Jessica's Special Chicken Salad

2013-12-28 12.53.15.jpg

I'm the queen of making chicken salads. And tuna salads. And regular salads–you know, with lettuce and salad stuff. I once made a salad with nothing more than greens and herbs, Maldon sea salt, a turn of freshly ground black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil, and my dinner guest kept asking what else I put in the salad. To me, making a salad is an art form. It's about balance, proportions, and harmony. When all of this is aligned, you've created a masterpiece! With this chicken salad, it's about how thinly the chicken is shredded, how finely the onion is chopped, what herbs I use, how creamy the consistency is... But rather than measurements, it's guided by my eyes and my intuition. Below are the broad strokes on how to make it. You can take care of the details!


1 cooked chicken breast (can also use leftover rotisserie chicken)
Mayonnaise
Dijon mustard
Cornichons (or capers)
Half of a small red onion
Fresh herbs (any or all of the following: scallions, dill, curly parsley, chives, tarragon)
Sea salt
Black pepper
Celery seeds
Smoked paprika

--

1. Shred the chicken breast into a large bowl. I like to pull the shreds into thin strips.

2. Finely chop the red onion, cornichons, and fresh herbs and add to the chicken. Set aside a little bit of the chopped herbs as garnish.

3. Add 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise and 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard to the bowl to start. Mix well until incorporated. Add more if desired. 

4. Season with celery seeds, sea salt, and black pepper to taste. 

5. Before serving, sprinkle with a pinch of smoked paprika and herb garnish.

*This salad tastes delicious on top of a toasted and buttered English muffin for lunch!

Pesto Macaroni with Feta & Herbs

With all of the sophisticated pastas available today (tonnarelli, tagliolini, taglierini, trofie, bucatini, and on and on...), macaroni, that childhood favorite, has fallen to the wayside. Macaroni happens to be one of my favorite pasta precisely because of its nostalgic quality, but also because it's just so fun to eat. This recipe takes macaroni out of its schoolgirl mary-janes and puts it into a pair of heels. If you like bringing your lunch to work, like me, this tastes just as delicious cold or room temperature, which is why I recommend cooking it on the softer side of al dente. You could easily make a meal around this simply by tearing some rotisserie chicken on top. 


A box of dried macaroni
A jar or container of pesto sauce, preferably a freshly prepared one if you can find it—Citarella is where I go for mine
Fresh dill
Fresh scallions
Feta cheese
Black pepper
Maldon sea salt

--

1. Cook your desired serving size of pasta according to instructions, but cook it more on the cooked side rather than al dente. Drain and return to the pot.

2. While the pasta is cooking, chop a handful of dill and scallions. 

3. Mix the pesto sauce into the pasta, one tablespoon at a time, along with the herbs. Crumble the feta into the pasta and keep mixing until everything is evenly incorporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

A Major Roast Chicken Salad

To me, making a salad is like painting. It's a creation that's both composed and ad-hoc. There's layering involved. Balance. Thought. It's not hastily chopping up a bunch of stuff and dumping it into a bowl with no rhyme or reason. I've always believed that a great salad requires great care. How you cut the ingredients can completely change the nature of a salad. Here, the cucumbers are cut into matchsticks, the grape tomatoes are cut into round slices, and the red onion and avocado are sliced very thinly. There's no tossing involved, so this composition is purely guided by your eye and intuition.


2 cups of mesclun salad leaves
1/2 small kirby cucumber, cut into matchsticks
A few thin slices of red onion, cut into half-moons
1/4 avocado, thinly sliced
6 grape tomatoes, cut into small round slices
Cold leftover roast chicken, torn into shreds
Crumbled feta cheese
Citarella's tartar sauce, or another creamy dressing like ranch or blue cheese
Fresh dill, chives, tarragon, or chervil
Maldon sea salt
Freshly cracked black pepper

--

1. Start with a large white dinner plate. This is your canvas. Prime the canvas with a generous layer of mesclun salad leaves. Make sure the leaves are clean and completely dry. 

2. For a crunch factor, sprinkle the cucumber matchsticks over the salad.

3. Tear the cold roast chicken into shreds by hand and evenly distribute--the quantity will rely on your appetite! 

4. Separate the rings of the onion slices and lightly scatter to add a nice kick and heat.

5. Drape the avocado slices gently around the plate.

6. Strategically place the grape tomato slices where a punch of red is needed.

7. Add the crumbled feta and small spoonfuls of your creamy dressing, here and there, being mindful of the balance of white splashes to the composition.

8. Pick off bits of the fresh herbs and decorate the plate.

9. Finish with a pinch of Maldon sea salt flakes and a shower of black pepper.

10. Cut into your masterpiece, fork-and-knife style, and mix it all up!

Shredded Roast Chicken with Herbed Rice

This is less of a recipe and more of a dinner idea. If you're a follower of my Twitter account, you'll see that I tweet an awful lot about Citarella's rotisserie chicken. It's the best I've ever had: flavorful and moist with a crisped, well-seasoned skin. Just about all that you could ever want in a roast chicken. But, to really take it to the next level, here's the SGD secret: Try dipping the chicken into Citarella's tartar sauce.

Yes. I'm totally serious. Tartar sauce is not just for fish sticks. Tell me, how could chicken not work with the combination of mayonnaise with dill pickle, onion, capers, fresh parsley, lemon, Dijon mustard, and Worcestershire sauce?

Most of the time, I'll ask the prepared foods counter guy to cut the chicken into quarters and, for dinner, I'll have a quarter of the chicken, on the bone, with a knife and fork. For this dish, however, I tore the chicken off the bone and shredded the meat with my fingers. This makes it feel like a whole new meal. 

I like to have a side of freshly steamed rice. I usually add a swirl of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt to the pot before cooking the rice. When it's done, I turn off the heat then chop up a bunch of herbs, like scallions, dill, and chives. Just throw them over the rice and cover the lid so that the flavors will infuse with the steam. When you fluff the rice, you'll want all of the herbs to mixed into the rice evenly. This adds so much dimension and requires such little effort!

Try this meal with an easy side salad (shown here is a sugar snap pea, pea shoots, and radish salad). And, of course, a dollop of that tartar sauce.


 

Citarella

 

CITARELL

424 Sixth Avenue at West 9th Street
212.874.038


I feel inspired every time I shop at Citarella. There's always something new to discover, which is why it's my favorite grocery store. They prefer to be called a "gourmet market," but that sounds place you'd only visit for special items whereas I come here once or twice a week to stock up with necessities. You'd be surprised how many departments they've managed to fit in this relatively small space: Cheese, Deli/Prepared Foods, Specialty, Bakery, Meat, Seafood, Produce & Salad Bar, Dairy, Groceries, and Frozen Foods/Desserts. (They have the best seafood selection in the neighborhood.) And, contrary to what you might think, it's not unbearably expensive if you shop efficiently. For about $40 or so, I can buy enough ingredients for four meals. My top three Citarella items are the rotisserie chicken, tartar sauce, and truffled mushroom mix.