Sunday, January 21, 2007

When the leftovers are better than the main dish...

In this case, the whole beautiful free-range chicken I roasted, tasted, well, .... really boring. I had read this fantastic-sounding recipe involving chicken, meyer lemons, thyme, and smoked paprika and I was excited about giving it a try. I love whole roasted chicken, though I usually rely on garlic and rosemary to do most of my seasoning. This version sounded exotic and tasty -- and I'm all for anything that utilizes both of those adjectives. (Exotic and tasty burritos? Show me the way. Exotic and tasty roast pork? I'm in. Exotic and tasty chocolate? Bring it on. You get the picture).

Having all of the ingredients, I eagerly separated the skin from my whole chicken, rubbed the meat with the smoked paprika and salt, nestled fresh thyme leaves and thinly sliced meyer lemons under the skin and set the bird to roasting. Sadly, what emerged from the oven looked pretty, and tasted like *nothing.* Bland city. No elusive smokey taste from the paprika. No delicate, sweet acid from the meyer lemon. No woodsy aroma from the thyme. It tasted like a 1950s salt and pepper seasoned, accompanied by canned green beans, boring-style chicken. Boo.

We ate it, mind you. And we didn't complain. Much. But, I was sorely disappointed. I still think the idea has merit, perhaps I just need to triple the amount of all seasonings involved. Anyway, there I was -- a partially eaten, bland chicken carcass glaring at me with as much venom as a dead, boring, fowl can muster.

I separated the meat from the bones and set about making chicken salad. When life gives you lemons make lemonade, when life gives you bland chicken, make Smokey Chicken Salad with Meyer Lemons, Grapes, and Thyme. This salad managed to embrace all of those flavors that I was hoping for in the original dish -- smokey, tart, and woodsy -- with an additional dash of sweet from the grapes. Enjoy!

Smokey Chicken Salad with Meyer Lemons, Grapes, Thyme -- makes 5 or so sandwiches


-- 2 cups loosely packed shredded chicken, white and/or dark meat
--1/2 cup grapes, cut in half (I used purple grapes that looked remarkably like olives. They were delicious, but it was highly confusing to my taste buds to see olives and taste grapes)
--1 shallot, finely chopped (or substitute a 1/2 onion if necessary)
--1/2 cucumber, cut into rounds and then rounds cut into fourths (I like to buy the English cucumbers that are wrapped in cellophane. They have no waxy residue, so it is easy to wash them and leave the crunchy skins on. yum.)
--zest of one Meyer lemon (do try and use Meyer lemons, they are more delicately flavored and much sweeter than your average lemon)
--juice of one Meyer lemon
--1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
--1 teaspoon smoked paprika
--salt to taste
--mayonnaise product to taste (I use a few tablespoons of a light version, use whatever you like best)


1) Stir everything together and taste. Add more paprika, salt, or mayonnaise if desired. Eat on bread as a sandwich, on top of a salad, or just out of the bowl.

Feel free to improvise. Add chopped apples instead of grapes, or celery instead of cucumber, or basil instead of thyme. I particularly enjoyed this version, but I'm sure variations would be equally delicious.

This is my can of smoked paprika. There is a story that goes with it, but I'll save the juicy details for the next time I use the paprika (likely soon and likely in roasted potatoes). To whet your appetite, the story includes a date with man that may or may not have been gay, a harrowing cab ride, and a plate of octopus. :)

Chopped shallots, grapes, and cucumbers with meyer lemon zest, meyer lemon juice, salt and thyme. Just waiting for the chicken and the mayo to come to the party.


Wondering what to do with the now meat-free chicken carcass handing around? Simple, make yummy stock. Boil the carcass (and any chicken skin left) with enough water to cover the bones. Add a few roughly chopped carrots, celery, and onions and a bay leaf. Simmer forever. (At least 2 hours -- 7 or 8 would be better). Strain the vegetables and the bones out (use a cheesecloth lined colander). Refrigerate the stock overnight. The next morning, skim all of the hardened fat off the top and throw away. Use the stock right away or freeze it for future use.

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