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.

Deviled Eggs

I guess it is just a requirement that you have some sort of egg – thing for Easter – spring and all. So I made deviled eggs. Again for The Boy – he will eat them anytime.

This is again, another no-recipe recipe. I have done this so many times, but to be honest, I do not eat deviled eggs – at all, ever. I like egg salad, so this really does not make sense, but there it is. D&D_1839

So here is how I make hard-boiled eggs. Put eggs in a decent-sized pot and cover with at least an inch of water. Heat the pot to boiling and removed pot from heat, put on a lid and let sit for 13 minutes. Yes, 13 minutes. Dump the hot water out and add cold water and bash the eggs against the side of the pot. Let sit for a few minutes  – peel the eggs and cut in half cleaning the knife between eggs so no yolk gets on the white part.

Remove the yolks and put into small-ish bowl. Add a little Duke’s mayo* and some Dijon mustard – I go with a smidge more mustard than mayo. Add 3 Tbs of drained sweet pickle relish and one more not drained. Taste and decide on salt and pepper.

Put the yolk mixture in a zip top bag and cut off a corner to make a tip to pipe the yolks into the whites. Then decorate. This time I decided on chives and really amazing local bacon, but I also like minced shallots and I really like paprika. I guess it is a Southern thing – the paprika, not the shallots. Parsley is always nice.

It is funny how I like egg salad, and plan to make some soon, but do not like deviled eggs when in reality they are not that far apart. Strange.

* A Southern staple – you must not be without it, ever.

German Potato Salad

When I first started eating, and loving, German potato salad I was not even in my twenties, (let’s just say that was a while ago) and had no concept of the kinds of potatoes other than russet or baking potatoes and my favorites, red new potatoes. It wasn’t until I tried to start making German potato salad that I began to understand about waxy potatoes.  This recipe calls for waxy potatoes and my favorite are Yukon Gold. dd_1657

1 1/4 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes
4 slices of bacon, or more because it is bacon
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
2 Tbs white wine or cider vinegar
1 small onion, minced
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
2 Tbs canola oil
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
1/4 cup snipped chives
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Cook the potatoes in salted simmering water until just tender. Just test them with a paring knife – it is the best way to decide if they are done or not. Drain, dry, and peel and slice into 1/2 inch thick slices.

While potatoes are cooking, prepare dressing. Cook bacon in a sauté pan over medium high heat until bacon is crisp. Remove bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, leaving bacon fat in the pan. Crumble bacon into small pieces and reserve.

In a pot, bring broth, vinegar, onions, salt, sugar, and pepper to a boil.

Combine canola oil, bacon fat, and mustard with warm potatoes. Pour broth vinegar mixture over potatoes. Toss to combine. Add in reserved bacon and chives and parsley.

– I think the best thing you can do is dress a potato while it is still warm because will just be a sponge to the liquid you are including. Another reason to love any kind of potato salad – in my opinion.

I first learned this idea from a good friend who dressed her potatoes for potato salad with pickle juice from the jar right when they came out of the hot water – it makes a world of difference.

 

Chicken Salad

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Simple Chicken Salad

I seem to keep failing at chicken salad. I am not sure why, but this time, I really thought I got it. But to be honest, chicken salad is so pedestrian. I mean, pretty much any idiot can make it. That just makes me feel like a bit of an idiot because it does not seem to work for me.

All that said, this was pretty damn good chicken salad. Too bad I could not enjoy it like I wanted to.

I have no idea how my mom made chicken salad. One of the million of things I did not ask her – this seems to be a theme. Guess that is what happens when someone you love dies unexpectedly. So you just have to forge you own way in the world. Suck it up and deal.

I poach a chicken breast or two* – usually two and then add the usual suspects: celery, peeled of course and then minced, a few (3) chopped boiled eggs, some shallots – minced, parsley also minced, a little Duke’s Mayonnaise, Dijon mustard. And if I am feeling really frisky some sweet pickle relish. None of this is anything my mother EVER did. But this is pretty cool in the grand scheme of things.

My lovely mother-in-law makes great chicken salad and it is just the way I like it – with grapes and nuts, but the MotH does not care for that. Either way, this one is pretty damn good.

I guess this is another one of my non-recipe recipes. I do seem to have quite a few of them. But when I think of it, that does not seem to me a bad thing

*I could have poached the chicken with bay leaves and peppercorns and garlic, but I save the chicken water for Hood, so I go simple so I can give him a treat. What dog does not love chicken water? Um, none.

 

 

Red Creamer Potato Salad

The right time of year for really small red creamer potatoes is longer than it used to be since most of the farmers’ markets that carry them get them from our local farms in the area. This is great for me because I love these tiny potatoes. When you roast them they almost become candy-like. And I mean that in the best possible way.

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Roasted Creamer Potato Salad

To me potato salad is an elusive thing. That makes it sound exotic, like an Indian tiger, but that is not really what I mean. But it is elusive. It is one of those things you have in your head, but that doesn’t mean it is easy to execute.

Again, this is a no-recipe, recipe. If that makes any sense at all – likely not. But sometimes you really do just have to wing it in the kitchen. Trust your gut and your taste buds.

So I love these potatoes roasted and as soon as they came out of the oven, I doused them with rice wine vinegar. I think it is important to do when they are hot – they just soak it up. I did not want a traditional mayonnaise-based potato salad. I had tried that the week before and loved it, but wanted to go in a different direction. So vinegar, lemon juice, lemon zest, Dijon mustard and Italian parsley. I really liked it. It is not your traditional Southern potato salad, but it was really good. Again, just trust your palate. And remember that when you taste hot potatoes, they are going to be different when they are cold. Err on the side of more vinegar while the potatoes are hot. I kid you not. It really works.

Baked Beans – not a recipe at all.

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My cobbled together baked bean

This is not a recipe. Consider it a guide line of sorts because that’s really all it is. This is a comforting food to me. It reminds me of many things all at once. This started largely on my mom’s recipe, but modified into more of my former mother-in-law’s recipe. Loura used to serve it as part of Thanksgiving in her special bean pot. The bean pot was kind of a robin’s egg blue – really pretty. I had never knew anyone who made baked beans for Thanksgiving, but it totally works. I mean it. Really.

These beans are tangy, sweet, mustardy, oniony, and smokey with bacon. But for many years I did a vegetarian version and still do when I don’t happen to have bacon in the fridge. I buy Bush’s vegetarian baked beans to start because they are blank canvas-ish (they were on sale this week, buy one get one – yeah!) and then doctor it up with the favors I like best.

So here are the ingredients:
28 ozs can Bush’s vegetarian baked beans (a pantry staple)
Small to medium yellow onion, minced – I happen to like lots of onion in my baked beans
Worcestershire sauce – required – well, pretty much everything here is required. It is.
Brown sugar
Mustard, yellow or Dijon – I prefer Dijon now, but either will do.
Bacon – not necessary, but really good.

Set oven to 350 degrees. Bake the mac n cheese first. Oh yeah these two things go together well. Anyway. That’s another recipe for another time. Another family recipe.

In a baking dish – I use a blue ceramic baking dish from Portugal that’s about 10″ by 7″ that I purchased in a Stein Mart in Durham, NC, and one can of beans works perfectly. I just mix everything else in there, but not the bacon – that’s for the top – again not a recipe. Here’s the thing though – you really have to taste it after mixing the beans, Worcestershire, brown sugar, onion, and mustard together and decide if you like the flavor  – is it well balanced? If you don’t like it then – well, you won’t like it any better when it’s become more intense after baking. So taste and adjust. It’s pretty important.

I wish I could give you an exact recipe, but sometimes you just can’t and that means you’re just making food you love. Is there anything wrong with that? I think not.  Thanks to Becky and Loura. Great inspirations.

Currant – Glazed Chicken

Currant Glazed Chicken with Rice and White Corn

I’m not quite sure how to describe this dish. It’s pretty simple, but the flavors – Dijon mustard, lemon, and currant – work well together. Do love shoepeg corn. Slightly less sweet than yellow corn, but my favorite with rice, some salt, and a good bit of butter. Another childhood favorite – rice and corn w/butter.  I really am simple I think when it comes to flavors, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

4 skinless boneless chicken breasts
2 Tbs unsalted butter
2 Tbs olive oil
Juice of one lemon
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
12 oz jar of currant jelly

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray. Pound each chicken breast between two sheet of waxed paper until 1/2 inch thick. Heat one Tbs of butter and 1 Tbs olive oil in a skillet and brown each chicken piece on both sides, working in batches and adding other Tbs of butter and olive oil as needed.
Remove to prepared baking dish. Leave butter oil mixture in skillet and deglaze with lemon juice. Add mustard and currant jelly. Heat and stir until melted. Pour currant sauce over chicken. Cover baking dish with foil and bake 20 minutes. Uncover and bake 20 minutes more (or so – here’s where it can get tricky..

Modified from Southern on Occasion, p. 192

Southern on Occasion is an entirely different story – a very wonderful cookbook. And more recipes to come from it. Including one from our wedding pre-party.

I do mark down dates that I make things – it’s kind of telling what’s good and what stands the test of time and why my memory can be so terrible. This was a Chapel Hill dinner and I can’t believe I had forgotten it  – memory problem anyone? Now on the roster again. Pretty damn simple really.  Next time I think with roasted potatoes. Although I do love rice and corn together.

June 2002
13 September 2002
18 October 2002
7 April 2015