Posts tagged: main dish
July 23, 2009

Retro Food, Remade: Tuna Macaroni Salad


I know it’s summer when…

  1. the line between “wet from the shower” and “sweaty” becomes blurred
  2. my mom has a bowl of cold tuna macaroni salad in the fridge
  3. the humidity encourages frequent naps
  4. all of the above

And the correct answer is d!

I’m not sure what it is — maybe just the memory of simple childhood flavors — but sometimes the classics, no matter how unfashionable, are what I crave. I find myself powerless, for example, in the presence of my mom’s tuna macaroni salad. It sits in a white bowl in her refrigerator, beckoning in the way only creamy cold pasta can, and is the perfect thing to sit down at the kitchen table with on a hot summer afternoon.

Real Talk: we’re talking about canned tuna and mayonnaise, the prospect of which on paper doesn’t seem all that appealing. But what if the discs of raw carrots were to turn into ribbons, the mayonnaise into homemade aioli, and if spidery whiskers of fresh dill were to fleck the whole thing? Could tuna macaroni salad become something almost elegant? I imagined what Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins would do if they were to reinvent this classic.

In the end, this cold macaroni salad sat in a turquoise bowl in our fridge for less than 24 hours before it was polished off. Not only delicious in an unassuming way, this is, to my mind, a perfect summer recipe: While the pasta boils, set to work chopping and then stir all the components together without even breaking a sweat.

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July 21, 2009

In the Freezer: Turkey Chili


Granted, it’s not the most seasonally appropriate dinner, but I find that a batch of turkey chili in the freezer is as comforting as money in the bank. Whether I am thisclose to wasting $10 on Chinese delivery, so hungry that I can’t even think straight, or just having one of my Texas girl cravings for a bowl of meat, this stuff always saves the day. You could go all sorts of hog wild and serve this over fritos or with a side of tater tots for that so-bad-it’s-good feeling, but my preference is just for a mess of raw, chopped onion and a tangle of chopped cilantro. Should Trader Joe’s pico de gallo be around, though, that’ll do, too; we’re talking about survival here. Whether they tap into a craving or are something you always have around, just in case, what are your emergency dinners?

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June 26, 2009

How to Cut Up a Chicken and Feel Totally French


Put on a stripey top and an apron. Grab a whole chicken. Wielding a boning knife and kitchen shears — or, if you are a girl with a less fully equipped kitchen, a sharp knife and a lot of determination — cut chicken into pieces, fearlessly, and with the cold detachment of a surgeon. For dinner, sauté the chicken parts with shallots and fresh tomatoes; serve with a chilled Macon Chardonnay. Toss the leftover neck and back into a stockpot with whatever bits you have rolling around in the fridge: celery, carrots, an onion, some sprigs of parsley and thyme. Cover with water and let simmer for a few hours to make stock while twist in the living room to Francoise Hardy.  When tired, recline on the couch with Cheri, and later, when complimented on your cooking prowess, shrug your shoulders as if it’s nothing. Buf.

Even if you skip the French shenanigans, I would highly recommend attempting to cut up your own chicken. I was scared, I’ll admit, and had successfully avoided the task since I first learned to cook chicken. But then there it was in Week 3 of my Grand Diplôme program, and I couldn’t hide anymore. I channeled my imaginary boyfriend, Jacques Pepin, and his relaxed efficiency as well as his no-waste policy, and here’s the thing: there was immense satisfaction in buying the least processed poultry available in the highest quality available and doing the heavy lifting myself. Some people may squirm at the up-close-and-personalness of this process, but I saw it this way: if I choose to eat animal products, the least I can do is learn how to handle it with skill myself and not to waste a bit of it.

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June 15, 2009

Ladies’ Lunch Tarragon Chicken Salad


Well, this is a first.

I so enjoyed this luscious chicken salad, that I accidentally polished it off before remembering to take a picture. Whoops. I guess I ought to tell you that it was especially creamy, with a nice crunch of walnuts and celery, a pop of sweetness from grapes, and shreds of chicken that were poached roasted to perfection.

Perhaps I should also mention that I endeavored to make mayonnaise for this dish, not once but twice, and here’s what I learned: when they say to use a room temperature egg, take heed. Otherwise, you will be looking at a food processor full of yellow oil swishing around and feeling like a fool. Especially if you wash it all out and try again, only with the same results. Sometimes there is something to be said for following directions.

This would be so pretty atop a bed of Boston Lettuce or on some super crunchy Wasa crackers with a salad on the side or tucked in between the halves of a split baguette — but I guess you’ll have to take my word for it, since I have no photographic evidence to speak of.

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