Spicy Chicken Salad (Sandwich)

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Now, while nothing can really top my chicken salad that can change your opinions on chicken salad, some other versions come close (especially when I make them).  I had defrosted three chicken thighs with the intention of doing something else with them, and then I didn’t. So I had three pieces of raw chicken in my fridge that needed cooking — and soon.

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I roasted the thighs (45 minutes at 350°F) the night before with some cajun spices sprinkled over top.

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Then I dismantled them by removing the bones and chopped them into small pieces.

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I grabbed a knob of fresh ginger and cut off a bit about the size of a loonie.

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Peeled it and sliced off paper-thin slices.

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Which I then minced.

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Sliced up some green onions.

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Tossed the ginger and the onions in a bowl with some cajun seasoning, curry powder, cinnamon, and lemon juice.

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Added the chicken.

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Then a generous helping of mayonnaise (everyone’s preference for how much is different so I’ll leave that to you) and a vigorous stirring.

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I decided to put some in a sandwich, so I made a nice cucumber base …

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… and topped the salad with some chopped tomato and grated cheese left over from a taco night in recent history.  Waste not …

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It was a GOOD sandwich.  Hit the spot perfectly.

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Chicken Orzo Salad

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The Pie’s parents, Mrs. Nice and Papa John, are in town on a visit for the Pie’s graduation (B.Sc. Honours in Geography and Computer Science, booyah), so I get a good number of opportunities to cook new things that I think might appeal to them.  This one I made with Mrs. Nice in mind, and reminds me somewhat of that amazing orzo salad we had at Ferryland a few years ago.

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Prep your vegetables.  Dice up half a large red onion, 1 red pepper, and half a large cucumber (I cut out the seeds).  I also halved 250g grape tomatoes and defrosted 1 cup each frozen corn and frozen peas.

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Prep your dressing.  In a small jar (or other container with a lid), dump 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 2 teaspoons dried savoury (or basil, or oregano, or whatever you want), 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons honey, 3 tablespoons rice vinegar, and 3 tablespoons vegetable oil.

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Close the lid tightly and give that a shake.  Let it sit for a while.

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Fill a large saucepan with about 4L of water and salt it generously.  Put it on to boil.  When it’s boiling, remove the lid, turn the heat down a bit, and pour in 450g orzo pasta.

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While that’s on the go, cut up about 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts into small cubes and  pitch those in a frying pan or skillet with a bit of vegetable oil.

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Sauté those until fully cooked and browned on the outside.  Remove from the heat.

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Drain your orzo and plop it in a big bowl. This bowl was not big enough.

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My peas and corn were still a little frozen so I added them to the still-hot chicken pan to let them thaw properly.

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Then I chucked in the rest of the vegetables and stirred that around.

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Then you just add your veg to your pasta.  Give that a good stir.

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Give your dressing another shake and toss that with all the rest of your salad (don’t worry about the amount — it will be absorbed into the pasta) and serve warm or cold.

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Wingin’ It Wednesday: Red Soup, Green Soup

Red Soup Green Soup

It’s been so busy here since Victoria Day that we haven’t had a chance to really do a lot of cooking for cooking’s sake.  As a result, when I cleaned out our refrigerator this weekend in preparation for my parents’ arrival tomorrow (!), I found a sizable amount of very sad-looking produce.  When I bought it, it looked sad, as most Newfoundland produce does, and two weeks in my crisper made it sadder still.  Sad vegetables are just begging to be chucked in sauces, roasted, layered in a casserole, or made into soup.  So I made soup.

Red Soup Green Soup

I had red vegetables and green vegetables, and so I decided to make two different soups.

Each one started with onions and garlic, obviously.

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The red soup was carrots, red peppers, mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes.

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And I scooped out the seeds of the tomatoes.  Well, some of them. I got bored quickly.

Red Soup Green Soup

Chop that up, chuck it in a pot with some broth, some chipotle seasoning, and chinese five spice, then blend it up and you’ve got a savoury soup with a bit of kick.

Red Soup Green Soup

The green soup had fennel, celery, cucumbers, broccoli, leeks, and cabbage.

Red Soup Green Soup

To even out the flavours I added dill, mustard powder, salt, and a dash of cumin.  Blended up, it’s cool as the cucumbers inside it.

Red Soup Green Soup

Then I stored them all in plastic containers and froze them for future enjoyment!

Red Soup Green Soup

Bread and Butter Pickles

One summer when I was young, our kitchen was filled with cucumbers.  We made them into dill pickles and bread and butter pickles and there wasn’t a single counter that wasn’t packed with shiny, hot jars of the stuff.  The whole house smelled of vinegar.  It was great.

We made two batches of bread and butter pickles on this particular day and it took a long time, what with the sterilization and the soaking and the canning, so make sure you have a free day and plenty of space when you’re going to do this.

One batch of bread and butter pickles yields about six 1-pint jars and uses 3L (about 4lb) of pickling cucumbers.

Wash your cucumbers.  Scrub them and all their knobby bits well.

Cut the tops and bottoms of the cucumbers off (the bloom and stem ends).Using a mandolin or a food processor, slice the cucumbers into 1/4″ thick rounds.

Please do not cut off any of your fingers.  Mandolins are vicious.

This will take a while, especially if you are doing two batches.

Now you have a helluva lotta cucumber slices.  Put some on your eyes and take a rest for a while.

Just kidding.  There’s work to be done.

Now you have to slice some onions.  Use about three medium onions per batch of pickles.  Peel the onion and slice it in half lengthwise, then use a mandolin or food processor to slice them the same thickness as your cucumbers.

I like to use the Onion Goggles here to avoid bloodshed.  Or tearshed.  Or both.  If I’m weeping uncontrollably I may slice off an appendage on the mandolin.

Put all your cucumber and onion slices in an enormous bowl and sprinkle them with kosher or coarse pickling salt.  Cover with ice water (or water with ice cubes in it) and leave to soak for three hours.

Now you can take a break.  Or make something else while you wait.

You know what, why don’t you cut up two sweet red peppers, sliced thin on the mandolin again, and add them to the pile?  They make for a nice colour contrast in the jar.

Drain the vegetables after their three-hour soak, rinse them thoroughly in cold water, and then drain them again really well.

At this point you should probably start preparing your jars and lids.

Put your lids and rings in a pot of water and set that to boil. 

Plop your jars in your canner and set that to boil as well.  This will take a while.Now you can prepare your pickling brine.

The key spices here are celery seed, turmeric, and yellow mustard seeds.

In a small bowl, put 2 tablespoons mustard seed, 2 1/2 teaspoons celery seed, and 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric (the turmeric is what turns everything yellow).  Set it aside for now.

In an enormous pot (we used the large maslin pan from Lee Valley), put 5 cups granulated sugar (I know, it seems like an awful lot).

Add to this 4 cups pickling vinegar.  My grandmother insists that all pickling (unless otherwise stated) must use pickling vinegar.  It’s about twice as strong as regular distilled white vinegar.

Add in your pickling spices and give it a stir.

Bring it to a boil and dissolve the sugar.

Now plop in your vegetables and cook, stirring frequently, until they are tender and yellow and the liquid is once more boiling, about fifteen minutes. 

Once your jars have been boiling for ten minutes, you can haul them out of the canner.  Turn off the heat for now to allow the water to cool slightly.

Drain the jars carefully using a jar gripper and put them near your pickle pot.

Using a canning funnel, carefully ladle pickle mixture into your six jars to within a half or quarter inch of the top of the jar. It’s pretty much a guarantee that you, your counter tops, and everything around you will become extremely sticky at this point.Make sure there is plenty of liquid in the jar as well, but be careful to leave some space at the top.

Use a wooden skewer (don’t use metal) to poke around and remove the air bubbles from amongst the pickles.

Remove your lids and rings from the heat and carefully place the lids on the jars. 

Twist the rings on to fingertip tightness and return the jars to your canner. 

Dunk them under and bring the water to a boil for fifteen minutes.

Remove the jars from the canner and allow to cool.  As they cool they will seal with a lovely POP sound.

You can eat these pickles right away, but store opened jars in the refrigerator.  Serve as a side to your dishes, put in sandwiches, or just eat straight from the jar.  Your choice.Our two batches left us with some extra pickles, which we put in a jar in the fridge. 

The rest we saved for you!You know you want one …

Sweet and Sour Pork, Thai Style

This little hummer (to channel my dad) is on page 210 of 400 Recipes: Wok & Stir-Fry edited by Jenni Fleetwood, which I gave the Pie for Christmas years ago.  I also gave him a wok, which has since self-destructed, but enough about that.

We made this recipe precisely because we had exactly those ingredients in our fridge and we needed to use them up.  And I got to use my new scale on this recipe, too, which was a plus.

Slice yourself up 350g/12oz lean pork (about four small boneless porkchops).  If you put the pork into the freezer for about 30-40 minutes beforehand it will be easy to slice it into thin pieces.  I didn’t do this, and that’s why my pork bits are fat.  But they are happy with the way they look, thank you very much.Cut one small red onion into thin slices (we had half, so were content with that).  Seed a red pepper (see my how-to on doing this quickly) and dice it.  Seed half a cucumber (cut it into quarters and slice off the seed part) and cut it into thin strips.  I misread the recipe at this point so mine ended up in chunks.  Pauvre moi.While you’re in the process of seeding, why don’t you take the seeds out of two plum tomatoes (we used roma) and cut them into wedges as well?  As a finishing touch, cut 115g/4oz of pineapple into chunks (more if you like the stuff, see my how-to on coring) and slice 2 spring onions or scallions (we used 4 green onions) into thin strips.  I set all the veggies in a nice mise en place for the Pie so he’d have everything at hand.  In a small bowl, mix together one tablespoon brown sugar with two tablespoons fish sauce and some ground black pepper.Heat two tablespoons oil in a wok or large frying pan.  Drop in four cloves of garlic, thinly sliced (or, if you are us, 4 spoonfuls of garlic in a jar).  Cook over medium heat until golden, then add the pork and stir-fry for four or five minutes.  Slide in the onion slices and toss.

Add your fish sauce mixture and toss over the heat for three or four more minutes.

Drop in your fruits and vegetables and stir-fry for another three to four minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

Spoon into a bowl (we served ours over rice) and garnish with more sliced onions or fresh cilantro if that floats your boat.  Serves four.