Chicken Salad by Cynthia Raub

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chicken salad recipe with croissants and crackers

Is there anything to dislike about chicken salad? Unless you are a vegetarian or vegan, or you don't care for mayonnaise (Amy . . . ), what is there not to love? Tender supple chicken accompanied by a crisp crunch of celery, a little sweetness from the fruit of choice, all brought together by a delicate mayonnaise dressing. Ahhh! Sounds like the perfect lunch or snack to me. I love sandwiches because they deliver the perfect bite and I especially have a thing for loosely filled sandwiches. I'm always looking for more recipes to make that keep well, and are easy to make larger quantities without much more work. This is one of those recipes and I promise it will be a crowd favorite, unless the crowd is vegetarian or hates mayonnaise (Amy . . . ).

Notes: This recipe requires a fair amount of chopping, but it comes together in a cinch. It involves very little to no cooking, depending on what chicken you choose to use. In a pinch, you can always shred chicken from a store-bought rotisserie bird or you can buy prepared chicken meat; however, I would strongly suggest you try the simple poaching method, (recipe below,) to get tender chicken and a delicious broth simultaneously with hardly any extra work. The grapes in this recipe can also be substituted with other fruit such as diced green apple or dried cranberries. I love chicken salad on a croissant because, why not? But, it's also a dream on sliced white bread, a simple roll, or on crackers.

Time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 cups

1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup mayo
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/3 cup red onion, finely diced
1/2 cup toasted pecans, roughly chopped
3 cups (about 2 pounds) poached chicken, diced (Recipe Below)
1/2 cup celery, small dice
3/4 cups grapes, halved

In a small bowl, make the dressing by combining lemon zest, lemon juice, mayonnaise, salt, black pepper, sugar and parsley. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine red onion, pecans, chicken, celery, and grapes. Pour dressing over chicken and stir to combine. Taste and adjust for seasoning. 

Serve as a sandwich on a roll, croissant or sliced bread; or with crackers as a light side or appetizer.

Poached Chicken

2 pounds chicken breast (about 3 moderately sized breasts)
1/2 carrot
1 celery rib
1/2 onion
10 parsley stems
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon salt

Place chicken in a large pot and cover with water by 1 inch. Scatter carrot, celery, onion, parsley stems and peppercorns on top. Season with salt. 

Turn heat to medium high and bring the pot to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 3 minutes, then turn off the heat and cover the pot with a tight fitting lid. Set aside and allow chicken to finish cooking in the hot liquid. Leave the chicken to cool in the pot, about 1 hour. 

Remove chicken and dice into 1/2 pieces. Strain liquid from vegetables for a beautiful and easy broth.

Pork and Broccolini Sandwich by Cynthia Raub

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A pork shoulder roast is a gift that keeps on giving. Its meaty girth, gristle, and crisp skin provides a generous and impressive roast, without breaking the bank, which is perfect for a large group. Or, you can make one for your family and reserve the leftover meat for future meals! Amy gifted me with an enormous chunk of her roast and I wanted to do something different from my typical uses of leftover pork. I normally default to pulled pork sandwiches or use it as a taco filling, but somewhere in the depths of my memory, I recalled a pork sandwich I had at Salumi in Seattle eons ago as inspiration. The earthy and tender broccolini, with luscious and slightly crisped pork on a toasted roll, was held together by melted provolone. This decadent sandwich is my new favorite way to enjoy leftover pork shoulder.

Notes: This sandwich is pretty straightforward with few ingredients, so it's important that each component is the best that is can be. A substantial sandwich roll is crucial to a sandwich like this - a ciabatta or torta roll with good structure will not fall apart under the cooked down broccolini and loose pork. I loved the variations in texture that the broccolini had: from the firmer stems to the soft cooked heads, but I can see other greens used as a substitute. If you don't care for broccolini, I would recommend green swiss chard with stems and leaves.

Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4

For the broccolini
2 bunches broccolini
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 shallots, sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice

For the sandwich
4 sandwich ciabatta rolls
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/3 cups pork shoulder (pulled or sliced)
4 slices provolone

Preparing the broccolini
Make an ice bath to cool the broccolini, by filling a large bowl with water and ice. In a large sauté pan, fill halfway with water and bring to a boil on high heat. Trim the ends of the broccolini stems, about 1 inch. Cut the broccolini in half, place in boiling water, and cook for 2 minutes until barely cooked through.

Drain the broccolini, and put it in the ice bath to halt cooking. Drain cooled broccolini and set aside.

In the same sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat. Add red pepper flakes, sliced garlic, and shallot rings- sweat until translucent and tender but not falling apart.

Add the broccolini and stir to combine. Cook on medium heat for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender and soft. Season with salt, and taste to adjust seasoning. Squeeze 1 tablespoon lemon juice on top of the broccolini to finish.

Assembling the sandwich
Slice sandwich rolls in half, drizzle with olive oil and, and toast until golden on a griddle or skillet. Set aside.

Drizzle skillet with remaining olive oil, and warm pork through, until some edges are brown and crisp.

Assemble sandwich by spooning broccolini on the bottom slice, then topping it with the supple and crisp pork. Place a slice of provolone on the pork and place under the broiler in your oven, until the cheese is melted. Devour immediately.

Roasted Eggplant and Pickled Beet Sandwich by Cynthia Raub

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Serves: 4
Time: 45 minutes

2 medium eggplants (~2 pounds), sliced into 1/2"-thick rounds
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
Kosher salt, ground pepper
1 garlic clove, finely grated
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Sherry vinegar
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup mixed tender fresh herb leaves (such as flat-leaf parsley, dill, and mint), torn if large
1/2 cup chopped pickled beets
1/4 cup chopped pitted oil-cured olives
2 tablespoons drained capers, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 6x4" pieces focaccia, split (I used La Brea Bakery torta rolls from Costco)
6 ounces feta, thinly sliced or crumbled

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place eggplant slices on a large rimmed baking sheet and rub both sides with oil. Season with paprika, salt, and pepper. Roast until golden and tender, 30-40 minutes. Whisk garlic, mayonnaise, and vinegar in a small bowl; set aside.

While the eggplant is in the oven, toss scallions, herbs, beets, olives, capers, and oil in a medium bowl to combine. Spread cut sides of focaccia with garlic mayo. Build sandwiches with focaccia, eggplant, feta, and beet salad.

Recipe from: Epicurious

Roasted Jalapeno Grilled Cheese Sandwich by Cynthia Raub

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jalapeno grilled cheese sandwich

The magic of grilled cheese is found between the two slices of golden and toasted buttered bread - when the cheese oozes from the sides from each bite. Because I was serving these sandwiches an hour after they were cooked on the griddle, I wanted them to have a gooey texture, even when they were room temperature. Thanks to the combination of cream cheese and Monterey Jack cheese these maintained a melty and creamy texture when they were no longer hot. Served alongside the Bacon Jam and Cheddar Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and a refreshing Beet and Cucumber Salad, this slightly spicy, gooey sandwich was richly satisfying for a group of dedicated preschool parents. 

Notes: My jalapeños were extraordinarily spicy, so I deseeded them after roasting. When cooking for a group of people, I like to offer something a dish with a little bit of heat, but nothing too overwhelming. Be sure to taste your spicy peppers to gauge how much to add and what would be appropriate for your crowd.

Time: 1 hour
Servings: 4

1 8-oz package cream cheese
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 jalapeños
1 bunch green onions
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon black pepper
Salt to taste
8 slices of white bread
Butter, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat jalapeños and green onions in olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and place on a baking pan. Roast jalapeños and green onions for 15-20 minutes until charred and softened. Set aside and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, shred cheese and set aside. Place cream cheese in a food processor with cooled and roughly chopped jalapeños and green onions, and black pepper. Pulse 10 times to combine and until jalapeños and green onions are finely minced. Add shredded cheese and pulse 5 times until combined but not paste-like.

Heat a non-stick griddle to medium-high heat. Spread cheese mixture on a slice of bread, close with another piece of bread. Spread room temperature butter on both sides of the sandwich. Slap the sandwich down onto the griddle and wait for the heavens to sing, cooking about 4-6 minutes per side.

Bacon Jam and Cheddar Grilled Cheese Sandwich by Cynthia Raub

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bacon jam grilled cheese sandwich

There's something about the winter that makes me want to make bacon jam. Last year, I threw a grilled cheese and nighttime zoo excursion birthday party for my New Years baby. We had our family come over for dinner to enjoy gooey grilled cheese sandwiches and cupcakes before heading out to the zoo at 7 p.m. I wanted to serve a variety of grilled cheese sandwiches that would be satisfying and hearty enough to be a meal, so I made these sandwiches along with the Roasted Jalapeño Grilled Cheese Sandwich and served them with a tomato soup. When I volunteered to bring savory refreshments for a preschool board meeting, I wanted to bring something a little bit sinful for the parents who work so hard to maintain our cooperative preschool. The combination of the sweet, rich, and tart bacon jam with a sharp cheddar cheese on sliced sourdough is decadent and a novel twist on a grilled cheese. 

Notes: The bacon jam is an involved recipe that requires an hour, a watchful eye, and a considerable amount of chopping. It's a worthwhile commitment. You'll find a number of uses for the bacon jam - including giving it away to friends and neighbors. Make a batch and share it with your loved ones, or you'll find yourself putting it in your eggs, spreading it on bagels, or even eating it off of a spoon at midnight for weeks.

Time: 1 hour
Yield: 3 cups

For The Bacon Jam

1.5 lbs smoked bacon
3 cups of sweet onions, sliced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth or stock
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Place the bacon in a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat has rendered and the bacon is starting to brown, about 10 to 20 minutes. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon onto a paper towel lined plate. Safely pour off bacon fat into a heatproof container, reserving browned bits and 2 tablespoons of bacon fat in the pot.

Bring the pot back to the stove, turn heat up to medium high - add the onion, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion has browned, about 5-10 minutes. Add the sugar, garlic, and cider vinegar, stirring to combine.

Add 1/2 cup of the broth or stock and bring it to a simmer, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened and almost all of the liquid has evaporated, about 5-8 minutes.

Add 1/2 more cup of the broth or stock and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened and almost all of the liquid has evaporated, about 5-8 minutes.

Season with kosher salt, black pepper and paprika and combine.

Transfer the mixture to a food processor and reserve the pot. Process until desired texture. (I like a little bit of texture, so I pulsed mine 20 times- which minced the bacon and onion, but did not make a smooth paste).

Return the mixture to the reserved pot, place it over medium heat, and rewarm, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. (At this point, the bacon jam can be cooled to room temperature and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Rewarm before using.)

Adapted from "Fire in My Belly: Real Cooking" by Kevin Gillespie with David Joachim

For The Bacon Jam and Cheddar Grilled Cheese Sandwich

1 cup bacon jam
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (I used Tillamook)
12 slices sourdough bread
Unsalted butter, room temperature

Preheat a non-stick griddle to medium-high heat. In a medium mixing bowl, mix to combine bacon jam and shredded cheese. Spread a generous layer of the bacon and cheese mixture on a slice of bread. Close the sandwich up with a second slice of bread, butter outsides of the sandwich generously. Slap the sandwich down on the preheated grilled and cook until the bread is golden and crusty, the cheese is melted and the bacon jam is hot- about 5-7 minutes per side.