It’s that time of year we want to go outside and enjoy a picnic. Unfortunately the weather here in north Florida has not been cooperating as of late. Usually we have warm mornings but lately it’s been in the low 50s. Crazy. The evenings have been better and we’ve been able to eat dinner outside quite a few times, so that’s been nice.
Since the theme this week at IHCC is "What's in Your Picnic Basket" I prepared a standby: chicken salad. But not any old chicken salad! I made Nigel Slater’s Chicken Salad with asparagus and cucumbers.
One memorable picnic I enjoyed was right in our front yard; this was about 20 years ago. My son was in kindergarten and he was sequestered from other people when he developed chicken pox. Doug and I would take turns picking up some groceries as Tristan couldn’t go inside the markets. He had little red marks all over his face and arms – if you’ve ever had a small child afflicted with that awful chicken pox, you’ll know it’s hard to keep them from scratching.
Well, just because we couldn’t go to a playground that was no reason to limit fun activities. We live in a rural area and our front yard has a park-like setting. We spread out a couple of blankets and took our lunch and lemonade outside. We had some books and games and best of all, enjoyed sandwiches and cookies sitting under a shady tree, listening to the birdsong.
(Seriously, reading over that paragraph made me think of Little House on the Prairie. We never have been like the Ingalls family :-)
While I don’t recall the type of sandwiches we had, I do remember it being a fun afternoon. Yeah...that was about 20 years ago. Things sure have changed. This time we didn't use bread to make sandwiches but placed the salad right onto lettuce. We were able to use butter lettuce straight from the garden. How cool is that?!
In the spirit of picnicking, I turned to Nigel Slater’s recipe from The Observer, July 2011 issue. This is a gluten free dish.....yum yum.
Chicken, tarragon and asparagus salad
The Observer, July 2011 issue
(This was taken straight from the Observer so, get your Brit fix in this version)
chicken thighs or breasts (about 4)
olive oil a little
asparagus 250g (about 8 oz)
cucumber 250g (8 oz)
For the dressing:
egg yolks 2
Dijon mustard ½ tsp
lemon juice of ½
tarragon 2 tbsp, chopped
parsley 2 tbsp, chopped
gherkins 6 small
Place the chicken pieces in a roasting tin, add the oil and juice from the lemon, massage in a little salt and black pepper, then roast at 200C/gas mark 6 for about 30 minutes, till the skin is golden and the juices run clear.
Meanwhile cook the asparagus in boiling water or steam it till tender. (I prefer to keep it a little on the crisp side for this recipe, about 6 minutes.) Drain and set aside.
Remove the chicken from the oven and leave to cool. Peel the cucumber, remove the seeds with a teaspoon and cut the flesh into small chunks, then put it into a sieve or colander over the sink. Grind a little salt over the cucumber, toss gently, then leave it for 30 minutes, until some of the juices have run out. (If you skip this point, your salad will be "wet".)
Make the dressing by putting the egg yolks in a mixing bowl with the mustard and a little salt and black pepper. Add the oils, starting with a drop at a time then slowly increasing to a trickle, beating firmly with a large whisk as if you were making mayonnaise. Add the lemon juice, chopped tarragon and parsley. Roughly chop the gherkins and stir them in. If the dressing seems a little thick or "claggy" (much will depend on your oil), then whisk in a little hot water till you get it to a consistency you like.
Tear the chicken into big, meaty pieces, but small enough that you can eat with a fork, then gently fold in the cucumber with as much of the dressing as you need to make a creamy salad. You want enough dressing to bind the salad, but not to swamp it, so use about half of it then add the rest a little at a time till you get the ratio of chicken to dressing as you like it. Keep any extra dressing in the fridge for a day or two.
Join in at IHCC, just click on the icon below and transport over. Guaranteed there will be other yummy offerings. I am also sharing this with Beth Fish's Weekend Cooking Series.
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