Tag Archives: main dishes

My new favorite chicken salad

My twist on ATK’s Classic Chicken Salad; it’s light & lemony & yummy

It’s from America’s Test Kitchen. Raise your hand if you’re surprised I fell in love with yet another ATK recipe. No? Nobody? Yeah, me either. It’s no secret I’m a rabid fan of America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks and TV shows. I just love that they devote their lives to perfecting recipes so I don’t have to.

So let’s get on to the chicken salad. This Classic Chicken Salad is adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook (revised edition).

1 rotisserie chicken from your grocer’s deli, plain
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 ribs celery, chopped fine
3/4 cup mayonnaise (we prefer Hellman’s)
2 scallions, minced
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
kosher salt & cracked black pepper to taste

Bone and chop your rotisserie chicken and toss it in a mixing bowl.

Note: I prefer the plain chicken seasoned only with salt & pepper. I say that because I once mistakenly grabbed a barbecue seasoned chicken and it was a horrible choice for chicken salad. Don’t be like me; read the label.

Add the canola oil, celery, mayonnaise, scallions, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, parsley and a good pinch of salt & pepper. Give it a stir and allow it to sit for a few minutes, then come back and taste it. I found I liked this recipe with a little more lemon juice, so I added another tablespoon. It gives it a bright citrus zing. Instead of adding more juice, you could also throw in some zested lemon peel, since you’re using a fresh lemon anyway. What I’m saying here is that the lemon is my favorite part of this chicken salad. It’s refreshing. And zingy. I also add a pretty heavy pinch of fresh cracked black pepper, because that’s my thing. I loved cracked black pepper.

Cover tightly and refrigerate for about 20-30 minutes before serving. It helps the flavors come together, and everyone is happier when they’re all getting along. To serve, simply scoop onto your favorite chicken salad vehicle. In my case, it’s a toasted bagel. I can also vouch for the fact that it’s delicious on whole wheat toast, saltine crackers and celery sticks.

If you’re feeling frisky, you can top it with a fresh sliced tomato and a nice crispy piece of romaine. I also highly recommend spicy sweet pickles and your favorite chips on the side so you can get in all the food groups – sweet, salty, crunchy and creamy. Wait, that’s wrong. There are five food groups. I totally left off chocolate! {slaps forehead} Have mercy… can you ever forgive me?

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My favorite new cookbook: America’s Test Kitchen’s “Pasta Revolution”

Pasta Revolution by America's Test Kitchen - it's my new favorite

Let me introduce you to my newest ATK cookbook – Pasta Revolution. I won this little beauty in a random drawing after participating in an on-line chat with Julia Collin Davison of America’s Test Kitchen. I was so excited to receive it. The book is a beautifully comprehensive collection of everything pasta. Chapters include Pasta 101, New Classics, Italy’s Greatest Hits, Pasta for Company (and my favorite – Pasta for Two), Pasta Salads, and two chapters on sauces – Pesto & No-Cook Sauces and Sauces from the Slow-Cooker.

So many choices, so little time

But wait, there’s more! You’ll also find a chapter on Whole Wheat Pasta, specialty pastas like gnocchi or tortellini, and even a chapter on Asian pasta dishes. See? I told you it was comprehensive! Here’s a sampling of what’s inside:

America’s Test Kitchen may just be my favorite series of cookbooks ever. Why? Because they take all the guess-work out of cooking. And by that, I mean you never have to worry about whether a recipe will work or not. Not when it comes from the crew at ATK. They go to great lengths to research and experiment with each recipe. They admit that they fail and tweak repeatedly to bring you the best possible version of each recipe published. I appreciate that.

What you get is a series of foolproof recipes along with a breakdown of what worked and what didn’t, tips on equipment and favorite brands, product reviews, and even shopping advice. When I make a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen, I know it will be spot on every single time. When they talk, I listen.

And speaking of vodka, last night I made the Penne alla Vodka for dinner and it was incredible. Seriously scrumptious. What a gorgeous photo!

Here’s the proof. Not that you need it, but I want you to know that I’m totally putting my money where my mouth is. Or in this case, I’m putting the pasta where my mouth is. One forkful at a time. Repeatedly.

ATK's Penne alla Vodka - simple ingredients, tremendous flavor

You know what I loved about this recipe? Everything. It was easy to make. It was packed with flavor. The sauce was perfect, especially when it got trapped inside those little penne tubes. I loved the slight heat from the red pepper flakes. If the vodka is a turn off for you, I promise it does not permeate the dish. It would be fine without it, but it does add great flavor without an alcohol ‘bite’ to it if you leave it in. Which is why they give you tips about which vodka to use. I’m telling you, these guys think of everything.

My overall rating for this dish is a sold 10. I would eat this over and over again. In fact, we’re having leftovers tonight. That rumor that pasta dishes taste even better as leftovers the next day? It’s true. Especially red sauces. And this one warms up beautifully.

You want to see how it turned out, don’t you? You know you do. Here you go. You’re welcome. {wink}

NanaBread's Penne alla Vodka from ATK's Pasta Revolution

If you love pasta or know someone who does, put this one on your shopping list. It is most definitely a keeper. Special thanks to the social media group at America’s Test Kitchen and to Julia Collin Davison, my favorite contributor at ATK. I swear that girl loves bacon as much as I do. We should form a club.

I’m never going to wash my cookbook-flipping hand again.

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Posole – It’s What (was) for Supper

You’ll be happy to know The Complete Package got his posole for dinner last night. He’s been craving it ever since I mentioned it in Monday’s post. Since then, he has dropped some not so subtle hints in the comment section of a few recent blog posts. I replied, in no uncertain terms, that I couldn’t make him no damn posole until he first smoked a rack of pork ribs, because nothing makes a fabulous pot of posole like leftover smokey rib meat. Well, I’ll be danged if he didn’t walk in the back door last night with a grocery bag. That’s right. You heard me. Mr. Spoiled Rotten stopped on his way home and picked up everything he needed to smoke pork ribs. Boy howdy, when that man gets a craving…

So Mr. I Have My Needs got his big honkin’ bowl of posole for dinner, and all is right with the world. If you haven’t tried posole yet, you really should. It’s the unsung hero of Mexican stews. And we love us some Mexican food around here. If you’re up to it, click here for posole. I hope you enjoy it… and you’re welcome, Mr. I’m Gonna Go Fall Asleep On The Couch Now. {giggling}

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Fun with Food: Chicken Shawarma

NanaBread's Chicken Shawarma

I’ve had an itch to try new recipes lately. Exciting new recipes. Exotic new recipes. Inspired by our impending vacation plans, I decided to tackle something from far away lands – chicken shawarma. Have I ever tried it? No, I have not. But that’s the beauty of trying new things. Sometimes you just have to crawl out of your comfort zone.

Enter the TasteSpotting website. Ever seen it? It’s a visual feast, for sure, but it’s more than that. It’s a network of bloggers who post their recipes for the world to see and enjoy. It’s where I found this gorgeous recipe for Chicken Shawarma by kurryleaves. Her gorgeous photo on TasteSpotting peaked my interest, but her post convinced me to give it a try. It convinced me hard.

Now fast forward to our trip on Monday to our local Mediterranean grocer. If you remember, I mentioned it in my rambling Dr Pepper-induced rant about my new bargain designer purse from Macy’s. (Do I owe you an apology if you read that one? I feel like I might.) Anyway, The Complete Package and I dropped in for lunch and while we were there I browsed the grocery selection. What else is a girl to do while waiting for her gyro with extra feta and hot sauce? While browsing, I found garbanzos to make hummus with, the most fabulous bag of warm pita bread I’ve ever seen in my entire life, a small block of my beloved haloumi cheese, and the new love of my life – pasteurized kefir cheese. Have you seen this stuff? Have mercy – I’m in love. Big love. It’s like slightly soft, slightly salty cream cheese that melts in your mouth. It’s like Greek yogurt on steroids. It’s what my new Syrian buddy at the Mediterranean market recommended. My new bestest kefir eating buddy. We’re tight now.

Oh, kefir cheese... where have you been all my life?

So, I tell The Complete Package that I’ll be branching out and making him chicken shawarma with all my market goodies, and you know what he ordered for lunch? A chicken shawarma. Go figure. I don’t know what he was thinking, but I know what I was. I was thinking “great, now I can be judged for a recipe I’ve never made against a Syrian kefir-eating shawarma guru.” A lesser woman would have thrown a little hissy fit and put the pita back on the shelf, but not me. I’m tenacious. I love a challenge. And at the time, I was hopped up on Dr Pepper. (Again…I apologize.)

So here’s what I done did. Basically, I used kurryleaves’ recipe for the chicken marinade, the toppings and the method, then went out on my own for the tahini and tzatziki. So let’s take a look at how it all went down. Ready, Freddy?

First, I bought a package of chicken breast tenders. I brought them home, removed that crazy tendon that runs down the middle, and threw them in a gallon Ziploc bag with the marinade. I should clarify that I used kurryleave’s marinade as a guideline. For instance, I left out cumin (yuck), substituted my favorite yellow curry powder for the turmeric, and I added cayenne pepper (because I was unsure of what pepper powder might be). It smelled so good! The chicken has to marinate in the fridge overnight, so start this one early.

Next, I made a batch of my favorite lemon & garlic hummus. I made about a quart so we could eat it as a side dish with the extra pita bread and to use in place of the tahini sauce on the sandwiches.

After the hummus was in the fridge, I mixed up a batch of tzatziki to dress the sandwiches with. I made my own version based on a few I found at Tasty Kitchen, my favorite recipe source. Since I despise dill (except for dill pickles), I used flat-leaf Italian parsley. So in all, it was my new kefir cheese (or you could use Greek yogurt), parsley, finely minced onion, grated cucumber (pressed into paper towels to remove any liquid), salt, lemon juice and a splash of red wine vinegar. Oh, I also threw in a pinch of freshly ground black pepper. Using the kefir or yogurt as a base, you add the minced onion, grated cucumber and parsley (or dill) – then add the lemon juice, red wine vinegar and salt to your own taste. This is really good stuff, especially if you’re a Greek yogurt and cucumber lover. I made extra of this, too, so we could really slather it on and eat the leftovers with pita bread. Tzatziki is great as a dip, too.

Pita bread, hummus and tzatziki - the shawarma trinity

Last but not least, you’ll want to slice up a tomato, a little bit of purple onion, some cucumber and a little lettuce. Set it aside until you’re ready to assemble your shawarmas.

In a hot non-stick skillet, heat a tablespoon or two of canola oil. Fry your marinated chicken tenders until they are well done, turning once, and place them on a cutting board or plate to cool for a few minutes. When ready, chop or slice your chicken into bite-size pieces.

That colorful marinade is pure flavor, baby.

Now for the fun part – shawarma assembly. If you’re using a large, thin middle-eastern style pita, lay it out flat. If you’re using the smallish ones you find in most grocery stores, cut the top edge off and open it up. Give the inside of your pita a schmear of hummus. Top with chicken, then spoon on some tzatziki sauce. If you want, you can give it a shot of hot sauce or some sriracha chili sauce. That’s what I’ll be doing. Top with your choice of cucumber, tomato, purple onion and lettuce, then carefully roll up your pita and dig in. The verdict: loved it! I loved making all the different components. Loved that gorgeous marinade. Loved the tzatziki. Loved it all. I’ll definitely be making this again. It’s a keeper.

We're gonna shawarma all up in this joint.

One last warning. Make sure you have napkins or paper towels close by and push your sleeves up. This sandwich may get messy. Serve it with a side of hummus and tzatziki with carrot sticks or a nice Greek salad. I’d recommend an ice-cold Dr Pepper, too, but that’s where I tend to get in trouble.

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TCP Cooks: Flank Steak Sandwiches with Soy-Ginger Mayonnaise

TCP's Steak Sandwiches with Soy-Ginger Mayo - No one can eat just one!

This sandwich has become a Complete Package signature dish. He’s made it so often, family and friends consider it a trademark TCP creation. But the truth is the recipe came from The America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook (2001, Boston Common Press). Once he tried it, we were hooked. The recipe may sound less than dazzling at first glance, but it’s packed with tremendous flavor. It’s hard to describe, except to say that everyone who’s ever tried it loves it. Last week, when Mom and two of my sisters were here, TCP broke out the flank steak sandwiches, and they fell in love. They’re that good. The key is a good flank steak and the soy-ginger mayonnaise. If you’re not a ginger fan, don’t worry. Mom isn’t either, but she loved these sandwiches. All I can say is “try them…you’ll like them!”

First, mix up the Soy-Ginger Mayonnaise:
1/2 cup of Hellman’s Mayonnaise (not Miracle Whip, Hellman’s – TCP insists)
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon of honey
1/2 teaspoon of garlic, smashed to a paste
1 teaspoon of fresh ginger, grated on a microplane
1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until well blended. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. You can make this up to one day in advance, and it really tastes best if you make it early so all the flavors come together.

For the sandwiches, you’ll need:
1 1/2 pounds of flank steak, trimmed of fat & patted dry
1/2 teaspoon of garlic salt
Salt & Pepper, to your own taste
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil (if you use a skillet)
1 baguette of French bread (use a good soft one)
The soy-ginger mayonnaise (made in advance)
1/2 of a small purple onion, sliced paper thin
2-3 cups of arugula, washed, stemmed & dried

Season your flank steak with garlic salt, salt & pepper. If you’re using a cast iron skillet, heat it to blazing hot first, add the oil and then add your flank steak. If you’re using an outdoor grill, you can skip the oil and just season it first. Either way, cook your flank steak over high heat until the outside is seared and the inside is medium-rare. Remove from the heat and allow it to rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes. If you have a piece of foil handy, throw it over the steak to keep it warm. While the steak is resting, prep the rest of the sandwich.

Slice your baguette in half lengthwise and toast each half on the grill or in a dry skillet or griddle until lightly toasted. Spread each half liberally with soy-ginger mayonnaise. Cutting across the grain and on a bias (45 degree angle), thinly slice your flank steak and place it on the bottom half of the baguette. Top the steak with purple onion and arugula and put the lid on it. Gently press the sandwich to bring it all together, then slice into 4″ to 6″ segments and serve immediately.

We could talk about side dishes for this meal, but the truth is I never remember what we had with these sandwiches. Pickles? Chips? Maybe. I really couldn’t tell you. They’re so good, everything else becomes a blur. And really, you don’t need anything except a handful of napkins and something cold to wash them down with. Enjoy! And thanks for making these for the girls, honey. You da’ man!

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