Saturday, January 21, 2012

Honeymoon & Chicken Salad

Hey folks!  We're back from our honeymoon, and I've just successfully completed my first week of work at my new part-time office job - woohoo!  I also catered a wine n' nibbles reception for my client last night, which went off without a hitch.  So satisfying!  I'm finding that the balance of mental work there at the office and physical work in the kitchen is even more ideal than I had expected.  It's tough getting back into the swing of things, though, after such a fabulous honeymoon with my honey :)
Looks pretty terrible, huh? 
Now, let's talk food:  I think I've perfected the chicken salad, since my client has been asking that I make it for his lunch.  My big secret?  Homemade mayo, and keepin' it simple.  So I call this...
5-ingredient Chicken Salad
(makes about 3 cups)
Note: the key to making good mayonnaise is to use a strong blender on the highest possible setting (usually it's something intense-sounding like "liquefy").  Without that crazy blending action, you won't get an emulsion - that's dorky kitchen talk for a mixture of two or more liquids that is virtually un-blendable.  Think salad dressing that will never, ever separate into oil and vinegar.  Cool, right?  Most important of all, be fearless.  It's only mayo, no big deal!

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 large egg
1 cup blended oil (half canola or grapeseed, half olive oil)

2 chicken breast with ribs (about 1.5 pounds)
4 celery stalks, finely chopped
Salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine in the blender the lemon juice, egg, a pinch of salt, and 1/4 cup of the oil, and whir on high speed for a whole minute.  With the blender running, carefully drizzle in the remaining oil, very slowly at first and more steadily as you go.  Continue to blend on high, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides, until the mixture has become a paler yellow and is totally homogeneous and thickened.  Pour into a large mixing bowl and set aside in the fridge.

Set the chicken in a shallow baking dish and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.  Pour 1/4 cup of water into the bottom of the dish and cover with foil.  Place in the oven and let it steam, tightly covered, for about 30 minutes, until the juice runs clear when you prick it and the internal temperature registers at 160 degrees F.  Remove to a plate to cool.

Once the chicken is cooled, remove the skin, tear it off the bone, and cut it into 1/2-inch chunks.  Add the chicken and chopped celery to the mayonnaise and mix well to combine.  Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately, or keep in the refrigerator up to five days.

The spread at the party I catered last night

Friday, January 6, 2012

Shake It Up

It's the beginning of a new year!  Go crazy - eat salad for breakfast!!

Ok, granted, that's not such a wild proposition.  But it sure is weird, right?  And it's what I did this morning, after waking up at the wee hour of 5am because I'm so darned excited to be leaving on our honeymoon tomorrow afternoon.  7-day Caribbean cruise with Dan my Man, here I come!  Also, I just landed a steady, part-time job to supplement my cooking work, so all is pretty groovy.  Take that, 2012.

I made a fun trip to my favorite spice shop on 1st Avenue in the East Village the other day and stocked up on some exotic but useful staples, such as sumac, Chai masala, and red honeybush tea.  The sumac is a particularly well-loved spice in my household, where I throw it on anything and everything that demands salty acidity (salad being the most obvious choice).  It's also great on soups, eggs, meat, veggies - anything that needs some extra pop!  It's essential to my Greek salad, below.

Greek Salad
Serves 2
2 cups chopped romaine lettuce
2 vine tomatoes, sliced
1/2 large cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, chopped crosswise
2 scallions, green part only, sliced thin
scattering of pitted kalamata, or other black, olives
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sumac (available at Middle Eastern food store)
sea salt

In a large bowl, combine the first five ingredients and set aside.  In a separate small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, yogurt, olive oil, and sumac.  When ready to serve, toss the salad with dressing and season to taste with salt.  Serve immediately.