming. I’ve felt like I’m fluttering, darting around in a way that feels fabulous and mostly fun but not entirely human.

This week needs to be calmer. This week, I think I just need to shake it all off and start over. Every time my mind wanders, to Pike Place Market Recipes (which comes out in—eek!—just over a month), or to starting Benlysta infusions in a few weeks, or to Graham, or to passing loved ones, or to my sister moving away from Seattle, the song will come back. Maybe these are my devils–not devils, any of them, but things I carry with me all the time these days.

There’s an important distinction here, I think. Shaking off does not equal forgetting. It’s not ignoring, or procrastinating. It’s simply a setting down. An equalizing. It’s looking at your own life as it sits beside you, sipping coffee, rather than carrying it around like oversized luggage. (I don’t know about you, but when I pack for a trip, I stuff every single bag too full, every time.)

It’s looking life in the eye, and listening to what it has to tell you.

It’s letting someone else’s life inspire you, rather than letting it bury you in sadness.

Za'atar chicken for dinner

So here’s what’s coming on Hogwash: a look at what’s outside of me, so I can stay inside for a few weeks. A glimpse at Pike Place Market Recipes, and the recipes in it that I’m most excited about—starting with the roast chicken I made for Passover (yogurt sauce and all, Kosher schmosher), one of my favorites (and one of the simplest) in the book.

Come to think of it, roasting chicken is the culinary embodiment of the shake it off policy. It’s starting from scratch. It’s the easiest thing to do—olive oil, salt, and za’atar, smeared with bare hands in the sunlight and roasted in a hot oven—but it’s somehow completely grounding.

And ahhh. Grounded. That’s just what I want to feel.

za'atar-crusted chicken going into oven

Za’atar-Crusted Chicken with Harissa-Yogurt Sauce (PDF)
From Pike Place Market Recipes: 130 Delicious Ways to Bring Home Seattle’s Famous Market (Sasquatch, May 2012)

Although walking into The Souk, on the north end of the Pike Place Market, may be intimidating for those less familiar with Indian, Middle Eastern, and North African foods, it’s actually a haven for ingredients for quick, creative dinners. On its shelves you’ll find za’atar, a dried herb and spice mixture often made with thyme, oregano, savory, dried sumac, salt, and sesame seeds—you may find it lends itself well to other dishes you make regularly, like roasted potatoes. You’ll also find harissa, a North African chili sauce, which lends gentle heat to the ultra-simple yogurt sauce that accompanies the chicken here.

Active time: 15 minutes
Makes: 4 servings
Equipment: Kitchen string, for tying legs

1 (5-pound) whole chicken, patted dry with paper towels
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons za’atar
3/4 cup plain yogurt
2 to 3 teaspoons harissa

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Rub all parts of the chicken with the oil. Place on a roasting rack set over a roasting pan. Blend the salt and za’atar together in a small bowl, then sprinkle the entire chicken with the spice mixture. Fold the wings behind the chicken’s back, tie the legs together, and sprinkle any remaining spice on any bare spots.

Roast the chicken for about 1 hour, or until the breast meat measures 165°F on an instant-read thermometer. If the skin is dark golden brown before the meat is done, slide a baking sheet onto an oven rack above the chicken.

Meanwhile, stir the yogurt and harissa together in a small bowl, and let sit at room temperature while the chicken roasts.

When the chicken is done, let rest 10 minutes, then carve and serve hot, with the yogurt sauce.

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Filed under chicken, gluten-free, Pike Place Market Recipes, recipe

Preparing for No Thanksgiving

Spiced Chardonnay Chicken Liver Pate 3

Last weekend, we turned our lives off. It wasn’t really intentional, to be honest. We packed everything up for a weekend of lazing and hiking on the Olympic Peninsula – everything except our computers – but when we arrived at our rental house, our telephones didn’t work either. For 36 hours, we suspended time. We spoke to no one but each other. My husband and I each read a book, and our son slept soundly through the nights. It was, by every definition, a vacation.

I also took a little break from cooking. I know it sounds crazy, for me to take over a rental kitchen with not much more than the makings for a simple pasta sauce and sandwiches, but after the doughnut book, it was just what I needed.

The house peeked out over Freshwater Bay and the Straight of Juan de Fuca, which separates the Peninsula from Canada. It had a sprawling living room, and a kitchen that would comfortably fit the cook and ten onlookers. I was in the middle of a fantasy about hosting a Thanksgiving there one day when it hit me: This year, I will not be cooking for Thanksgiving. I came home wanting to do nothing but cook for a crowd.

Every year, my family celebrates Thanksgiving somewhere different. It’s traditional in its pure lack of tradition. There’s usually Ken’s Eggnog (which would normally be made this weekend), but everything else is up to the cook. But I am always in someone’s kitchen, somewhere.

This year will be different. This year, my grandfather is hosting in Colorado, which means Thanksgiving will be catered. I’m confident it will be delicious, but there will be no menu planning. There will be no grocery shopping. There will be no oven scheduling. There will be no sneaking garlic into the mashed potatoes while Grandma’s not looking. There will be no forgetting to put the sugar in the pumpkin pie filling, or still-frozen turkey stock, or last-minute market runs for more butter.

In theory, this is fine with me. My oven broke (again) this week, which means I could be fighting with repairmen for a few weeks. No one needs to roast a turkey in an oven that’s 100 degrees off. And we’ll get to see much of my extended family, which is always great.

But honestly, part of me is struggling. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It’s not the turkey, it’s all of the above – planning, shopping, scheduling, cooking, problem-solving – that I love. It’s all of the things some people hate about Thanksgiving. Frankly, I’m a little nervous. Cooking Thanksgiving is a yearly ritual I can’t imagine living without.

Spices for Pate 2

When Edible Seattle asked me to cook up some bites for an event at a Seattle Eileen Fisher last night, I figured it was my chance to get the ritual out of my system. I made polenta squares with caramelized onions, goat cheese, and crispy shards of kale. There were wild mushroom tartlets. I wanted to make a version of the chicken liver pate that seemed more popular than anything else on last year’s Thanksgiving table, one infused with spices and white wine. The only problem, I discovered, was that I had no idea where I’d found the recipe. All I remembered were the shallots and some cognac . . .

So I started from scratch. Chicken liver pate seems fancy, but it’s astoundingly simple to make. (If you’ve never done it before, know that the most difficult part is buying the livers. They can be intimidating, but treat them just as you would chicken, trimming away any tough parts.) I tossed them into a simmering mixture of chardonnay, star anise, allspice, clove, cinnamon, and pepper, along with garlic and shallots. I transferred the cooked mixture to a food processor, along with an amount of butter that you might want to keep secret, and found myself with a silky spread fancy enough for pre-Thanksgiving appetizers. Or hungry shoppers. Or writers with with the 10 a.m. munchies.

The best part? The recipe made much more than I anticipated. So I served hordes of hungry shoppers, and I still have a little pot left over for myself. I might just have to throw a party.

Spiced Chardonnay Chicken Liver Pate 2

Spiced Chardonnay Chicken Liver Pate (PDF)

Here, chicken livers are simmered in chardonnay, with cinnamon, anise, allspice, and cloves, then whipped into a mousse-y pate perfect for spreading on crackers or baguette slices. It’s easy, and a little work goes a long way—this recipe makes enough for 4 pots of mousse, each of which should satisfy a crowd of 6 to 8 before dinner. Serve with cornichons and pickled onions.

TIME: 30 minutes active time
MAKES: 4 large ramekins

2 large shallots, thinly sliced
2 large garlic cloves, smashed
2 cups dry chardonnay
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
3 whole allspice berries
3 whole cloves
3 whole black peppercorns
2 pounds chicken livers, fat and veins trimmed away
3/4 cup water
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 16 chunks
Sea salt
Ground white pepper

Combine the shallots, garlic, chardonnay, and spices in a large, wide saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until the garlic is soft. Add the chicken livers and 3/4 cup water, bring back to a simmer, then cook for about 5 minutes, turning livers once or twice, or until they’re barely pink in the center. Remove from heat and let cool for 15 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, carefully transfer the livers and onions to the work bowl a food processor, picking out any spices as you see them. Carefully remove the remaining spices, then add the rest of the liquid and onions. Puree the liver mixture until smooth.

With the machine on, add the butter one chunk at a time, and puree until smooth, scraping the sides of the work bowl as necessary. (The mixture will seem thin.) Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pass the mousse through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, then transfer to 4 large ramekins or bowls. Let the mousse cool to room temperature, then refrigerate overnight, covered with plastic wrap, and serve chilled.

Mousse can be cooled, then double-wrapped and frozen up to 2 weeks before serving. To serve, thaw for 24 to 48 hours in the fridge.

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Filed under appetizers, chicken, gluten-free, recipe

Promised: Chicken Salad

IMG_3491

A few weeks ago, I promised you a new chicken salad.

There’s no story here – just plump chicken, chopped and blended with a spunky vinaigrette made with my new best friend, a lemon-infused olive oil. If you’re in a rush, fold in chopped rotisserie chicken. If you’re looking for a thinly-veiled excuse to eat the crisp, peppery skin off an entire bird you’ve just roasted perfectly on the grill (not that I would know anything about that), double the recipe. Try it in sandwiches or scooped next to a big green salad, or serve it inside endive spears or lettuce wraps.

Lemon-Spiked Chicken Salad (PDF)

TIME: 10 minutes
MAKES: Enough for 2 big sandwiches

Zest and juice of 1 large lemon
1 small shallot, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons lemon olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped leftover chicken
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

In a mixing bowl, whisk the lemon zest and juice, shallot, salt, pepper, and mustard to blend. While whisking, add the oil in a slow, steady stream, and whisk until all the oil is blended in. Stir in the chicken and parsley and serve.

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Filed under appetizers, chicken, gluten-free, Lunch, recipe, sandwich

A new thing

Lemon-Chive Chicken Salad 1

There’s a clear order of operations to my conversations these days. You know, like how in 8th grade math class you looked through an equation to find all the additions you had to do, then the subtractions, then . . . or wait, was it the multiplications first? (This is why I’m not a math teacher.)

But yes, it goes like this: First, people ask how the baby is doing. (He’s great, by the way. More than ten pounds!) Then, they ask how I’m doing. (Fine also.) Finally, always the third question:

Are you writing?

Honestly, this one sort of cracks me up – first, because going back to work is really still nowhere near the top of my list of priorities, and second, because when I was working regular full-time hours, people in general assumed I wasn’t writing. I’m not sure if this applies to all freelancers, but most of my friends with normal jobs have always called at, say, 10 a.m. on a Tuesday morning, when they’re on their lunch break on east coast time. They say something brilliant, like Hey, what are you doing? Like Tuesday morning is popcorn hour for all freelance writers. It always seems to come as a big surprise that I’m working. Sometimes I make things up, just for shock value. Oh, you know. Getting a pedicure before my dog’s Botox appointment. Normal Tuesday stuff.

But now, six weeks after Graham’s come home, it seems everyone expects me to be writing writing writing. And, well, what can I say? I sort of expected I might be, also. It’s not that I don’t want to write. And the words still come – only now, they flood my brain at the most inconvenient times. I do my best to contain them, while I’m nursing or walking or rocking a baby in the middle of the night, but it’s marbles on an ice rink, and I’m not even wearing skates. Heck, I don’t even own skates.

Before Graham was born, I had a very clear-cut creative process. I wrote in violent storms, usually in the morning. They were never any more predictable than that, but when they came – always with mental lightning and thunder, some sort of warning that got me sitting in front of a keyboard before the rains came – I was usually available. Now? Not so much. I’m often whole rooms away from a keyboard. The rains come, and they drench me, and then they pass, and I’m left sitting there in a big puddle of words.

Someday – who knows when? – I’m going to have to find a new creative process, for the days when I’m not in charge. Not an umbrella, per say, but maybe gutters, or a good, dependable catchment system for all these thoughts. A new thing, for this new life. I don’t think it will necessarily be a better way of writing, or worse. Just different. I’m really looking forward to it, whatever it is.

For now, since all those words about my neighbor’s birthday party have long since dried into puddle crust on the kitchen floor, just a recipe for the chicken salad I made for a group of giggly women. If nothing else, I beg you: Make the herbed mayonnaise. It goes a long way to make things exciting when you’re slapping turkey sandwiches together in the middle of the night.

Lemon-Chive Chicken Salad 3

Lemon-Chive Chicken Salad with Herbed Mayonnaise (PDF)

My neighbor recently had what she called her first 49th birthday party. I volunteered to bring chicken salad. I wanted something summery and light and herby, but didn’t want to make any presumptions about how gooey guests liked their sandwiches. (Goodness knows there’s nothing worse than eating the wrong rank on your mayonnaise scale.) I think I found the ultimate solution: I mixed the chicken up with about half the dressing—a mixture of mayonnaise, plain yogurt, bright lemon zest, and handfuls of herbs from my porch garden—and let people slather the rest on baguette halves, along with tomatoes, avocado slices, and pickled onions, as they assembled their own sandwiches.

Save any extra herbed mayo for bartering; it’s worth its weight in gold. (And if you make your own mayonnaise, it’ll be worth whatever’s more expensive than gold.)

If you’re pressed for time, substitute pre-roasted rotisserie chicken (2 large or 3 small) for the chicken breasts.

TIME: 45 minutes
MAKES: About 10 big sandwiches’ worth

4 cups chicken broth
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
2 cups chopped celery (from 4 big ribs)
3/4 cup golden raisins
2 cups mayonnaise
1/2 cup plain yogurt
Zest and juice of 2 large lemons
1/2 cup finely chopped chives, plus 1/4 cup coarsely chopped chives
1/3 cup finely chopped tarragon
1/3 cup finely chopped parsley, plus 1 cup (loosely packed) coarsely chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 large shallots, finely chopped

Bring the chicken broth to a bare simmer in a wide, shallow pan. Add the chicken breasts, and poach, turning occasionally, until cooked through (about 15 minutes). Transfer chicken to a cutting board to cool. Add the celery and raisins to the hot broth, and let sit for 5 minutes. (This softens the celery a bit and plumps up the raisins.) Strain celery and raisins (reserving broth for another use, if you’d like), and set aside to cool.

Herbed mayo

In a medium bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, yogurt, lemon zest and juice, 1/2 cup finely chopped chives, tarragon, and 1/3 cup finely chopped parsley until blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Shred or chop the chicken, and transfer to a large mixing bowl, along with the celery, raisins, 1/4 cup coarsely chopped chives, 1 cup coarsely chopped parsley, chopped shallot, and 1 cup of the herbed mayonnaise. Mix well, and season to taste with additional salt, pepper, and mayonnaise. Serve on lettuce or in sandwiches, with additional mayonnaise on the side.

Lemon-Chive Chicken Salad 4

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Filed under chicken, gluten-free, Lunch, recipe, sandwich, snack

Crash

Creamy Chicken Casserole close

It’s been a tense week, here in this house. My hard drive crashed.

It wasn’t ahead-on collision. More of a series of fender-benders, repeated with such dependable idiocy that I could have told you, one year ago today, that total disintegration was inevitable. Like that concrete post in the parking garage you always narrowly miss, until the day you don’t.

She’s a drama queen, this one. Every time she misstepped—I hate to be sexist, but this computer has to be a she—she’d give me this whole back-of-the-hand-to-the-forehead song and dance about being worked so hard, when really, her extra memory was just installed wrong from the beginning.

This week, she just couldn’t take it any more. We’ve been talking, since she came out of the ER, and she explained it was the technological version of a complete mental breakdown. Sometimes a black screen and a white blinking cursor are all one can muster.

I know what’s done is done, but I can’t help thinking that maybe it’s all my fault. That after months and months of feeding this computer recipes and photographs, without actual flavors, she finally cracked, with a close-up of what to her just looked like creamy mac and givemesome.

Anyway. I’m giving her a second chance, because without her, I simply felt naked. I’m depending on her, even though last night, she was nothing more than a paperweight. (That’s when Jim picked her up and shook her. Sort of like a defibrillator, I suppose.)

I’m trying to go easy on her—trying not to get mad when I have to reload all my applications, like one does with a new machine. Even though I can still only see my photographs in miniature, and I can’t seem to edit them. Even though I have to find passwords to everything all over again. Even though I haven’t installed Office yet, and the temporary version doesn’t have a print function. (Why would one want to use a version of Word that doesn’t print, I ask?)

So for today, just a recipe, the very warm, gooey, comforting recipe whose photographs may or may not have sent her into the coma. If I could open up the CD slot and shovel a bite or two in, I’m sure she’d be happy, but alas, it’s not the kind of drive that slides out, and my husband would be so angry if I fed pasta casserole to the computer he’s spent two late, late nights fixing.

So for now, I’ll focus her little eye on me, eating the leftovers of a recipe sparked by the one for modern turkey tetrazzini in Food & Wine. I’ll be her seeing eye human—or wait, would that be tasting mouth human, then?—and tell her how the goat cheese-spiked sauce slides over roasted chicken, mushrooms, peas, and caramelized onions with just the right speed, lingering only as long as it takes for me to dig another crunchy-topped piece of rigatoni out of the bowl. She’d recommend stirring in a sprinkle of crispy bacon, I think. (I can’t imagine her skimping on anything.)

“Why didn’t you put something red in?” she’ll ask, when you’re not here. I’ll explain that it might have looked better, but when you’re making Cream of Refrigerator Casserole, with all the things that need to be used, there isn’t always something red available. (Like memory, I’ll remind her, if I can’t leave well enough alone.)

And besides, if it’s going to be called “casserole,” peas and mushrooms are the rule. At least, they’re my rule, for my first (ever) homemade casserole. And they made it just what it needed to be: Creamy. Filling. Comforting. A little old-school. And quite delicious.

For a version as creamy as the top photo, substitute crushed potato chips for the breadcrumb topping and bake just 10 minutes.

Creamy Chicken Casserole bowl

Creamy Chicken, Mushroom, and Green Pea Casserole (Word Doc)

Updated a bit with goat cheese, whole wheat pasta, and caramelized onions, this casserole (inspired by a recipe for Modern Turkey Tetrazzini in Food & Wine magazine) skips the can-of-soup approach, to good effect.

This recipe requires doing a few things at once—please read through it before beginning, so you don’t miss a step.

TIME: 1 hour active time
MAKES: 6 to 8 servings

For the casserole:
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, halved, cut into 1/4” slices
2 whole chicken legs (legs and thighs together, about 1 1/2 pounds total)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup heavy cream, divided
6 ounces crimini mushrooms, halved and sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1 pound whole wheat rigatoni, or other bite-sized pasta
6 ounces goat cheese
1 cup frozen peas

For the topping:
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, then the onion slices, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes, until the onions are soft and golden brown.

Once the onions have started, rub the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil onto the chicken’s skin. Season with salt and pepper, and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until cooked through. When cool enough to handle, chop the meat (reserving bones for stock) and set aside.

Put a large pot of water on to boil for the pasta.

Make the sauce: Melt the butter over low heat in a saucepan. When melted, add the flour, and stir and cook at a bare bubble for a minute or two. Add the broth in a slow, steady stream, while whisking—the sauce will first thicken, then thin out. Add 1/2 cup of the cream, then slowly bring the sauce to a simmer, whisking occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Cook for 2 minutes at a simmer, until the sauce is thick and velvety. Remove from heat and set aside.

When the onions are golden, add the mushrooms and herbs to that pan, season with salt and pepper, and cook another 20 minutes, until the onions are a deep brown and the mushrooms have given up all their water. Add the remaining 1/4 cup cream, and stir for a minute, scraping any brown bits up off the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta al dente, according to package instructions. While it’s cooking, mix the topping ingredients together in a bowl until moist. (I find fingertips work best.)

Drain the pasta, return it to the pot, and stir in the onion/mushroom mixture, along with the sauce, the goat cheese (crumbled), the peas, and the reserved chopped chicken. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then transfer the mixture to a 9” x 13” pan (or two 8” x 8” pans). Top with the breadcrumbs, and bake for 30 minutes, or until the filling bubbles and the topping is lightly browned.

Let cool until the bubbling stops, then serve warm.

Creamy Chicken Casserole pan

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Filed under chicken, leftovers, Pasta, recipe

A way with leftovers

thanksgiving 2008

Thanksgiving really was was all that: Four women, more or less, buzzing around in the same in same six square feet in an otherwise very large kitchen, like bees in a blender with the top wide open. We chopped and spooned and buttered and mixed, smelled and tasted and barked and laughed. In a fit of last-minute organization, my mother taped all our recipes to an easel, which was genius, because it prevented people from actually entering the kitchen to find out what we were making, or how much garlic we planned to sneak into the mashed potatoes, or whether we really did have all the ingredients for sweet potato pie. We limited our six trips to the grocery store to before noon on Thursday, which seemed like a major accomplishment, and round about 4 p.m., the turkey came out brown and beaming.

the thanksgiving board

My brother didn’t help much, unless you count plying people with scotch and herding them out of the kitchen, which, come to think of it, is about as important a job as any. (Thank you.) He also lead the pie attack. Twelve of us polished off three pies in not much more than 24 hours, which makes me proud to be a Howe.

pie line-up

But he saved his culinary efforts for leftovers.

Josh doesn’t cook by the book. (He couldn’t. He doesn’t own a single cookbook.)

There’s no problem there – his food is delicious, and he clearly loves making it. And instead of teaching himself to cook in a methodically guided way – picking, say, one ethnicity to learn about, or one dish to perfect – he scampers from country to country, digging into favorites without any regard for how much knowledge he might have previously gathered about a given cuisine.

I think it’s admirable. No one should need a passport or a pedigree to cook new food.

The day after Thanksgiving, he and my sister woke up with a mission: They were determined to make congee with our turkey leftovers.

I, for one, had never had congee. Ever. I get to a dim sum restaurant, and the call of fried or strangely wiggly food far outstrips any curiosity about plain ol’ rice porridge. But Josh is apparently a new devotee, and my sis, who’s started weekly pilgrimages to discover all of Seattle’s dim sum, isn’t far behind.

It was 9:30 last Friday morning, and we’d already had breakfast. (Not that that matters to me these days. I can eat three or four breakfasts without blinking.) I left for a walk with my cousin and grandmother, and by the time we came back, the house smelled like he’d put a turkey in a rice cooker – all the starchy heaviness of a permeating rice aroma, plus the deep, almost fatty scent of dark meat turkey, and a whiff of ginger.

I won’t lie. I didn’t do a thing. I just walked right over to the pot, and scooped some into one of the bowls my sister made recently. It tasted calm and comforting, like a bowl of slow-cooked oatmeal with Thanksgiving stirred in.

For the record, I hear this is much more fun to make if you call them shit-talking mushrooms.

turkey congee 2

Post-Thanksgiving Congee (PDF)

It’s a week after Thanksgiving, and the only thing you have left to show for it is half a container of dried out dark meat and the turkey stock you don’t really want to save ‘til next November? Don’t throw either out. My brother’s congee, patterned after the rice porridge frequently eaten as breakfast in some Asian cultures, is a bit unorthodox – but delicious, and ideal for weekend brunch on a cold day.

TIME: 2 hours, start to finish
MAKES: 8 servings

1 1/2 cups long grain rice
8 cups homemade turkey stock
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 bunch scallions, white and stiff green parts
1 3-inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced into quarter-sized rounds
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, quartered
2 cups shredded leftover turkey (preferably dark meat)

Place the rice in a large liquid measuring cup and add water to measure 5 cups. Transfer the rice mixture to a large, heavy soup pot, add the stock and vinegar, and bring to a boil. Cut 3 of the scallions into 2” lengths and smash them flat with the side of a heavy knife. Add them to the rice, too. When the mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Add the ginger and garlic, plus a cup of water, and cook another 30 minutes. Add the shiitake mushrooms, and another cup of water, and cook 30 minutes more.

Slice the remaining scallions into thin rounds. Stir the turkey into the congee and cook for 5 minutes or so (just long enough to warm it through). Serve the porridge hot, garnished with scallions.

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Filed under Breakfast, chicken, chinese, grains, kitchen adventure, leftovers, recipe, soup

My New Noodle Soup

soba noodles

New Noodle Soup. Say it.

(Out loud, I mean.)

New Noodle Soup. Fun, isn’t it?

I know why. It’s because somewhere in there, you get to say “noo-noos,” like a two-year-old. Who can resist the sound of a food whose pronunciation requires the same mouth shape as its eating?

But clearly, noo-noos are not what one orders in mixed public adult company. Even I couldn’t do that. How unfortunate, especially this time of year, when traveling sniffles have most of us fighting hard to pretend we don’t have fall colds, and noonoos are just what we need.

But I do. I have a cold. And I’m going to be on the radio today, so last night I started hitting the liquids hard, trying anything to bring my bedraggled voice back. For dinner, it had to be my own version of the terrific chicken noonoo soup I had last weekend.

When I sat down at ART, the restaurant at Seattle’s new Four Seasons Hotel, I was a little shocked to find chicken noodle soup on the menu. It reads like such a pedestrian choice for an appetizer. Not exactly the sort of thing I’d expect to order in a room where the bar counter is backlit by ever-changing shades of fluorescence. But the soup – fine filaments of spiced vegetables, twisted up with soba noodles and black silkie chicken in a deeply flavorful broth, and topped with a poached egg – was anything but plain.

I didn’t have any desire to recreate the exact same soup. The carrots, cabbage, and squash were sliced micro-thin, for starters, and the presentation was far fancier than anything that happens in my house—the gorgeous ceramic bowl, the fanfare of a waiter pouring the broth over the noodles, yadda yadda. And I didn’t have time to hunt down a chicken that looks like it belongs in a Dr. Seuss book. But I couldn’t ignore the way the egg yolk glided into the broth, infusing it with a richness that makes chicken soup feel even more healing than usual.

I thought I tasted a hint of miso in the broth at ART – but when I asked, I was assured that I was just tasting the richness of a stock made with silkie black chicken, whose meat is known for its deep, almost gamey flavor. Once I got the miso in my head, though, I couldn’t get it out – so I spiked our soup with a dollop of miso paste.

Course, the plan was to eat half of it, then take it out of the fridge this morning, pop a newly poached egg on top, and take a few slightly more attractive photographs for you, in the daylight. But when I went to take it out of the fridge, I discovered my husband had taken the entire container for lunch.

Guess I’ll have to make more noo-noos.

new noodle soup

Chicken Soba Noodle Soup with Miso and Poached Egg (PDF)

At ART, Chef Kerry Sear poaches the eggs for 8 to 10 minutes wrapped up in a layer of plastic wrap. He lines a ramekin with the wrap, cracks an egg in, twists the ends to seal, and puts it right into a pot of boiling water. His method worked perfectly for me, but poach using whatever method you like best.

I found the timing worked well if I put the chicken stock, water for the pasta, and water for the eggs on the stove at the same time.

TIME: 25 minutes
MAKES: 4 servings

8 cups rich homemade chicken stock
1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 3/4 pound)
2 large celery stalks, thinly sliced on a diagonal
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced on a diagonal
1 bundle soba noodles (about 1/3 pound, or the diameter of a quarter)
1 tablespoon yellow miso paste
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 large eggs, poached
Shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven spice mix, optional)

Bring the stock to a bare simmer in a large saucepan. Add the chicken breast, celery, and carrots, and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Shred the chicken and return it to the pot with the vegetables.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to boil for the noodles. Cook until al dente, according to package instructions. Drain, rinse with cool water, and set aside.

Add the miso to the soup, and stir the noodles into the soup to warm. Season the broth to taste with salt and pepper, if necessary. Using tongs, divide the noodles between four soup bowls, then add vegetables, chicken, and broth to each. Top each bowl with a poached egg, and serve with a few sprinkles of shichimi, for a bit of spice, if desired.

Close to Wolf's Chickpea Salad

For those who have come from KUOW, here’s a PDF of the chickpea salad recipe I mentioned, from How to Cook a Wolf (pictured above), and here’s the vanilla-olive oil cake.

Art Restaurant and Lounge on Urbanspoon

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Filed under appetizers, Cakes, chicken, dessert, gluten-free, kitchen adventure, lupus, Pasta, recipe, salad, Seattle, side dish, snack, soup, vegetables

Soup for consumption

Chicken Soup for the Road Biker's Soul

Calling this beauty a soup is a bit of a stretch. Sure, it fits on a spoon, and slides down the throat like a cure, but it’s really meant to be just that – a tonic, with some occasional added chewability.

I met her at Frank and Michelle’s house last week. We gathered there for a Saturday night feast, with a Wooly Pigs Berkshire pork shoulder and a few bottles of St. Joseph, to hear about their trip to India. (We never did talk about India, did we?)

Before dinner, Michelle pulled a pot off the back of the stove. “It’s a quick little consommé,” she murmured nonchalantly. Like we all make consommé on Saturday nights.

The kitchen showed no signs of the true consommé process, a (probably, once you’ve done it more than twice, not all that) tenuous procedure that involves adding ground meat and finely chopped vegetables and egg white to an intensely flavorful stock. (The choppy bits gather up all the impurities in the stock (read: the fat), and eventually float to the top of the liquid, to form what’s ridiculously (in my opinion) called a “raft.” You take the raft off, and serve a perfectly clear, delicious liquid. Here’s a great Cookthink post on making pho from scratch with good pictures of how the raft works. The final product is gorgeous, but I’m only convinced it’s worth it when I’m not the one cooking.)

Chopped chilies

Michelle’s consommé was a well-dressed, low-maintenance version. She started with a rotisserie chicken and a box of store-bough chicken broth, and let the two simmer together with ginger and lemongrass, and enough spice to really get the nose running. We chopped basil and cilantro and mint up good and fine, stirred it into the strained liquid, and served it in big mugs, along with lime juice and thin hot pepper slices.

It was as convincing as chicken soup, but bright, and fiery, and somehow quite springlike, with the soft, sweet herbs floating on top. The night got cold more quickly than any of us expected, and when we went outside to wait for the pork to cook, the consommé was a necessary companion. I almost didn’t want dinner to come.

Then the pork came out, with silk stockings around each and every string of muscle, and we ate it with Frank’s lemon gnocchi, and we were ohso happy we hadn’t stopped at soup.

I made Michelle’s soup again a couple nights ago, only for dinner, with shredded chicken, to feed the cold Jim contracted in Boise. (Last weekend, he and my brother had another adventure. They rode Bogus Basin Road, 16 miles and 3,000 feet up. At the top, they got caught in a thunderstorm. Jim stuffed his jacket, Tour-style, with the first 100 pages of a phone book, to stay warmer on the way down. Even so, the next day, he was sick sick sick. We thought perhaps it was consumption. Or SARS.)

I left the herbs whole this time, simply because they seemed more fortifying that way.

Sure enough, when Jim left for Finland this weekend (I do hope we’ll hear from him here, but no promises), he seemed stronger.

Maybe it’s just a cold. Or maybe it’s The Soup that Cures Everything.

I certainly feel better.

Chicken Soup for the Road Biker's Soul 2

Chicken Soup for the Road Biker’s Cold (PDF)
When your immune system gets caught in the undertow, you need a soup that sasses back. Here’s a spicy Asian-inspired broth for spring, whose bright spice and fragrant whole herbs make eating chicken soup out of “soup season” an actual pleasure. This shortcut version, based on one my friend Michelle makes, is spicy enough to warm you up, but if you’re really under the weather, load up on the chilies (or use a spicier variety) and smoke the bad stuff right out.

For a more filling soup, turn it into a version of pho, with vermicelli and bean sprouts, or stir in chopped spring vegetables, like asparagus, chard, peas, and green garlic.

TIME: 20 minutes active time
MAKES: 4 servings

3 1/2 to 4 pound rotisserie chicken (look for a plain flavor)
2 carrots, cut into chunks
1 medium onion, cut into chunks
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2” piece ginger (about 1” in diameter), peeled and thinly sliced
3 stalks lemongrass, cut into 1” chunks (white and light green parts only)
5 peppercorns
5 cilantro stems
2 red jalapeno peppers, very thinly sliced (seeds included)
Juice of 2 medium limes
Salt
2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce (or to taste)
4 big stalks Thai basil
4 big stalks mint
1 cup cilantro

If your chicken has any sort of wacky seasoning on it, remove the skin. (Your dog will be happy to help, if it’s not crisp and delicious enough for your standards.) Remove much of the chicken’s breast and thigh meat and shred it. (You should have 4 loosely packed cups of meat, and enough meat left on the bones to flavor the broth.) Set aside.

Place the chicken carcass in a large soup pot, and add the next 7 ingredients, along with about 10 cups cold water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a strong simmer and cook for 1 hour.

Add one jalapeno’s worth of pepper slices, and simmer for 5 minutes longer. Strain the broth carefully through a fine-mesh sieve, and return to a clean pot. Add the lime juice, and season with salt and fish sauce, to taste.

Divide the chicken and remaining jalapeno slices between 4 large bowls. Add broth to each bowl and top with herbs. Serve immediately.

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Filed under chicken, gluten-free, husband, recipe, soup, vietnamese

The sandwich I really wanted

Curried Coconut Chicken Salad 1

The toothbrush I’ve been using for the last two weeks is wimpy. It’s a fat blue thing, designed for the floppy hands of someone doped up on Vicodin for much longer than I was, with a pittance of soft bristles that do more mopping than actual brushing. It’s the dead fish handshake of the toothbrush world. I hated it.

Today, I graduated to a specially-designed “sensitive brush,” which is about halfway to the real thing. I never knew I could be so excited about a toothbrush. But I am, because it heralds a sure march back to the world of real food.

I was three bites in, last Saturday in Colorado, when I realized I was eating bread for the first time in more than a week. It was store-bought garlic bread, the spineless, squishy kind that you warm up in a metallic bag. As we shoveled it in late that night, mopping up the last of two Stouffer’s lasagnas, it occurred to me that there are times when good, crusty bread is exactly what you don’t want. We were gathered in John’s kitchen after the service, ten people perched on chairs and counters and stairs instead of spread out at the table in the next room. I thought it fitting, how even though Susie wasn’t there with us, we were gathered around the spot where she might have been, eating food that comforted us the way she did. (A kitchen always comforts, I guess.) I couldn’t imagine a better meal.

For me, of course, biting into the bread without risking dental upheaval was a nice thrill. I felt like I’d advanced to a new level of healing. I got cocky.

On the way back to the airport the next day, we hit a café in Glenwood Springs, where we saw a coconut curried chicken salad sandwich on the board. (You know how I feel about chicken salad.) Just saying the word “sandwich” made me feel like a reckless teenager; the idea of shredded coconut in chicken salad delighted me to the point of public squealing. (I’ve never been a big coconut fan before, beyond the milk, but I think it’s safe to say I’m on the front end of an undeniable love affair with the stuff. It must have started with lust for something I couldn’t have. Doesn’t it always.)

I hung back in line at the café to gauge the sandwich’s safety, see if looked soft enough to eat, and when I saw one come out on a wheaty version of Wonder bread, I decided to take the plunge. I’d chewed the garlic bread without doing any damage – how different could it be, eating a doughy sandwich with mushy stuff inside?

Mouth-wise, it was fine; I took tiny bites and rolled everything back to the good molars, away from the still-tender tissue in the front of my mouth. I have graduated to soft sandwiches, too.

The chicken salad was another story. There were big, dry chunks of chicken, slathered with a curried mayonnaise too thin to give the salad any real mouthfeel, along with overwithered cranberries and zilch in the way of coconut. I was happy to be eating regular food, but disappointed that the sammy’s insides didn’t have much in the way of flavor, especially given the amount of mayonnaise involved.

Today, spurred by sandwiches in the news, I made the flavorful, yeilding chicken salad I’d wanted. I slathered chicken breasts with spices and roasted them right on the bone, so they stayed moist, and whirled the meat around in my KitchenAid, so it got good and shreddy without much effort from my hands. I added Madras curry, and thick Greek yogurt, and the bittiest dollop of real mayonnaise, along with basil and scallions and a hefty dose of toasted unsweetened coconut. It stirred up into the sort of fine-textured chicken salad that makes you want to get out the ice cream scoop, an avocado half, and a fat butter lettuce leaf, and pretend it’s 1975.

I know it will be better tomorrow, when the curry has had more of chance to do its business, but waiting didn’t seem to be an option today. I piled it onto my favorite seeded bread (have your sandwiches met Dave yet? He’s our new hero.), along with fat slices of avocado, and ate myself silly.

Going for the seeded bread was a little aggressive (even though I put the toast on a wet cutting board before assembling the sandwich, so it would soften a little), but now that I’ve conquered the sandwich, I have big aspirations for this almost-healed mouth of mine. Tomorrow, I’ll have another scoop of chicken salad, maybe on naan or soft pita.

But soon, I’ll be eating apples and tortilla chips and, big, sharp slabs of chocolate. Just you wait.

Curried Coconut Chicken Salad 2

Curried Coconut Chicken Salad (PDF)
In my opinion, chicken salad is best when the chicken is shredded, as opposed to cubed, because it allows the flavorings – in this case freshly chopped basil, scallions, curry, and a delicious dose of toasted coconut – to wedge themselves into little crevices, in each and every bite. I “shred” my chicken in a stand mixer because it’s easier for me, but you could certainly use your hands or a fork. Adding chopped apples and walnuts or cashews would make this is a more traditional curried chicken salad.

Before you begin adding curry powder, taste it first, and judge how much you need based on its strength.

TIME: 40 minutes active time
MAKES: enough for 4 or 5 sandwiches

2 large chicken breasts on the bone (about 2 pounds total)
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2 teaspoons Madras curry powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground pepper
1 (7 ounce) container 2% Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 cup chopped fresh scallions
1/4 cup (packed) chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup toasted unsweetened coconut

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the chicken in a large pan fitted with a roasting rack. Stir the olive oil and one teaspoon of the curry powder together in a small bowl with the salt and a good grinding of pepper, and rub the mixture all over the chicken, in a thin layer. Roast for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the chicken reaches 165 degrees at the thickest part on an instant-read thermometer. Set aside to cool.

When cool, pull the chicken off the bone and cut it into 1” pieces. (You should have a generous three cups.) In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, shred the chicken using on-off motions until you reach the desired consistency. Add the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder, plus the yogurt, mayonnaise, scallions, basil, and coconut. Stir to blend, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Filed under chicken, Lunch, recipe

You’re pretty when you’re drunk

To all those whose brainwaves were never tainted by the lyrics of The Bloodhound Gang, I offer my congratulations. And my apologies, because there’s only one song this chicken wants to hear.

Coq au vin might not be the sexiest dish to look at, but there’s a reason it’s popular: when it’s done well, the meat slips off the bones in satiny sheets. And the vegetables – I like using carrots from the farmers’ market, because even in January, they’re more flavorful than what I find at the supermarket – they always submit entirely by the end of their 2-hour massage, and hit the plate in a sweet (albeit ugly) drunken stupor.

Make this when you have a couple of hours. You’ll need time to brown the meat properly, and time to peel the vegetables. You’ll want time to make good mashed potatoes, the kind light enough to pick up with a secret swiff of a fingertip. And you’ll do best to take your time eating, too, and remember the rich, rosemary-tinged flavor of the broth – ’cause God knows what she’ll look like in the morning.

Steaming braised rosemary chicken

Braised Rosemary Chicken with Red Wine and Root Vegetables (PDF)
Recipe 357 of 365

You think only Frank Purdue likes thighs that size? Think again. Oversize chicken thighs – we’re talking fatty fatty boom ba latty thighs, from hens that were bred to run around outside – can make for tough eating if you just bake them. But if you braise them, giving them time to soak up heat and flavor slowly, you’ll like them, too. This rendition of coq au vin, with sweet, wine-soaked carrots and parsnips, tastes best on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes or fresh, soft polenta.

TIME: 40 minutes active time
MAKES: 4 servings

1/4 pound pancetta (or bacon), diced
4 fryer chicken thighs (large thighs, about 2 pounds total)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, quartered and sliced
1/2 pound carrots (4 large), peeled and cut into 1” chunks
1/2 pound parsnips (4 large), peeled and cut into 1” chunks
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 (375 mL) bottle dry red wine
1 bay leaf
2 (6”) sprigs fresh rosemary

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Heat a large Dutch oven (or some sort of heavy, ovenproof vessel with a lid) over medium heat. Add the pancetta, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer the pancetta to a paper towel-lined plate, and set aside. (At this point, you should have a thin layer of grease on the bottom of the pot. If your pancetta wasn’t that greasy, add a teaspoon or two of peanut or vegetable oil.)

Meanwhile, place the flour on a plate, season well with salt and pepper, and stir to blend. Roll the chicken thighs in the seasoned flour. When the pancetta comes out, increase heat to medium-high, and add the chicken pieces, smooth side down. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes per side, until well browned. Transfer the chicken to the plate with the pancetta, and wipe excess chicken fat (and any burnt bits) out of the pan.

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the olive oil to the pan, then the onion, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the onions begin to soften and pick the brown bits up off the bottom of the pan (about 5 minutes). Add the carrots, parsnips, garlic, wine, bay leaf, and rosemary, and bring to a simmer, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon.

When the wine simmers, nestle the chicken into the pot, cover, and braise (cook in the oven) for one hour, turning the chicken halfway through. Stir in the pancetta, and braise another 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes, then season the braising liquid to taste, and serve.

Note: Chicken can be made ahead of time, cooled to room temperature, and refrigerated overnight right in the braising pot. To reheat a day or two later, skim any accumulated fat off the surface of the stew, and reheat in a 325-degree oven for about 30 minutes.

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A holiday rut

You know, I thought it would get easier, with 25 days to go. I thought my typically long list of “to-try” recipes would hit the floor of my office, roll out toward the door, and curl up at the end, like Santa’s guide to good girls and boys. I’d simply plan out the remaining recipes, and go to it.

Instead, I have a dogeared index card, with precisely one recipe idea remaining on it today. It’s time to step up, and the juices are running clear again.

This would be a bad time to run out of juice.

It’s not that I’m not hungry for anything. Rachel’s brisket recipe, my mother’s Yorkshire pudding, a good, simple chicken noodle soup, and straightforward chocolate chip cookies are vying for the top space on my list of cravings. I want bowl after steaming bowl of pho, and macaroni and cheese. We’re going skiing this weekend, and I’m even excited to shovel highlighter-yellow Maruchan noodles in from a heatproof Styrofoam cup.

But none of what I want is mine.

This is a time of year for favorites. It’s a time when the dishes of our pasts crawl out of hibernation and dance across the table, hams and crown roasts and creamed spinach and coffee cakes, all trailing memories of previous years behind them. We forget that we’ve forgotten them for the past twelve months.

It’s a good thing, for most of us, remembering how we’ve shared Grandma’s cookie recipe over the years, how she used to decorate them, and who dropped the dough on the floor in 1987. Holiday food knits our memories together, and this time of year, when the sun’s too shy, the memories warm us.

But for someone trying to come up with an original recipe every day, especially (I imagine) someone who celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas, the holidays are torture.

I want comfort food. I want warm, rich things that swaddle my heart up with each spoonful, protecting me from winter. (Mmm. I forgot Chicken Pot Pie.)

I want dependable, familiar flavors, things like my mother’s matzo ball soup, usually made from a mix but somehow still all hers. I want to leave the gooey mixing bowl out on my own counter like she does, like I usually do, and peer into the soup pot after opening Hanukkah gifts, to see the tops of the remaining matzo balls withering in the cold air, like naked children in a half-drawn bath.

But matzo ball soup’s been done (a few million times, actually). Sure, I’ve made it in a miso broth before, made it with lemon and herbs, but like so many of the season’s best foods, there’s often one way to cook certain things that seems right. Right depends on the cook, and the family, and the locale, of course, but sheesh, it’s turning out that I’m more set in my holiday ways than I expected. I’m a holiday recipe Grinch.

And to me, matzo ball soup is plain, from a box. And dammit, it is Hanukkah. But if I made it, I’d have to make it and write the day’s recipe, and these busy, busy days, doing both is simply not an option. Not every night, anyway.

Last night, I gave up on the matzo ball soup tradition. I wanted something with good slurpability, a soup with a flavorful, tonic broth but also something that requested a knife and fork.

I got it: It’s a soup that says “Chicken Noodle Soup” to the soul but something more exciting to the palate. But man, it’s like pulling teeth these days.

Chicken, Madeira, and Macaroni Soup 1

Chicken Madeira and Macaroni Soup (PDF)
Recipe 340 of 365

A slurpable cousin of Chicken Marsala, this mushroom-packed soup is a heartwarming one-pot meal whose long ingredient list belies it simplicity. Serve as is, or with a loaf of good, crusty bread and a simple green salad on the side. For a gluten-free version, reduce the Madeira and the stock to 1 1/2 cups, and substitute cooked brown rice for the pasta.

TIME: 45 minutes total
MAKES: 4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 small shallots, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper
10 ounces sliced white mushrooms
10 ounces sliced crimini mushrooms
6 ounces portabella mushrooms (1 large), cut into 1/2” chunks
3 thick slices bacon or pancetta (about 1/5 pound), cut into 1/4” cubes
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 3/4 pound), each cut in half
2 cups Madeira
2 cups chicken stock or broth
1 cup macaroni or other pasta (uncooked)
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add the oil, then the shallot and onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add garlic and thyme, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, for 2 more minutes. Add all the mushrooms, season again with salt and pepper, stir, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove the lid, and simmer for 5 minutes over high heat.

While the mushrooms simmer, heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the bacon, and cook until crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Wipe out about half the fat in the pan. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper, increase heat to medium-high, and sear chicken until well browned on both sides, about 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to the plate with the bacon, and set aside.

Add the Madeira, chicken stock, and mushroom mixture to the soup pot. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Add the chicken, bacon, and macaroni, and cover, and cook until the macaroni is tender, about 10 minutes. (If you feel the smaller chicken pieces are already cooked almost all the way through, save them and add them when the pasta is half done.) Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the cream and parsley, and serve immediately.

Chicken, Madeira, and Macaroni Soup close

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Filed under chicken, Pasta, pork, recipe, soup

290

Pan-Roasted Chicken Thighs with Chanterelles

Pan-Roasted Chicken Thighs with Chanterelle Mushrooms (PDF)
Recipe 290 of 365

Serve the chicken over rice (which you can start before you begin cooking the chicken) or couscous (started when the chicken goes into the oven), or with a slice of good, crusty bread – either way, you’ll want that extra white wine sauce.

TIME: 30 minutes total
MAKES: 2 servings

2 chicken thighs (skin on or off, bone in or out)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1/2 pound fresh chanterelle mushrooms, ends trimmed, wiped clean, and sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 packed tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper, and rub with the thyme. (If the thighs are boneless and flop open, fold them closed and treat as if whole.)

Heat an ovenproof skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the oil, and brown the chicken for 5 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate, and add the shallots to the pan. Season with salt and pepper, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring. Add the mushrooms, season, and cook for a minute or two more. Add the wine to the mushrooms, bring to a boil, and nestle the chicken into the pan along with everything else. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast 10 minutes if the chicken is boneless, or about 15 minutes if the bone is in, or until the inside measures 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.

Take the chicken out of the oven. Scooch the chicken to one side of the pan, and add the parsley and butter into the mushrooms, stirring until the butter has melted. Serve in bowls, over rice or couscous.

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279: Game Hens with Cranberry-Mustard Stuffing

Yesterday we felt so revoltingly full that this morning, Tito and I decided to fast for a bit. It only lasted so long; I gave up when I got to the the Greek yogurt samples at Whole Foods (around 11 a.m.), and by two p.m., we felt almost human again. We each ate half a cheese sandwich for lunch.

Stuffed game hens sounded good by the time dinner rolled around. But when they came out of the oven, hot and crisp and emanating essence of poultry, I had no appetite. I went in for the photograph, trying to give you a glimpse of the chopped dried cranberries and wheat berries in the stuffing, and was struck by the feeling that I was taking inappropriate photographs of an innocent naked sunbather. The hens were good, but I ate very little.

Game Hens with Cranberry-Mustard Stuffing 2

Roasted Game Hens with Cranberry-Mustard Stuffing (PDF)
Recipe 279 of 365

Game hens are a great way to disguise a lust for crisp chicken skin, because they make it sort of acceptable to eat all the skin off one bird, which I tend to do no matter how big she is.

TIME: 50 minutes active time, plus stirring
MAKES: 4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken stock or broth
3/4 cup wheat berries
1/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 (1-pound) game hens, rinsed, trimmed, and dried inside and out
Olive oil spray

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the oil, then the onion, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the thyme and wine, and simmer 2 minutes. Add 2 cups of the chicken stock and the wheat berries, and simmer on medium-low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the remaining 2 cups stock, and simmer another 30 minutes. Stir in the cranberries, and cook another few minutes, until almost all the liquid is absorbed. Remove the stuffing from the heat, stir in the mustard, breadcrumbs, and cheese, season to taste, and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Divide the stuffing between the cavities of the four hens. Using twine, tie the legs together, and tuck the wings behind the backs. Place the birds breast-up in a large roasting pan, spray lightly with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the stuffing measures 165 degrees with an instant-read thermometer. Serve warm, with a gravy made from the pan juices, if desired.

Game Hens with Cranberry-Mustard Stuffing

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In-Your-Face Chicken Pasta Salad

Today is a different day; I’ve ricocheted from one side to the other. Same basic ingredients – whole (buck)wheat, broccoli, chicken and basil – only this time, it’s all out in the open. Out of the closet, if you will.

Sesame Soba with Chicken, Broccoli & Basil Vert

Sesame Soba with Chicken, Broccoli and Basil (PDF)
Recipe 239 of 365

Soba are Japanese buckwheat noodles, which have an earthier flavor than regular whole wheat noodles, and are better at soaking up sauces than traditional dried Italian pasta. If you’ve never cooked them, read the directions; they usually take less time than regular pasta.

This is a great way to use up a leftover cooked chicken breast (or all that meat that’s left on a roasted chicken after you cut the main parts off), but if you need to cook some for the recipe, just sear it over medium-high heat in a swirl of olive oil (added after the pan has heated up, of course), for 4 to 5 minutes on each side, turning the heat down on the second side, if needed.

TIME: 30 minutes (including cooking the chicken)
MAKES: 2 servings

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
1/4 cup sesame tahini (stir well, if new)
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
1/4 – 1 teaspoon hot chili sauce (such as sriracha or even Japanese shichimi flakes), or to taste
4 ounces soba noodles
2 cups broccoli florets, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 chicken breast, cooked and shredded
3 scallions, finely chopped (green and white parts)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, mix the rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, soy, tahini, sesame seeds, and chili sauce (if using) in a small bowl until well blended. Set aside. (If you’re cooking the chicken breast now, finish it before you start cooking the noodles.)

Cook the noodles according to package directions, until al dente, adding the broccoli florets to the water along with the noodles about 2 minutes before the noodles should be done. Drain the noodles and the broccoli together, transfer to a large mixing bowl, add the reserved sauce, and mix with tongs until smooth. (It may take a minute or two; the sauce is thick.) Add the shredded chicken, scallions, and basil, mix, and serve warm or at room temperature.

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I do love a good mystery

One of the things I love about writing here is how differently you all respond. You say yes, these straightforward recipes are just what my kitchen needs, while you, over there, you dig the more esoteric recipes; chocolate-basil torte and tomato sorbet, all the way, you say. X wants side dishes, Y wants more main course ideas.

I love you all, because you reflect my many different kitchen selves, on different days.

In my book, pasta salad tends toward the easy, mainstream side of the spectrum. But this one has secrets.

I just turned in an article on how to sneak vegetables into adults’ diets. You know, how to trick your Sig. O. the same way you might trick a four-year-old, by slipping things in and hoping they go down the hatch undetected.

So go ahead: feed this to your broccoli-hater. Your whole wheat-hater. See what happens.

Oh, and by the way, the new flax and multigrain pasta at Trader Joe’s is superb.

Sneaky Chicken Pasta Salad 1

Sneaky Chicken Pasta Salad (PDF)
Recipe 238 of 365

You can substitute a chicken from your own oven and homemade pesto, of course, but if you’re trying to get as many nutrients into a certain someone in as little time as possible, use the rotisserie bird and pre-made pesto. And if your audience is a little less picky, add chopped Sungold tomatoes, goat cheese or feta, or any other vegetables popular at your house.

TIME: 20 minutes
MAKES: 6 to 8 servings

2 cups broccoli florets
8 ounces (1 cup) basil pesto
1 pound whole wheat fusilli (or other small pasta)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 store-bought rotisserie chicken, skin removed, meat shredded

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta.

Fill a small saucepan with about an inch of water, bring to a boil, and add the broccoli. Steam for about 5 minutes, or until tender, then set aside to drain.

Transfer the pesto to a food processor, add the broccoli, and whirl until completely smooth.

Cook the pasta according to package instructions, and drain. Transfer to a big bowl and toss with the broccoli pesto, olive oil, and shredded chicken. Serve warm or cold.

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Filed under chicken, Pasta, recipe, vegetables

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree

Oh, I hate it when people say that. But when I cook with my mother, I know it’s true. She’s the reason I’m not very good at making things over and over again.

She was with me at Trader Joe’s last week, when I raided the store of everything convenient.

So many of you ask me how I come up with recipes. This is how it went on Monday:

Jess: I want to stuff something.

Mom: Flank steak?

Jess: Just made it. Plus, I have chicken breasts in the freezer.

Mom: Spinach?

Jess: (Picking up pre-packaged chard leaves.) Chard! Ooh, maybe some cheese?

Mom: How about this (picks up container of pre-crumbled blue cheese)? And walnuts! Use the walnuts.

And a recipe was born.

(Look, it’s one of the Christmas plates!)

Chicken with Walnuts, Bleu Cheese & Chard

Walnut-Crusted Chicken with Chard and Bleu Cheese
Recipe 231 of 365

Stuff a heady mixture of garlic-infused sautéed chard, bleu cheese, and toasted walnuts into chicken breasts, coat them with walnut dust, and pan-sear them, as directed below, or use the same stuffing for pinwheels made from thin-pounded flank steak, for filling a butterflied, rolled pork or beef tenderloin roast, or for hollowed-out Portobello mushrooms.

To make the recipe ahead of time, chill the filling while you prepare the chicken, stuff and coat the chicken, and refrigerate, well wrapped in plastic, up to 4 hours before cooking.

TIME: 40 minutes active time
MAKES: 6 servings

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1 pound coarsely chopped chard leaves (such as Trader Joe’s Chard of Many Colors)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup walnut halves, toasted
1/2 cup crumbled bleu cheese
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, then the garlic, and cook, stirring, for just a few seconds. Add half the chard, turning it with tongs to coat it with the oil, and cook, turning frequently and adding more chard as it begins to cook down, until all the chard fits in the pan. Season with salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes, or until all the chard is completely wilted.

Meanwhile, chop the walnuts. Transfer half of them to a large mixing bowl. Chop the remaining walnuts very, very finely, and set them aside in a small bowl. When the chard is done, transfer it to a cutting board, remove any still-crunchy stem pieces, chop the leaves finely, and add to them mixing bowl, along with the bleu cheese. Stir the chard, walnuts, and cheese together until well blended – this will be the filling for the chicken – and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Using a small, sharp knife, trim the chicken breasts, and cut each breast almost in half horizontally, so each opens like a book with one long side of the breast holding the two halves together. (Placing the chicken on the board smooth side-down makes it easier to see that both halves of the breast remain intact when you cut them, so that no stuffing will fall out.)

Season the chicken breasts inside and out with salt and pepper, and stuff each with a sixth of the stuffing mixture. Turn the closed, stuffed breasts smooth side-up on a plate, and dust with about half of the remaining finely-chopped walnuts.

Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon of the oil, swirl to coat the pan, then add three of the chicken breasts, nutty side-down. Season the newly exposed sides with half the walnuts left in the bowl. Cook for 4 minutes, or until the chicken releases easily from the pan. Flip the breasts over carefully (try not to lose any stuffing), and cook another 4 minutes on the second side, until browned. Move the chicken to a baking sheet, smooth side-up, and repeat with the remaining tablespoon oil, chicken, and walnuts. Bake the chicken on the middle rack of the oven for an additional 8 to 10 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Serve immediately.

Note: if you have two large, ovenproof skillets, simply cook the chicken in two skillets in one batch, then transfer the skillets to the oven for the last part of the cooking process.

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It’s all about the schmaltz

There are some good how-to videos out there on how to truss a chicken – it’s a useful thing to learn, but I typically let my chicken head for the oven relatively liberated. I tuck the wing tips behind the back, and occasionally tie the legs together.

Roasted chicken and stuffing 2

Roasted Chicken with Panzanella Stuffing (PDF)
Recipe 223 of 365

The problem with stuffing a chicken is obvious: unless you’re cooking a giant old bird, the cavity doesn’t hold enough stuffing to feed as many people as the bird does. Plus, the chicken takes more time to roast that way, and the breast meat often dries out.

Here’s an answer: make the stuffing, roast it next to the bird, then drizzle the bird’s juices over the stuffing (like you might normally do with butter for turkey stuffing) and bake the chicken flavor into it while you rest and slice the chicken. With small, ripe cherry tomatoes and toasty cubes of whole grain bread, the stuffing tastes like a hot, toasty version of traditional Italian bread salad.

TIME: 30 minutes prep, plus 60 to 90 minutes roasting time (start about 2 hours before dinner)
MAKES: 4 to 6 servings

4 cups 1” bread cubes, from good crusty bread (I used dense whole grain bread)
Spray olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon dried Herbes de Provence
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 cups small cherry or grape tomatoes
1 4-pound chicken, rinsed and dried well

Arrange an oven’s racks to fit both a roasting pan and a baking dish, if possible, roasting pan on top, and preheat the oven to 450 degrees (or preheat two ovens, if you have them).

Place the bread cubes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spray with the olive oil spray, tossing the cubes as you spray to coat all sides evenly. Season with salt and pepper, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, turning occasionally to ensure even browning, or until nice and toasty on all sides. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, then add the onions. Season with salt and pepper and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the onions are soft. Add the garlic and 2 teaspoons of the Herbes de Provence, and cook another 2 minutes, stirring. Increase heat to high, add white wine, and simmer 3 minutes. Remove the onion mixture from the heat, and stir in bread cubes, basil, and tomatoes, tossing until the bread cubes have absorbed all the liquid. Transfer the stuffing to a lightly oiled baking dish and set aside.

Panzanella stuffing (raw)

Rub the chicken with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Season it inside and out with salt and pepper, fold the wing tips behind the back, and place it breast-up on a rack in a roasting pan. Rub the remaining tablespoon Herbes de Provence into the breasts, legs, and thighs, and roast 30 minutes at 450 degrees.

Reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees, slide the stuffing into the oven on the rack beneath the roasting pan, and roast the chicken an additional 30 to 50 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken, covering loosely with foil if the skin becomes too brown. (When cooked, the breast meat should measure 165 degrees in the thickest part with an instant-read thermometer, juices from the leg should run clear, and the legs should wiggle freely.)

When the chicken is done, remove both the chicken and the stuffing from the oven, leaving the oven on. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter, and let rest 10 minutes before carving. Drizzle the pan juices evenly over the stuffing, and return the stuffing to the oven for 15 minutes more. Serve chicken with the stuffing.

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A Seattle Saturday

Yesterday we were sitting at Brouwer’s with some friends after a Mariner’s game, discussing dinner options. Yes, it was a Seattle kind of Saturday; it started with a rollerblade around Greenlake to celebrate 1992 and included two lattes consumed at two separate independent coffee houses, in addition to my morning coffee. The latter might explain why I felt great bopping around all day yesterday, until I woke up this morning with what, for both symptomatic and gustatory reasons, I must label consumption.

We’d had garlic fries at the game. If you haven’t had the pleasure: “Garlic fries” insinuates (to me, anyway) that one is ordering French fries with a bit of garlic something on them. At Safeco Field, one actually receives chopped garlic garnished with fries. I’d like to start a petition at Safeco to convince the vendor to rename them “fries garlic,” implying that “garlic” is the main ingredient and “fries” is just a descriptor, because it would be a lot more accurate. If you’d like to duplicate the experience, eating a head of raw garlic is a probably close approximation, as long as ACDC’s “Thunder” is playing at full volume in the background. It made me wonder whether fries garlic sometimes cause pitchers to lose their concentration; the stadium’s collective garlic breath must be bad enough to find its way from way up in the nosebleeds, where we were sitting, down to the mound.

And oh, the morning breath. I’m fairly certain our dog is avoiding us.

After binging on fries garlic (which I thoroughly enjoyed) and other associated ballgame foods, my friend Michelle announced she needed something lighter for dinner, specifically, corn – but not right off the cob. (I like it when people know what they want; it always creates a much easier path to an eventual dinner decision.) She wanted something similar to this corn salad but less salady, more spicy, and perhaps used as a garnish for something grilled. We agreed on a spinach salad and grilled chicken with hot chipotle corn salsa.

We all gathered in our kitchen, milling and talking and eating and drinking in the casual, everyone-does-everything way that separates having dinner with friends from having friends over for dinner.

Discussion inevitably meandered to the pros and cons of the different methods used to cut corn off a cob: I think most people balance one end of the cob on a cutting board and cut the kernels off, like this or this (or worse, as shown in this painful video).

I’m just not as balanced a person, I guess. If I do it that way, the kernels go everywhere, and sometimes I rocket the cob itself across the room, too. I much prefer to place the cob down on the cutting board, and use a small, sharp knife to cut three or four rows of kernels off at a time, running the knife down the length of cob with the knife’s point on the board (as opposed to cutting straight down along its entire length) and rotating the cob (up, away from the knife’s blade) a little bit after each row.

Cutting corn off cob

The advantages for me are clear: 1) I don’t have to start by cutting the cob in half or cutting one end off to make a flat spot, which is sometimes tough to do and always hard on my joints, and 2) The kernels end up neatly lined up on the cutting board, rather than scattered around the board itself, the counter, and whatever happens to be within a roughly three-foot radius of the actual cob (such as my dog).

Grilled Chicken with Hot Chipotle Corn Salsa 4

Recipe for Hot Chipotle Corn Salsa
Recipe 210 of 365

I’d have written a recipe for grilled chicken topped with this spicy, creamy corn salsa, but it seems a shame to limit the topping to just chicken – cook the salsa and serve it as a piquant side dish on its own, stir it into ground beef for making hamburgers, serve it over fish, or stuff it into tacos or burritos.

TIME: 20 minutes
MAKES: 4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 large scallions, sliced, white and green parts (roughly) separated
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
Kernels from 3 ears fresh corn
1 chipotle pepper en adobo, finely chopped, plus 1/2 – 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the oil, then add the white parts only of the scallions, and the jalapenos. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the corn, chipotle peppers and adobo sauce, and cream, and season with salt and pepper. Increase heat to high and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the cream has thickened and the corn is bright. Remove from heat, stir in sliced scallion greens, season with additional salt and pepper if necessary, and serve. (The corn can also be served cold, and can be reheated just before serving.)

corn salsa 2

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There’s a hole in my heart where Willow Tree used to be

This morning the fog rolled up from Puget Sound, past Ballard and toward Phinney Ridge, and I thought of the occasional foggy mornings on Cape Cod, and of eating chicken salad in kitchens so close to the ocean that I could see the fog hanging around inside, too, right there above the sink.

You might have guessed that I love chicken salad. But you probably don’t know the whole story.

I used to avoid foods that combined anything meatish and the word “salad” on the same label. Ditto with tomatoes, anything with a sauce, anything spicy, or anything not immediately identifiable.

But seriously – the chicken salad thing stuck with me until just a few years ago. It seemed . . .I dunno. Too squishy.

Then Michaela introduced me to good chicken salad. Willow Tree Farm chicken salad, to be exact. You might describe it as “premium” grocery store deli counter chicken salad. I started buying it at Shaw’s in Falmouth when I was shopping for my personal chef clients (and hey – wow – the thought of shopping in a massive grocery store seems so strange right now). I rarely had time to eat a proper lunch, and it was a fast, convenient, tasty way to shove a thousand calories down in, oh, about ten forkfuls. It got me through the day.

But then I started buying it at home, when friends visited, and in the winters, when I definitely didn’t need any more calorie-dense foods in my refrigerator.

The fog reminded me that I haven’t even looked for Willow Tree here. It disappeared from my life, like braces and pegged pants.

I just cruised over to the Willow Tree website, for old times’ sake. I thought I might stumble across a place to order it online – the things one could do with a ten-pound bucket - but I was unwittingly lured to a page with nutritional information. It turns out that about 75% of my love for Willow Tree Farm chicken salad (a.k.a. calories) comes from fat. Tons of mayo and sugar, too. No wonder I loved it.

Then I looked around online some more, and found I can actually order it. I started daydreaming – three pounds of chicken salad, fresh on my front porch. Maybe I could use it to patch the hole in my heart where Willow Tree used to be. Or just glue it to my thighs, as my mother used to be so fond of saying.

Luckily, I caught myself before circling the drain of chicken salad desire. There’s a reason I like it, I thought, and I can most likely duplicate it, maybe even do my body more good than harm.

And I can have it for lunch.

See, I really like it when chicken salad is shreddy – yes, that’s a technical term, shreddy, as opposed to square and/or chunky. Because the gooey stuff gets between the strands of shredded chicken better than it does between whole chunks of chicken, shreddy chicken salad – like the stuff from Willow Tree – is more moist in the mouth. It also holds a sandwich together more effectively, and is better at grabbing mix-ins in. Grapes and almonds, apples and walnuts, pecans and craisins, various herbs . . .

But hear this: if you make chicken salad in a stand mixer, separating the chicken meat by beating it apart into strands with the paddle attachment, it’s possible to make a rough estimate of the Willow Tree texture. That is, as long as you don’t start with dry chicken.

Making shreddy chicken salad

But even with perfectly tender chicken, there’s still the problem of moisteners: I know roughly what it’ll take to achieve the silky mouthfeel and slightly sweet flavor of Willow Tree, but I can’t physically bring myself to add that stuff in.

Here’s a good compromise, a shreddy chicken salad, made with some of the good stuff and some of the bad. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which is which.

I stuffed it into a pita, and the chicken salad had enough (hmm, insert something a physics PhD would say here – Tito? Carlos? Melanie? Is it surface tension?) that when the pita started breaking down, as they always seem to do, the chicken salad didn’t come cascading down the front of my white tank top and ruin my lunchtime porch session.

No, I waited until later and poured cold coffee down the inside of said tank top instead.

Oh, my. We’re going back east soon for a visit. Maybe I’ll have to hit the grocery store.

Shreddy Apple-Walnut Chicken Salad

Recipe for Shreddy Apple-Walnut Chicken Salad
Recipe 207 of 365
Whipping chicken in a stand mixer is a good, quick alternative to chopping it, and leads to chicken salad with just the right “shreddy” texture.

If you’re using fresh roasted chicken for this (the small rotisserie birds from the grocery store are perfect!), remove all the skin first, then tear the meat off and chop it into roughly 2” – 3” pieces before adding it to the mixer. Be sure to use both the light and the dark meat.

TIME: 15 minutes (with cooked chicken)
MAKES: 4 to 6 sandwiches

1 pound cooked chicken (from a 3- to 4-pound rotisserie chicken, or 1 1/4 pounds raw chicken breasts, cooked)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 cup plain fat-free yogurt
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 Pink Lady or Granny Smith apple, chopped
2 scallions, thinly sliced, green and white parts
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, using on-off pulses “whip” the chicken on medium speed until it reaches the desired consistency – whipping longer will result in smaller pieces. (Use your hands to tear apart extra long pieces, if necessary.) Add mayonnaise, yogurt, and mustard, season with salt and pepper, and mix until combined and creamy, about 15 seconds. Add additional mayo or yogurt, if you want a wetter consistency, and stir in the remaining ingredients.

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Dirty Mitts

Laura gave Tito a set of these adorable skewers when she was here. I’m not sure if she actually imagined him patiently threading meat and vegetables onto their cutie-patootie curlicue nonstick ends. Maybe she thought I’d do the crafty stuff and he’d grill them up, but in any case, I think I can be fairly certain that when she picked them out with her mom, she didn’t envision me threading them with vegetables and hanging them around my neck like tribal neckwear from a culture that reveres vegetables more than we do. But that’s what I did, because look at them:

Necklace!

Does that image not just scream put me on like a necklace? The tomatoes were quite fetching, the peppers exotic. The zucchini weren’t really my color, and felt funny against my skin. No, I never tried the onions or raw chicken on. Yes, I was home alone when this all went down. And I hadn’t yet brushed them with the sauce.

Moving on. I made the kebabs with two goals: one, to eat dinner, and two, to test out these skewers, to see if their utility (no soaking!) matched their cuteness.

Dinner was great. Utility was just okay, but in the end, I think the marginal benefit of cuteness with respect to utility was still positive. (Eeek, partial derivatives, anyone?)

See, the skewers are giant almost-circles, which creates sort of a space problem. We have a standard circular charcoal Weber kettle grill, which would fit about 8 curly skewers arranged perfectly in a starburst pattern. However, if your fire is only a foot in diameter in the center of the (roughly two-foot) grill, you run the risk of having eight skewers quite charred at one end and quite raw at the other. I decided to go for the all-or-nothing approach: I’d put whatever I wanted to cook in the center, and swap the skewers from the inside to the outside in successive batches, so that everything eventually got a turn in the spotlight, so to speak.

But no more than five minutes into the process, I’d twisted the tongs around the spirals on the end of each skewer, the skewer spirals together, and my fingers around the skewers I’d tried in my outlandish stupidity to pick by the cute end, despite the fact that they were, per usual, on a fire. (They looked so darn touchable!)

And there was Tito, vulturing behind me, used to being the one doing the grilling. I swore at the skewers and handed him the tongs, when he threw aside in favor of my precious red Williams-Sonoma oven mitt. Without hesitation, he went in for hand-to-hand combat with the tangled skewers, caramelizing creamy, mustardy sauce onto every useful surface of Big Red in the process.

Big Red takes a hit

Notes for next time:

1. Build bigger-diameter fire.

2. Make Tito use the new mitt Laura gave him, so he can’t ruin another one of mine. (I say this as if the red mitt was in perfect condition before the kebabs, which it wasn’t.) From now on, we will have outdoor oven mitts and indoor oven mitts.

3. Do not touch metal skewers when hot. Duh.

Dijon-Dill Kebabs

Recipe for Dijon-Dill Kebabs
Recipe 174 of 365

Instead of alternating meat or fish with vegetables the way many do with kebabs, I prefer to load each skewer with a single ingredient, so that I can give each thing the cooking time it needs – no one likes an undercooked onion.

If you use wooden skewers, soak them in a pan of water for about 30 minutes before using, to avoid burning them over the fire.

TIME: 20 minutes prep
MAKES: 4 servings

4 small chicken breasts, cut into 1” cubes (you could substitute salmon, halibut, or shrimp)
2 small zucchini, cut into 1” rounds
6 small roma tomatoes, halved
1 bell pepper (any color), seeded and cut into strips
1/2 red onion, cut into 1” chunks
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup fresh dill (equivalent of a 1-ounce package, if available)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper

Prepare a charcoal grill (or preheat a gas grill) over medium heat. Thread the chicken, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, and onions onto skewers, place on a baking sheet, and set aside.

Puree the mustard, lemon juice, olive oil, dill, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor until smooth, and brush the chicken and vegetables on both sides with the sauce.

Grill the kebabs over medium heat until nicely browned and cooked through – the onions will probably take the longest, about 8 minutes per side, followed by the chicken at about 6 minutes per side, then the peppers, then the zucchini, then the tomatoes. Brush the kebabs with additional sauce during cooking, taking care to give each side of each skewer a final hit on the heat before serving, so the sauce has a chance to cook onto the food. Serve hot (and don’t burn yourself on the skewers).

De-skewered Dijon-Dill kebabs

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