Saturday, August 29, 2009

Chef's Delight

You may notice I'm wearing my other, slightly more serious chef's hat here, because I actually wrote down the recipe rather than just wave the finished dish around. This is an actual chicken-walnut-broccoli salad I made for my sister and her husband, who are throwing a party tonight. I hope I've made enough for at least 10 people, but a lot depends upon how many people eat how much.
The basic ingredients are: 6 boned, skinless chicken breasts
2 heads of Calabrese broccoli
1 clove of garlic
3 stalks of celery
5-6 stalks fresh cilantro
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 6-ounce can black olives
1 whole red bell pepper
1 cup chopped walnuts
3 lemons
1 bottle cheap (under $5 if possible) white wine.
Riesling works nicely.

6 Tbsp mayonnaise (NOT salad dressing!)
3 Tbsp mustard (brown is best)
1 Tbsp raw (unrefined) sugar
2 Tbsp pickle juice
Other stuff that helps jazz it up: 1 Tbsp rosemary (whole)
1 Tbsp lavender
1 tsp. dill weed
1/2 tsp Chipolte smoked pepper
1 Tbsp crumbled blue cheese

The prep: Rinse and blot chicken breasts with paper towel. Place in a large stainless bowl.
Rinse and grate the peel of 3 lemons. Slice lemons thinly and place slices under and over the chicken breasts, sprinkling the zest over the chicken. Peel and finely chop 1 clove of garlic (depending on your love of garlic) and sprinkle over and under the chicken. Pour in 1 bottle of white wine. Massage the chicken in the wine/lemon/garlic mixture. Note that 1 bottle of wine may not be enough to cover the chicken, so you may need to open a second bottle and nurse the leftover while doing the rest of the preparation. Let the chicken marinate in the wine/lemon/garlic mixture for at least an hour.
Place the chicken and liquid mixture in a large pot, cover, and bring to a boil over medium heat, reducing to simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the chicken meat is white all the way through. Drain the broth and chop the chicken into chunks. Place the chicken in a large bowl and set aside to cool.
Strip the stringy stuff from the celery, chop and add to the chicken. Thinly slice and chop the red bell pepper and add to the chicken. Finely chop the green onion and add to the chicken. Finely chop the cilantro and add to the chicken. Drain and chop the black olives and add to the chicken. Sprinkle the crumbled walnuts over the chicken. Blend all the ingredients well.
Chop the broccoli into small florettes. Add some of the stalk, which should be thin sliced and chopped first. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and add the broccoli. When the water returns to a boil, remove from heat, drain well, and cover with ice cubes, turning once in awhile to cool the broccoli evenly and quickly. Add the broccoli to the chicken-walnut combination and blend well.
In a separate bowl, mix the mayonnaise, mustard, sugar and pickle juice. A little horseradish can be added for extra zest. Blend in the crumbled blue cheese and mix well. Add more mustard or pickle juice to balance the taste. Pour the dressing mixture slowly over the chicken-vegetable mixture and blend a little at a time for even coverage. Grind the rosemary and lavender in a mortar and sprinkle over the mixture, blend well.
Cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight.
Before serving, sprinkle a little paprika or smoked paprika over the salad mixture for added color. This is a great summertime main dish with crusty French bread or garlic toast and, of course, more white wine, preferably a little more expensive than what was used to marinate the chicken.
Sidelights: Chicken is a great all-purpose source of protein, low in cholesterol and all that other healthy stuff. Broccoli is an excellent source of essential minerals and vitamins, and an effective cancer-inhibiting agent that has been found to help men reduce the risk of colon cancer.
The walnuts are another healthy element of this salad. Nuts in general, and walnuts in particular, help reduce cholesterol and complement the benefits of the broccoli. The salad overall has an appealing combination of appearance, taste, texture, and health benefits that is hard to beat.