Fancy Chicken Salad Sandwiches

One of the book clubs I belong to occasionally meets for afternoon tea, and over the years, we’ve each developed a specialty of sorts. Mine is chicken salad croissants. (Though I don’t make the actual croissants myself.)

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I will not be finishing the book. I lasted all of seven paragraphs before giving up.

This time I somewhat unintentionally got a little fancy. Okay, okay, the croissants were from the grocery store (which I doubt I will be doing anymore, as their quality has really declined, and it’s not like this town doesn’t have any decent bakeries), and the chicken was from a can (which I will always do because I simply will not handle raw poultry). But I think nearly everything else I used was organic.

My recipe, if you want to call it that, is not difficult or even all that unusual, if you ask me, but I get a lot of compliments on it, so here it is.

 

I drain the canned chicken, plunk it into a bowl, and fluff it with a fork. For this, I used two of the largish (I think 12.5 ounces, but I wouldn’t swear to it) cans. Then I chop up an apple and put most of that in. (I usually end up eating a wedge or two of the apple in the process.) Then I add some chopped sweet onion, chopped nuts (in this case, pecans, but it’s often walnuts), and some sort of fruit. I prefer to use halved grapes, but this time all I had was dried cherries. I really should have chopped those cherries up, but I was in a bit of a rush. Ah, well, I’ll remember that next time.

I empty an entire 16-ounce container of sour cream (this time I used Wallaby Organic) into a separate bowl, then spoon in some mayonnaise. I never measure it. You’ll just have to engage in some trial and error to find what ratio you like best. (My advice is to start small; you can always add more.) I then season it to my liking, which is different every time I make it, but some of my favorites are garlic salt, ginger powder, herbes de Provence, and paprika. Then I do some taste testing and adjust the mayo content and the seasonings.

Then I spoon some of the goo into the chicken bowl and mix it up. Again, start small, then add more until you reach a consistency you like. Once you have it all mixed up to your liking, you can scoop some onto your croissants or rolls or whatever and enjoy!

 

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This Week’s Culinary Adventures

This morning I finally got around to making that 4-ingredient frittata recipe that keeps popping up in my Facebook feed. Of course, I made changes. For one thing, I needed to use up some sweet peppers, so I chopped them up and tossed them in with the onions. And I’m not particularly fond of feta, but I had some chèvre handy, so I used that instead — but just on my half, since Brian is lactose-intolerant. I’m notoriously bad about measuring seasonings, so I probably didn’t use enough salt and used too much pepper. IMG_20160212_095727Overall, I think this thing needed more seasoning, not just salt. So maybe I will try some herbes de Provence next time. And I’ll be sure to have tomatoes on hand next time. I think that would have been a nice touch.

Other than the ingredient adjustments, though, I actually followed the instructions, and it worked quite well. I’d definitely recommend this recipe for a quick brunch item that looks deceptively impressive. (Well, okay, maybe not so deceptively, seeing as how the entire world has seen this on Facebook already.)

The other recipe I tried was from the amazing Liz Huff-Kennon of the amazing Catalpa restaurant in Arrow Rock, Missouri. (Yes, I have eaten there. If you ever have the opportunity to do so, jump on it!) The recipe is for elk meatballs with chutney, and I’m sorry, but I don’t have any photos because I was in a big rush before and during the Superb Owl party.

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No owls were harmed in the making of this recipe.

 

Besides, I need to work on this one quite a bit, so I am sure I will have better photo ops another day.

Let me be clear that the work I need to do on this recipe is due to our dietary issues and poor planning on my part. You can count on Liz to provide an excellent recipe, so if you’re good with the ingredients as listed, just go with that. I’m providing commentary on my challenges in case there are others with similar issues.

Brian is allergic to olives, including olive oil, so that was the first item to address. I followed the garlic roasting instructions with argan oil, and it worked beautifully. By the way, I do not use any special tools for peeling garlic cloves. I have found that simply placing the clove on a hard, flat surface, oriented with the convex curve on top, and then pressing firmly until it makes a snapping noise nearly always works. Every now and then, you have to snip an end off with a paring knife first, but there is no reason to have a tool dedicated solely to peeling garlic.

The biggest change in the citrus-herb chutney was due to a brain cramp. I thought I already had a bag of dried cherries. Nope. They were goji berries. Oops! But they actually worked out very well in the recipe. I think it’s a change I will keep. I think I will also chop the apples a little more finely next time, but that’s just a personal preference.

The next problem I encountered was that I still haven’t found my good zester, which I suppose is still in a box in the garage. The last time I needed a zester, it was late at night and I had to make do with one from the grocery store. It sucks. And I guess I suck, too, because I’m still trying to make do with it. So zesting was a fail. I ended up just adding some orange juice to the recipe.

The other changes I made to the chutney recipe were that I used a sweet onion instead of a yellow onion, just because I almost always make that substitution, and I probably didn’t use as much thyme as I was supposed to. Because y’know what? I just frickin’ hate working with fresh thyme. If anybody knows of a quick and easy way to get fresh thyme off of its twig and into a pan, please share. Anyway, my apple-goji-orange chutney was a hit, and I suspect I will make it more frequently than I make meatballs.

Speaking of meatballs….first order of business was to substitute hazelnut milk for the whipping cream. I am certain this affected the consistency of the meat mixture, so this is probably the main reason that browning the meatballs in the pan of oil (I used rice bran oil for that part) didn’t work so well for me. I also had to use fake butter, but I used this stuff called Melt, and I’ve had good results with it in the past, so I don’t think that was much of a problem here.

I again wimped out on the orange zest and thyme. Next time I’ll try to do better. If I had expended a bit more effort, I probably could have also gotten just ground elk instead of a blend of elk and beef. Last time I made Swedish meatballs, I used a beef-and-bison blend for the Brian-friendly batch, and everybody loved them, so maybe next time I will try an elk/bison blend.

The recipe didn’t say to do this, but I had Brian Ninja the vegetable matter into submission before I mixed it in with the meat-and-panko mixture. I suspect it was a good idea. Oh, and the recipe’s instructions to freeze the mixture before browning? Excellent idea. Don’t skip that.

For my final ingredient substitution, I used Loose Leaf Session Ale from Odell Brewing, one of the local breweries. (I was pretty sure the Missouri beer would not be available here.) I’m generally not a fan of pale ales, but I had to dispose of the extra bottles of brew somehow, and I found this one to be quite drinkable.

So, yeah, the browning kinda worked. I got the things cooked through fine, but they crumbled a lot. And neither of us likes cooking with a lot of oil, so for the second round, I popped them into the oven at 350 F for about 20 minutes and then fried them up for a few minutes in a much smaller amount of oil before adding the beer. I think that worked a lot better.

At first I was a little underwhelmed with the finished meatball product. I was inclined to add more seasoning, but others disagreed, and the subtle flavors grew on me. The real difference, though, is serving them with the chutney. Though not highly seasoned itself, the chutney magically brings out the flavors of the meatballs. I would even recommend making two batches of chutney from the get-go. We ran out of chutney before we ran out of meatballs, and the store-bought stuff was a very sorry substitute.