Chicken Salad

Here’s an easy, warm weather and delicious dish for you – good ol’ chicken salad.

Since any salad that has chicken as its main ingredient is called chicken salad, and I have several readers outside the United States, I’m talking about American chicken salad, which is chopped chicken combined with a fat-based binder (usually mayonnaise or salad dressing) and often served as a creamy spread in sandwiches.  Any number of things can be added to the chicken and fat – commonly chopped raw vegetables, fruit or nuts.

Mine happens to use all three.

I make chicken salad nearly every time I roast a chicken, especially in warmer weather.  You can use canned chicken, of course, but I’ve never cared at all for the taste/texture of it (or the price – the stuff is stupidly expensive) and it’s just as easy to use chopped, leftover chicken.  I get at least two extra meals out of a roast chicken when I make chicken salad, even though I rarely eat it on bread – I usually put it on top of a bed of lettuce and eat it like a conventional salad.  The last time I made it, though, I just ate it alone.

For breakfast.

Anyhoo, this is my basic chicken salad recipe.  You can jazz it up any way you like it; I often put chopped apples or pears in it, and use toasted walnuts or pecans (once I even used diced mango and chopped macadamia nuts – Oh. My. Gawd.  It was wonderful!).

Note:  I used homemade mayo, apple cider vinegar and raw, unfiltered honey the last time I made this, and it was absolutely to die for.  You can, of course, use a commercially prepared mayo, plain white vinegar (a white wine or champagne vinegar would be good, too) and sugar or plain clover honey and it will be just fine.

Chicken Salad

Chicken Salad

Serves 4

2 cups chopped, cooked chicken

1/2 small red onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1/2 cup slivered almonds

1/2 cup raisins

1 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon prepared, coarse-grained mustard

1 tablespoon vinegar

2 teaspoons sugar or honey

2 tablespoons sweet or dill pickle relish, depending on your preference (optional)

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, sugar or honey and relish together.  Add the remaining ingredients, stirring to blend well.  Cover and refrigerate for an hour to allow the flavors to meld.

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Pico de Gallo

I am tired today – even Tech Guy here at the office mentioned how tired I look.  He’s a sweetheart, and as a Type II diabetic who struggles with his diet was quite sympathetic when I told him that although I’d tried very hard to eat right this weekend, we ate out so much that it knocked me all out of whack – Bob Evans and Cheesecake Factory don’t exactly do local and sustainable.  I further botched things up last night; we stopped on a whim at our absolute favorite restaurant in Ohio.  They do serve locally obtained, unprocessed food, but if you throw alcohol and dessert into the mix, well…

Cut me some slack – I’m paying for it this morning.  (It sure was tasty, though.)

At any rate, I’m back on track today and will remain there until I’m seduced once again by the siren song of a four-star restaurant.  Which doesn’t happen with any regularity, thank goodness.

So – pico de gallo.  There’s some debate about the origins of the name, but it’s basically a fresh, uncooked salsa often served with Mexican dishes.  It’s easy and delicious and has the added bonus of being extremely good for you, too.  I don’t care much for cooked tomatoes, but I love them raw and this is one of my two favorite ways to eat them (I’ll get to the other way later in the summer when my own tomatoes ripen).

Note: Seed the jalapeños unless you like it really spicy.

Pico de Gallo

Pico de Gallo

makes 3 – 4 cups

2-3 medium sized fresh tomatoes, finely diced

1/2 red onion, finely diced

2 jalapeño peppers, finely diced

Juice of one lime

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all of the ingredients except the salt and pepper in a medium sized bowl; taste and season.  Let it sit, covered, for an hour or so at room temperature, to allow the flavors to combine.

Can be served as a condiment, side dish or as a dip with good quality tortilla chips.

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Carnitas

I think that I mentioned here recently that I’m a wee bit tired of beef.  Don’t get me wrong, I love it but we’ve been eating quite a bit of it lately in our quest for some grass-fed, 100% pastured beef (which we found, but that’s a subject for another post).  So there’s been a lot of chicken and pork and not enough fish on my table lately.

I think I’ve also mentioned before that Podunk isn’t the best place in the world to get Mexican food (there are “Mexican” restaurants here that give you a hunk of bell pepper wrapped in ground beef and deep fried when you order a chile relleno).  Then there’s the fact that Mexican food isn’t exactly the best thing in the world if you’re reducing refined carbohydrates and grains in your diet.

However, there are Mexican dishes that are lovely and delicious and perfectly acceptable if you’re willing to bypass the rice and tortillas (or even if you’re not; if, unlike me, you can eat rice and tortillas without blowing up like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters, go for it I say).  Carnitas is one of those dishes.

Carnitas literally means “little meats” in Spanish and is traditionally made from the rich, heavily marbled shoulder sections from the animal.  It’s usually braised or simmered, then roasted briefly at high heat until the outside is brown and crisped, then shredded or cut into bite-size chunks.  It’s usually served with lime wedges, cilantro, chopped onion and tomato, salsa, guacamole, refried beans and eaten with tortillas – and is absolutely delicious.

I made the process a little easier by putting a bone-in shoulder roast in the crock pot, then shredding and chopping it before roasting.  Not quite traditional, but still quite good, especially served with homemade guacamole and pico de gallo (recipe to follow this week).  The Young One ate his in tortillas, but Beloved wrapped his in lettuce leaves.  I simply layered mine on the plate and ate it with a fork.

Whichever way you choose to eat it, it is delicious.

Carnitas

Carnitas

serves 6 to 8

3 to 4 pound bone-in pork shoulder roast (it might be labeled “boston butt roast”)

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

about 1 cup water

1/2 cup chopped onion

2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup spicy salsa (any jarred variety is fine)

Rub the outside of the roast with the salt and pepper, then place in the crock pot.  Pour the water around, but not over, the roast – you want to surround it, not cover it.  Spread the onion and garlic over the top of the roast, then pour the salsa on top.  Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, or until the pork is very tender.

Preheat the oven to 400º F.  Carefully remove the roast from the crock pot, and shred the meat with two forks or cut into bite sized cubes (or both).  Place the meat on a large, shallow baking pan and pour a little of the cooking liquid over it.  Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until the edges are brown and crispy.

Serve with lime wedges, cilantro, chopped onion and tomato, salsa, guacamole, refried beans and
tortillas, if desired.

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