Light and Lovely Spring Chicken Salad
1 pound fresh asparagus
6 boneless and skinless chicken breast halves
2 cups chicken broth
1 small onion, quartered
3 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon honey
½ cup cider vinegar
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Dash hot pepper sauce (to taste)
1 large Vidalia onion, halved, thinly sliced and placed in ice water for 30 minutes
1 head Romaine lettuce, shredded
1 cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes, lightly salted
Extra parsley for garnish
Trim the tough ends from the asparagus.
Cut on the diagonal into 2” pieces.
Blanch in salted boiling water for 2 minutes, then refresh in ice water and set aside to drain.
Flatten the chicken breasts between 2 sheets of wax paper to an even thickness.
Place the following in a large skillet: chicken broth, small onion, parsley and thyme sprigs and wine.
Bring to a boil and add the chicken in a single layer. Cover with parchment or wax paper and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, just until the chicken is cooked through. Allow the chicken to cool for a few minutes in the poaching liquid. Remove and cut, across the grain, into 1/2” strips.
Meanwhile: drain the onions and set aside.
Strain the poaching liquid and set aside ¼ cup.
To make the dressing: Whisk together the reserved stock with the honey, vinegar , mayonnaise, chopped parsley, salt and hot pepper sauce.
Toss together the asparagus, chicken and onion slices with 2/3rd’s of the dressing.
Place on the shredded lettuce and surround with the tomatoes.
Drizzle the remaining dressing on the tomatoes and garnish with parsley sprigs.
Mousse au Chocolat’ L’orange
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
5 tablespoons water
3 whole eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 rounded teaspoon gelatine
Zest and juice of an orange
2 cups whipping cream, whipped
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier liqueur
Grated chocolate for garnish
Melt chocolate with water; stir to form a thick cream. Cool.
Whisk eggs, yolks, zest and sugar in a double boiler until thick. Whisk until cool over ice water. Add chocolate. Fold in 1 cup of the whipped cream (lightly whipped). Soften and then dissolve gelatine in orange juice. Stir in. Stir gently over ice water until thickening. Pour into dish and chill until set.
Garnish with remaining whipped cream flavored with orange liqueur and top with grated chocolate.
Fills 1 quart dish.
When is vinegar not vinegar? Answer: when it’s Balsamic or, as it’s called in Italian, “Aceto Balsamico.” I don’t meant to confuse the issue further, but it actually is a type of vinegar, but made with a unique process and ends up looking and tasting like no other vinegar in the world.
On a recent trip to the beautiful city of
It all starts in the fall season with freshly harvested grapes. Two different varieties are used: Trebbiano and Lambrusco. “Real” balsamic vinegar is made up of nothing more than those grapes with no additives or preservatives of any kind. After the grapes are pressed, the juice is boiled for many hours to made a reduction that reduces the sugar by 40%. This grape juice reduction is then stored in a stainless steel tank for the remainder of the fall and winter. In the springtime, it is removed from the tank into wooden barrels. These barrels are carefully placed in a loft that has the fresh breezes of
At the right time the juice is transferred to smaller barrels, then yet smaller ones and so on. It should be noted that these small hand-made wooden barrels are made from different types of new wood. As in the production of fine wine the wood flavors the vinegar as it ages. The most often used woods are chestnut, oak, juniper and cherry.
This process of aging, also like fine wine, may involve blending different vinegars together. Only after 12 years can this dark, luscious, thick syrup be properly labeled, “Aceto Balsamico Traditionali De Modena,” or traditional, artisan balsamic vinegar. That is the minimum time. The really special stuff has to age for 25 years. That explains why it’s very expensive and sold in tiny bottles from which it is carefully dispensed, drop by drop on such delicacies as a small shard of Parmigiano-Reggiano (the local cheese) as an appetizer or on rich vanilla ice cream as a special dessert. It is also wonderful for flavoring different sauces of that region. On a special occasion, such as a wedding, guests may be offered a small spoonful, much in the way a liqueur might be served after dinner.
So that’s the story of how this most exotic and flavorful of all vinegars is made, but you don’t have to invest in the fancy artisan aceto balsamico to enjoy this special vinegar. The balsamic vinegar that we are likely to use is industrially produced in much larger batches and is far less expensive. It makes delicious, flavorful salad dressings and is used to flavor many foods we cook. Quality can vary widely and the best ones do come from the region of
The following recipes call for industrially produced balsamic. For tastiest results, use the best balsamic you can afford, from
2 1/2 pounds Roma tomatoes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 fresh sage leaves
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons butter
8 ounces spaghetti, cooked “al dente”
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Core and finely chop the tomatoes. (in this season you may substitute a 28-ounce can of whole Italian plum tomatoes that are finely chopped with their juice).
Heat the oil in a heavy pot. Sauté the onions, stirring, for 5 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes and sage leaves.
Cook, partially covered, for 20 minutes.
Remove the sage leaves and stir in the vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the butter until it is melted.
Toss with the spaghetti and serve topped with the grated cheese.
Serves 4 to 6.
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon plain breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt, to taste
Put the parsley, garlic, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the butter in a small, heavy saucepan. Simmer, without browning, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Add the breadcrumbs, vinegar and sugar and raise the heat to high just until crumbs
are lightly browned.
Remove from the heat and salt to taste. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil.
Serve room temperature. Drizzle over grilled fish or chicken.
Makes about 1/2 cup.
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Whisk together the oil with the garlic, mustard, salt, pepper and honey.
Whisk in the vinegar, whisking until mixture is smooth.
Use as a salad dressing or marinade.