Sunday, January 21, 2007

Chicken & Pear Salad

Adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins

Serves 4 to 6

The original recipe actually calls for duck,* but I always use chicken. It's a good dish to eat in the summer, especially in the country when we're sitting around the picnic table. I serve a plate of sliced mangoes strewn with blueberries with this salad.

2 chickens roasted and cooled
3 cups wild rice cooked (recipe follows)
1 cup chopped celery
4 scallions, cleaned and cut diagonally into ½-inch pieces
Grated zest of 1 organic orange
3 ripe but firm eating pears
1 cup lemon juice
½ to 1 cup blueberries
Mango Chutney Dressing (recipe follows)

Roast the chickens the way you usually do, making sure the chicken is cooked all the way through, because who doesn't hate pink chicken. But remember, for this dish it doesn't matter if the skin is as crispy and delicious as you normally like, so you don't have to blast your kitchen with a high-heat roasting method if you don't want to. Also, you don't want to be tempted to eat the chicken as soon as you pull it out of the oven so restrain yourself. Please. I know some of you will want to poach chicken breasts, and they would well here, but the dark meat is so delicious in this recipe, I, personally, would never do that. Cool the chickens completely before proceeding, so, obviously, you can do this step a day in advance, refrigerating the chicken once it cools down.

Toss the cooked wild rice in a mixing bowl with the celery, scallions, and orange zest. Add salt to taste and toss again. Put this mixture on a large platter. Shred the cooked chicken into pieces and salt lightly, tossing it with your fingers to disperse the salt. Strew the chicken over the wild rice mixture on the platter.

If the skin of the pears seems too thick or spotty, peel the pears. Otherwise leave the skin on. Quarter, core, and slice the pears thinly. Put the lemon juice into a bowl, and drop the pear slices into that bowl as you go along, and toss to coat the slices with the pear juice. This will prevent the fruit from begoming brown. Don't do this ahead of time - just do it when you're done with everything else and about to serve the salad, pear by pear until all three pears have been sliced and tossed with lemon juice.

Arrange pear slices in a decorative fan across the top of the duck salad, and serve immediately.

Either pour Mango Chutney Dressing over the top, or serve in a bowl on the side.

*The recipe calls for 2 ducklings, not chickens, cooked medium-rare, so you might want to do ducklings. The recipe says to roast the ducklings at 450 degrees for 15 minutes and at 375 degrees for another 20 to 30 minutes, and, of course, to cook longer if you prefer ducks well done.

Wild Rice

I personally don't find much difference in the taste or texture of cultivated wild rice or real "wild" rice, so use what you prefer.

3 cups light-bodied chicken broth
1 cup wild rice (if really "wild," rinse and pick over for foreign particles)

Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a saucepan. Gradually stir in the wild rice. Cover the pan, and simmer until the grain of the rice is tender and moist.  This will take 40 - 50 minutes. All of the broth might not have been absorbed.  See if the rice needs salt, but season carefully because the amount needed, if any, will depend on how much salt was in your chicken broth.

Mango Chutney Dressing

Makes 3 cups

1 whole egg
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (I prefer Edmond Fallot Dijon Mustard)
¼ cup blueberry vinegar*
⅓ cup mango chutney
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 cups light vegetable oil

Combine whole egg, egg yolks, mustard, vinegar, chutney, and soy sauce in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Season to taste with salt, and process for 1 minute.

With the motor running, dribble the oil in in a slow, steady stream. When all oil has been incorporated, shut off motor, scrape down sides of processor bowl, taste, and correct for salt.

Transfer dressing to storage container, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.

*I have actually always used the blueberry vinegar called for in the recipe, hence my addition of blueberries to the plate of mangoes. However, I think you can mess around with what kind of vinegar you use, and if you change this, leave the blueberries in or out as you choose. They are, however, very pretty. But if you try it with raspberry vinegar, which is more readily available than blueberry, you could strew the mangoes with raspberries, and that would be very pretty too.

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