Saturday, April 22, 2017

Tarragon Chicken Salad + Beach Picnic

Do you ever just want to get away from everything and go someplace with water, sun, sand, and food? I do. And I'm always grateful in these moments that A) I have friends to hie away with and B) that I live on hour from Virginia Beach. One of the best bits of Virginia (particularly the portion I was born and raised in) is that no matter where you go there is always an ocean beach, a river beach, a bay beach, or some form of water by which to have a picnic (the downside is that your picnics are almost always accompanied by sand in your food, but let's leave out the fact that I spent a long time this afternoon wondering whether the gritty feeling in my bread was sand or poppy-seeds. Decisions.). On this particular day we were definitely being chased by a storm but the water at Sandbridge was exceptionally clear and aquamarine-colored and until we totally began to turn into little sand-covered popsicles, we enjoyed the waves, the dolphins right off-shore, and the fact that everyone else had all but left the beach to us alone. Eventually the looming clouds and dropping temperatures drove us off the beach without having gained much of a tan, but we were so glad for the fresh air and bracing water. At least I was. The others wrapped up in the blankets we had brought. Our picnic fare was very simple (it followed a massive and late brunch): fresh strawberry slab pie (crust, my recipe which I'll share soon; filling adapted from this recipe in Country Living), dill pickles, and this tarragon chicken salad. I'm a huge fan of chicken salad when made properly. This variety is a little fresher and simpler than usual: it starts with a slow-roasted chicken (you can off-set this time commitment by buying a whole rotisserie-style chicken), then adds fresh tarragon and a basic sauce of Greek yogurt, orange juice, and a little apple cider vinegar. Just smear a little butter on some slices of bread, fill the sandwiches, throw them in a cooler bag, and head to the beach!

Tarragon Chicken Salad
serves 6-8
(for the roast chicken)
1 whole plain chicken, uncooked
1/4 cup olive oil
2 limes
1 orange
1/2 bunch fresh tarragon
2 cloves fresh garlic
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup water
1 rotisserie-style chicken

(for the chicken salad)
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
juice of 1 orange
salt & pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 bunch fresh tarragon

1.) for the chicken - heat oven to 300 degrees F. Rinse raw chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Lay chicken breast-side down in a roasting pan. Brush olive oil completely over chicken, then squeeze limes over the chicken. In clean cavity, place lime halves and halved orange along with fresh tarragon. Split cloves of garlic and rub over skin of chicken, then place in cavity. Combine marjoram, parsley, salt, and pepper. Rub into the skin of the chicken. Pour the water into the bottom of the pan around chicken. Bake for approximately two hours (if your chicken is especially large it might take longer) occasionally basting with the juices that have run off the chicken until a thermometer stuck into the chicken reads at least 170 degrees F.
2.) When chicken is finished (or starting with bought rotisserie chicken), remove meat from the bones and chop finely. Chop fresh tarragon and add to the chicken.
3.) In a small bowl, whisk together Greek yogurt, apple cider vinegar, the juice of an orange, and salt and pepper to taste until the consistency of a creamy dressing.
4.) Add dressing to chicken and stir until desired consistency. I like mine midway between very moist and slightly dry. Chill until ready to fill sandwiches. When ready to assemble, butter slices of whole-grain or sourdough bread and fill with chicken salad. This recipe will fill at least 16 small sandwiches.

What about you? Where is your favorite place for a spring/summer escape? Where do you go for a breather and a chance to relax a bit?

Monday, April 17, 2017

Homemade Pitas - Greek Style

Heeeeeeey pretty pita breads. About six months ago my sister-in-law changed my life by making stretchy, warm pitas which she serve with Greek chicken. These pitas were nothing like the ordinary kind of pita one sometimes gets, stuffed with overly-mayonnaised chicken salad, falling apart at the seams because they're too weak to hold anything serious. Not so these pitas. They're supple and soft - the kind of wrap that shawarma is served in; the kind of wrap that means business; the kind of wrap you pull out of the skillet with your fingers, so hot you can't hold it for more than a second or two. This kind of pita is deceptively easy to make. I say "deceptive" because the kind of satisfaction that comes from making homemade pitas is majorly exaggerated from the simple amount of work that goes into it. Pitas. Who knew, right? The dip shown in the photos is an Afghani-style eggplant dip I made from a brilliantly colored cookbook. I've formed a habit of spending spare moments in Barnes & Noble, reading cookbooks and snapping pictures of the pages I want to try out. Sadly, I forgot which cookbook this particular recipe came from - open up my Notes section in the phone next time? Either way, it was similar to baba ganouj. Charred eggplant is underrated when it comes to inclusion in dips! What kinds of dip will you make to scoop up with your fresh, homemade pitas?

Homemade Greek-Style Pitas
makes app. 8 pitas

1 cup very warm water
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon honey or sugar
1 cup whole wheat flour
1- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 Tablespoon high quality olive oil

1.) Mix together water, yeast, and sugar or honey in glass bowl. Set aside to proof, 10 minutes.
2.) In a large bowl mix together 1 cup wheat flour, 1 cup all purpose flour, and salt. Add the yeast mixture into the flour and stir well.
3.) Turn onto floured surface and knead for 6-8 minutes, until smooth and silky. Cover and allow to rise about 1 hour, till doubled.
4.) Divide dough into eight portions. Roll each portion (one at a time) into a large circle, about 1/4" thick.
5.) Heat a large cast iron skillet over med. high heat. Very lightly grease the skillet with olive oil, wiping out excess. When hot, cook pitas one at a time until blistered and golden on each side. Remove to a separate plate and cover to keep warm, though you'll probably want to eat them immediately.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Oven-Baked Scotch Eggs


I don't know if y'all are as obsessed as I am with whether or not a food is picnicable. The picnicability of foods is part of a weird set of criteria I run new foods through in my head. The requirements for a properly picnicable food are thus:
A.) Can I pack it?
B) Can I eat it cold/room temp?
C) Does it make me messy?
D) Does it require a fork/plate/trouble?
If the answers run Yes, Yes, No, No, then we've found a picnicable food. There's just something about the idea that if I wanted to run away to a pretty place to eat my food I could run away to a pretty place to eat my food. I don't know. Freedom and patriotism and picnics and all that. There are a lot of memories surrounding Scotch eggs for me. Just kidding. Not a lot of memories. Primarily one. The memory of a woman I know bringing something to an Easter morning brunch that made me actually want to eat hard-boiled eggs. There aren't many things - virtually none - that make me think boiled eggs are palatable, which is sad because can you imagine the adorableness of tiny quail eggs boiled and sliced into a salad? The cuteness. But no, evidently when you take a boiled egg and wrap it in good sausage and roll it (twice) in bread crumbs, you come out with something delicious, protein-packed, and perfectly picnicable. So for those of you who are having a hard time deciding what to bring to an Easter weekend potluck, look no further!
I "healthied" it up by using sausage from our own hogs and oven-baking instead of deep-frying the eggs when they're done. The crust was 100% as crunchy as you'd want it to be so I can avow that you'll lose nothing in the final Scotch egg product by avoiding the deep-fryer, hallelujah. I'm certain that, if you wanted, you could use gluten-free breadcrumbs rather than the classic kind, but there is the possibility it might not turn out quite as crispy as the traditional method. Try it and let me know!



Scotch Eggs (loosely adapted from Jamie Oliver)
serves 4

6 large, free-range eggs (2 beaten)
1 lb. high-quality ground sausage
2 Tablespoons chopped chives
1 small bunch parsley chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 Tablespoon horseradish mustard
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
all purpose flour, for dusting
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/8 cup olive oil

1.) Soft-boil the remaining four eggs (having beaten two and set aside) in a medium sized pot. Rinse in cold water and peel shells away.
2.) In one small bowl mix sausage, fresh herbs, nutmeg, mustard, salt, and pepper. In another small bowl pour in a little bit of flour. In a third small bowl (or deep plate) pour the breadcrumbs.
3.) Heat oven to 425 degrees F. On a large, rimmed baking sheet heat olive oil until shimmering. Remove tray from oven, and place scotch eggs, assembled thus: roll boiled eggs in flour and set aside. Divide the sausage evenly, then flatten into a thick disc and wrap boiled eggs in sausage, reshaping when totally covered. Roll again in flour, then dip in beaten egg, roll in breadcrumbs, dip in beaten egg, roll once more in breadcrumbs, then set on the tray.
4.) Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until golden, turning several times to evenly crisp each side of the egg. When finished, remove from tray and allow to cool. Serve at warm, at room temperature, or even chilled.

Happy Easter weekend, loves! I hope you're planning and able to spend it surrounded by friends and family. Let love be the theme of your life this weekend as we focus on when Love won out forever over Death. And hey, if you don't know my Jesus let's talk because He's crazy-amazing.