Last week I was supposed to be in Paris. Taking the Metro, ambling through the Marais, eating macaron at Ladurée, ascending the escalator to the rooftop terrace of the Pompidou. When the volcano in Iceland started to erupt, I never thought it would affect me! I should have known. The last time I tried to go to Paris, the flight was scheduled for the day after 9/11. Maybe next time I plan to travel, I’ll try Rome.
Anyway, missing my trip wasn’t so bad – not at all. I met my friends in Sonoma instead. I think any Parisian worth their fleur de sel would give their eye teeth to spend a week in Sonoma, particularly in the spring. The produce, the bakeries, the farm fresh eggs – all produced by people who are passionate about what they are making and growing. I was really lucky.
I had some wonderful food last week but the most memorable was this appetizer I had at the Girl and the Fig. Sadly, I didn’t take a photo. Since I didn’t, imagine this: a shatteringly crisp raft of naturally leavened bread, browned in butter and olive oil topped with satiny deep pink slices of prosciutto and charred asparagus. A very fresh egg, also browned in butter, aloft. I have to repeat – this was an incredibly fresh egg – like laid 5 minutes ago – that fresh. Glittering fleur de sel and cracked pepper scattered over and around. And here’s the kicker. I’m not totally sure what it was really – they called it truffle vinaigrette – yet it was so emulsified it was thicker than mayonnaise. To me, it tasted like truffle butter, perfectly softened. Lying casually, one might say beige-ly, on the side of the plate, this truffle-y cream; a stealthily delicious taste to paint with the tip of your knife onto each bite. There might have been a drop of lemon there. The whole thing pushed me over the edge. I talked about it for several days afterwards.
Honestly, I thought I was over truffles. I don’t know who I thought I was kidding.
Even though the dish was very simple, it was the forthright presentation of the ingredients, the lack of showy sauces and transformative techniques; it was so utterly artless, so completely of the season, so fresh. I was knocked out.
I might need to get my own chicken.
After the week away, cooking felt really chore-ish when I got home. So I made sandwiches. So it wasn’t really cooking. Two kinds since Wednesday. We had club sandwiches then curried chicken. Sandwiches were how I got back to the routine.
A Club Sandwich is incredibly easy to make – you just need to channel an assembly line mentality and you can crank them out quickly. I wish I had those ruffled toothpicks every time I make these.
- 12 slices of sandwich bread – toasted (I like multi grain)
- 8 slices thick cut bacon, browned until crisp
- 8 slices chicken or 1 breast of chicken, grilled and sliced very thinly
- 2 hothouse tomatoes, sliced thinly
- 16 slices of English cucumber, sliced thinly (optional but highly recommended by me!)
- 8 leaves of romaine, washed and dried
- mayonnaise ( I like the Trader Joe’s brand)
- toothpicks (if you can get ruffled ones – go for them)
The layers go like this:
On the bottom: Slice of bread with mayonnaise, topped with lettuce then chicken
In the middle: Slice of bread with mayonnaise, topped with lettuce, tomato, cucumber and bacon – Sprinkle the cucumber and tomato with salt and pepper
On the top: Slice of bread, bottom spread with mayonnaise.
Hold all layers in place with a toothpick.
If you are feeling fancy you could cut the crusts off. I never do this.
Curried Chicken Salad
for 2 generously
Most chicken salad connoisseurs would have you gently poach a chicken breast so that the meat can be shredded before being tossed in lemony mayonnaise. They say that the meat soaks up the dressing better that way and that the shredded meat makes for the best texture. That’s fine. I have made chicken salad that way before and it is exemplary. Sometimes though, I have leftover grilled chicken and with that I like to make curried chicken salad – which is what we had on Friday for lunch. The grilled flavor is set off nicely by the curry powder and I am reminded of tandoori chicken which I love.
- 1 leftover grilled chicken breast, torn into bite sized pieces or cut into 1/2″ chunks
- 1/3 c. mayonnaise
- 1 stick of celery cut into 1/4″ dice
- 1 green onion, minced
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp minced cilantro (or parsley – but only as a last resort because cilantro is so perfect with curry)
- 1 tsp curry powder – I like the pondicherry from the Whole Foods label
- 3 tbsp raisins
- 1 1/2 tsp honey
- salt and pepper
Toss all ingredients together in a medium sized bowl until well combined. Serve on toasted bread on which, if you are feeling cavalier, you have spread even more mayonnaise. Often I serve this with sliced cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce in a sandwich. Friday I was lucky I had the energy to even put it on toast.