Chicken Salad Sandwich

I love a really good chicken salad sandwich. But to me this is just a simple chicken salad on white bread with a little mayo and if I’m feeling really special, some iceberg lettuce.

This is another no-recipe recipe.

Poach chicken breasts. I do this in just water because then I can give the poaching liquid to the dog. But, if you want, you can add bay leaves or garlic cloves, and even peppercorns to the water. Poach low and slow just make sure the chicken is covered by at least an inch of water. Not sure how long, but until it falls apart when you pick it up with a fork – this also makes sure the interior is not still pink.

Remove chicken from water and let cool to room temperature. (Give a dog chicken water and he will love you, pretty much, forever).

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Yep – it’s a mess, but a very good mess.

Shred or chop chicken to whatever size you prefer. I am a medium dice/shred person.

Now here is where things get subjective. Things needed: Duke’s mayonnaise, celery, shallots, salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

Here is where I get a little weird exacting. I like, for two good sized chicken breasts (and, no, I don’t weigh them but I should), 3 celery stalks including the leaves. The thing is – you must peel the celery. This is just not optional. Get out that serrated vegetable peeler and go to town. It gets rid of those pesky strings that no one ever wants to eat. Then split the ribs into three pieces lengthwise and the mince well. I did say exacting, right?

Now for the shallots – two medium or one large, minced. I get my shallots at Bailey’s Farmers’ Market – they sell them by weight, unlike the grocery store that sells them by some little bag. At Bailey’s, I also get to pick the ones I want – yes, this is the way to do things.

Once all the chopping is done, mix celery and shallots into chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Add Duke’s mayonnaise to taste – remember, as my mom always said, you can always more, but you can’t take it away. Taste as you go and season with more salt and pepper if necessary. Add lemon juice if you would like. Yes you do want to do that.

For the sandwich you need really fresh soft white bread*. Spread one side with more Duke’s and pile on the chicken salad. Then add the super crunchy iceberg lettuce that you cored, washed and have chilling in the fridge. Another option – toast the white bread first. Yes, do.

This, I know, is simple food, but sometimes that is what is best and even more often, that is just what you need.

Now you could do this with a rotisserie chicken, not that I ever have, but I guess in a pinch it would do. If you are really jonesing for some chicken salad. Who am I to judge?

* or Italian bread or a good whole wheat.

National Chocolate Day

As mentioned many times previously, I am not a huge chocolate person – I’m a lemon girl when you get right down to it, with a little caramel tossed in for good measure. And some butterscotch.

But since today is National Chocolate Day, I would be remiss if I did not mention my favorite chocolates of all time. Unfortunately, I only get to go there twice a year. Once when I have to go to Tallahassee for work in March and once when I have to go through Tallahassee on my way to Orlando for work in the fall.

Last year, I just assumed I could go by and pick up what I wanted on my way out of town. HUGE mistake. Should have known by about 2:00pm on Friday that all the pain au chocolate would be gone – duh. So this time in the last week of September, I made a call from Orlando to explain that I would be driving through Tallahassee on Friday and while what I wanted was not a special request, I did want them to sit aside a few things for me to pick up around 3:00pm.

The staff person was so pleasant (yes, I know, I should have gotten her name) and I explained. “I am coming through Tallahassee tomorrow around 3:00pm, I would like to have 4 pain au chocolate and 2 croissants and then I will pick a pastry or two and some chocolate.” Her answer was, “we will set them aside for you in the morning.” Well, that’s cool. I did ask about the Noisette – to quote the menu, “A whole caramelized hazelnut covered in gianduja, encased in dark chocolate.” But that is a holiday thing – which has me thinking to go to Tallahassee in December just to get them. They were always my favorite, even when I was a poor grad student and it was a huge splurge. Is it worth the 2 1/2 hour drive? Um, I am thinking yes. I’ll just have to add all the other places I like to go in Tallahassee – it’s a long list – but that is another post entirely. Might be a cool weekend, as long as there is no football going on. 

Okay, let’s just get down to it – my go to, only, chocolate shop is Au Peche Mignon. I have written about it before, but it opened the year I moved to Tallahassee. It’s still in the same building, but they have expanded and have more seating now. I wish, so wish, we had something like that here in Pensacola. Maybe that should be what I do with my retirement account – not likely, since that would involve getting up kind of early.

My chocolate selection for this fall:

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Butterscotch Cookies

Why not take a recipe in which the methodology works and just switch up the flavors? I had no white chocolate chips – which was slightly astonishing, but I had an abundance of butterscotch chips  (no surprise at all) and also this is one of my favorite kinds of cookies to make: mix one day, chill, and then bake another day. These need to chill and I have always done that overnight, mostly because I can be (a little) lazy, but it has always served me well in the cookie department. I do think cookies benefit from a bit of a rest.
Next time, I may add some local Renfroe‘s chopped pecans to the mix – yes.

D&D_21061 cup unsalted butter, room temperature cut into 2 Tbs pieces
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp table salt
1 tsp light corn syrup
1 Tbs vanilla
2 large egg yolks
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup butterscotch chips (or more, maybe, um, yes, quite a few more)

Do the usual thing: In a stand mixer, cream butter, sugar, salt, corn syrup, and vanilla until light and creamy. Add yolks, one at a time, beat until blended.

On low speed, add flour, scraping the sides and bottom of bowl. Stir in butterscotch chips. Divide dough and roll into log about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap each roll in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. Go for overnight in my experience.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment. Slice cookies into 3/8~ inch slices and arrange 1 inch apart on the sheet – they do not spread at all. Bake until edges just beginning to brown, about 13 minutes. Cool on pan 2 minutes, then remove to cooling rack.

Source: Based on Shirley Corriher‘s recipe for lemon white chocolate chip cookies. I first “met” Shirley on Alton Brown’s show Good Eats. I love her Southern accent and am largely intimated by her use of science when it comes to baking (she’s a real scientist from Vandy). Science was never my strong suit at all. She’s just a hoot and I am a huge fan. Even though the science throws me at every turn.  This one goes out to the one I love. 

~Have no idea how to measure what 3/8 inch slices is. I am just not good with math, um, at all. Ever. Or, as noted above, science. Sigh. Just make sure the slices are similar.

Well it’s a hurricane … again.

Did you see the movie Groundhog Day? One of my favorite movies ever. Remember when Bill Murray says, “Well … it’s Groundhog Day ….. again.” Great line, not subtle, but very funny.

hurricane-nate-rainfallThis is our life in hurricane alley. It’s a hurricane, again. Sometimes people get complacent, some people panic and bum rush the Sam’s Club and the Publix, and then there is me.

I just don’t get over wrought about these things. We have an attic vent that, when the rain/wind goes the right way will leak into my closet. My fix – my clothes can be washed and I protect my shoes – they are, by far, more important to me.

I look around at all the trees we planted after Ivan (2004), and the are the best kind for our area in terms of hurricanes – river birches, crepe myrtles, a holly. Should be fine in that regard. And slightly boring in that regard.

We have one pine. All of our pines (15) went down during Ivan, including several into the house, but this little seedling sprouted just after Ivan and I couldn’t bring myself to pull it out of the ground. There was so little left in the garden – I lost a beautiful old magnolia. So there the little pine stands, 13 years old. It’s skinny and awkward like any 13 year-old, but it could still hit the house or the workshop, but I don’t any regrets leaving it to grow. I can’t quite help myself.

So my question is what will be open today?

And when will be the first time the news shows a wobbly stop sign – it is a requirement. And so twee.

Apricot, Ham, Cheddar, and Chicken Sandwich

I cannot remember when I started making this open-faced sandwich but it was an immediate favorite in this house. It seems odd at first, but it really works when you think about all the flavors mixed together. A little tart from the vinegar, some mustard, apricot jam for sweetness, then ham (pork is never bad in any form) and a sharp cheddar. It is a very special combination. And heats up well as a left over in the oven – or in my case in the toaster oven at the office – work lunch hack – woo hoo. If I can get it – usually the MotH and the Boy do not let me get much in the way of leftovers. But I guess that just means they like it  – a lot. And so do I.

D&D_21211/4 cup cider vinegar
2 Tbs Dijon mustard
Coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper
2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1 French bread, split horizontally, then cut in a half
1/4 cup apricot preserves – way more than that.
1/3 pound thinly sliced tavern ham, yes, specify tavern ham – I’ve tried others and this is the best.
1/2 pound sharp cheddar, deli sliced

Between two pieces of plastic wrap or inside a gallon plastic zip-top bag, pound the chicken slightly until it is more even. It does not need to be super thin, just a little more even. Makes for easier (quicker) marinade and more even cooking. Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a resealable plastic bag, add vinegar, mustard, and chicken. I don’t even measure at this point any more. Once you do this enough, and once you taste it you will, you will get the hang of it.  You can also add a mashed garlic clove, but I have given up on that little bit trouble – not necessary in the taste department, to us anyway. Let marinade several hours or over night in the refrigerator. Over night is best, but not much longer than that.

Heat broiler on low and line a baking sheet with foil. Remove chicken from marinade (discard marinade) and place on the baking sheet, broil,  turning at least once until opaque throughout. Check by cutting into chicken to see if it cooked through. Transfer chicken to work surface and discard foil. Reline the baking sheet with new foil.

Place baguette on baking sheet, cut side up (duh). Spread each piece with apricot preserves, layer with chicken, ham and cheese. Broil until cheese is melted.

Source: Martha Stewart with my modifications.

Au Peche Mignon – a little sin …

The best name for a French pastry shop I have ever heard. This is the one thing that makes going to Tallahassee, or through Tallahassee on the way to Orlando for work, or through Tallahassee on the way to Jacksonville tolerable. Thankfully we do not have to make the long (boring) drive to Jax on I-10 anymore. Just Pine trees – sigh.

This shop opened up the year we moved to Tallahassee and I am not entirely sure how I found it, might be because it near a great sushi restaurant – Kitcho, but Au Peche Mignon quickly became a favorite of mine. I could not afford it as a student very often, but it was a total splurge for me. Even one pain au chocolate was worth it – what a total pleasure.

D&D_2126This time I am ordering ahead of time to make sure I get the things that I want. As mentioned many (many) times, I am not a huge fan of chocolates, but Au Peche Mignon makes a bit of a liar of me – it is always the Noisette – a whole caramelized hazelnut (I want to know how to do that) covered in gianduja (which is odd because I do not like nutella), encased in dark chocolate. This is just the most amazing chocolate for someone who really does not care for chocolate in the grand scheme of things. I would like to just intern there and learn how to do things – that would make me really happy. Unfortunately these chocolates are a Christmas treat that I will not get in September. Sigh.

So here is the rest of the order for our way home from Orlando through Tallahassee.*

2 Croissants
4 Pain au chocolates
8 pieces of chocolate – it is so worth the $15.00
1 key lime tart – my first time with this.

I am going to spend way too much money, but I only do it twice a year at best. You have to eat the pastries fast, but the chocolates can last in the fridge for quite some time. Yep, spent $40, but it made me stupidly happy.

*Hopkins’ Eatery is another Tallahassee favorite – some of the best sandwiches ever – see: The Spin.