Coronation Chicken–A Sandwich Fixing Fit for a Queen

Depending on the quality and amount of curry used, the color of coronation chicken can range from acid yellow to subtle ochre. I like to think mine is the latter

Coronation chicken isn’t so well known in these parts (i.e. the U.S.) but in the U.K., this dish has a fabled history.

A humble dish with a regal name, coronation chicken was invented by Rosemary Hume, the founder of Le Cordon Bleu, joining the ranks of its Anglo-Indian brethren, chicken tikka masala and mulligatawny soup. It’s basically chicken salad’s gussied up little sister–shredded chicken dressed with a curry- and chutney-spiked mayo and studded with raisins–served over basmati rice or between bread.

According to this Guardian Newspaper article (where you can also read more about its provenance and permutations), coronation chicken was originally called poulet reine Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth chicken). And since Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Diamond Jubilee this year (she ascended the throne 60 years ago on February 6th, and her coronation took place June 2, 1953), why not pay tribute to my colonial heritage?

And besides, I had leftover chicken, curry powder, and preserves just waiting to be used up. Operation “Cook Down My Kitchen” cracks on!

Do you have a favorite way with coronation chicken?

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Coronation Chicken

I first discovered Coronation Chicken when I was living in England. A friend ordered a coronation chicken sandwich for lunch one day. (This was one dish that didn’t quite catch on in the colonies, at least not Singapore). I wasn’t enticed by the turmeric yellow-tinged chicken but she coaxed me into having a bite and I’m glad she did! That first bite was an intriguing mélange of tender chicken, spicy curry, and sweet raisins. I’ve had many versions since then, not always tasty and often not pretty. I came up with a dressing that wasn’t too sweet, doing away with the requisite raisins/dried apricots of many recipes, and cut the greasy mayo with the lighter texture of yogurt. Plus, I added some celery (another refrigerator legacy!) for a nice crunch. The result–a light and bright filling I enjoyed sandwiched between hearty slices of herb bread.

Time: 15 minutes

Makes: 4 appetizer servings, or enough filling for 2 to 3 sandwiches

2 cups shredded cooked chicken (about 4 drumsticks or 3 breasts worth)
2 stalks celery hearts, finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoon preserves (I used a tropical mix but try apricot) or mango chutney
2 tablespoons yogurt (whole milk or lowfat is fine)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
A few squirts of lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Place the chicken and celery in a medium bowl.

In a small cast iron skillet, toast the curry powder until fragrant, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Combine the curry powder, chutney, yogurt, mayo, and lemon juice in a small bowl and mix thoroughly.

Fold the curry dressing into the chicken until the chicken is well coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let sit for at least an hour in the fridge to allow the flavors to meld. Serve the chicken on a bed of lettuce leaves or between slices of freshly baked bread.

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Great Cookbooks for Holiday Gifts

Seven fabulous books to cater to everyone on your gift list!

We’ve all heard it before: It’s the thought that counts.

Yeah right.

I, for one, prefer not to give gifts just for the sake of giving. I actually do want to the person at the receiving end to like my gift. And during the holidays, this desire amps up the pressure to buy something special for each and everyone on my list.

Even as I’m slowly checking people off my list, I thought I’d make your life just a little bit easier. A group of writer friends and I decided to organize a virtual potluck featuring great cookbooks perfect for holiday gift-giving.

Whether you’re buying a Christmas gift for your sister-in-law or a hostess gift for your next holiday party, you’re sure to find a book beckoning to you in this lovely mix.  Be sure to scroll right to the bottom where you’ll find blurbs about each book; click on the blog links for a full post plus a recipe.

My contribution to the potluck is Chickpea Curry with Tomato and Mango from Roz Cummin’s blog. Roz is a food writer who focuses on sustainability, agriculture, fishing, and aquaculture, and has written for notable publications such as edibleBoston, Grist.org, and Culinate.com. She’s funny and articulate, and her stories (like her wonderful self) never fail to make me ponder, or laugh out loud. Her latest project promises to do both. Roz is working on a book charmingly titled: Golden Afternoons: The Official Handbook of the Society for the Preservation of Ladies’ Afternoon Tea. The book will include a contribution from me, so look out for it!

Apparently, Roz came up with this recipe while tearing down the aisles at her local Whole Foods trying to figure out what to cook for her vegan co-op and a new, I’m-allergic-to-everything member (I’ll let you read her entertaining tale for yourself). The dish is easy to make and a fabulous mélange of sweet, tart, and spicy. Even though I’m still working through my Christmas list, at least I know what I’m making the next time friends come over for dinner on a cold, wintry day.

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Chickpea Curry with Tomato and Mango
Recipe adapted from Roz Cummins

The combination of sweet-tart Meyer lemon juice and sweet, fresh mangoes makes for a delicious modern take on an Indian curry. (Psst, you can also use dried mangoes snipped into strips as Roz does in her original recipe.) The Meyer lemon is thought to be a cross between a true lemon and either a mandarin or the common orange, and is not as sour as a regular lemon. Its floral fragrance and sweetish juice make all the difference in this curry.

Time: 45 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup canola oil
2 cups chopped yellow onion (approximately 2 medium onions)
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (28 oz) cans fire roasted organic tomatoes (crushed or whole)
1 small ripe mango, chopped (I used an ataulfo mango but any kind will do)
2 (15 oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and strained
2 to 3 chili peppers (I used fresh Thai bird chilies and Roz use piri piri peppers from a jar, optional)
Salt to taste
Juice from 1 Meyer lemon or 1 tablespoon regular lemon juice
1 cup cilantro leaves, loosely packed

Warm the spices in a large pot over low heat until they become aromatic, about 1 to 2 minutes. They do not need to change color. Dump the spices onto a plate and wipe the pot clean with a damp paper towel.

Add the oil and heat over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the chopped onions, followed by the ginger and garlic. Cook until the onions are translucent and the ginger and garlic are fragrant. They do not need to brown.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the tomatoes. If you are using whole tomatoes, use a spoon to break them down. Toss in the mango. Cook for five minutes then add the spices.

Add the chickpeas followed by the chili peppers, if using.

Simmer the curry for about 30 minutes or until the chickpeas are slightly softened and completely warmed through.

Take the curry off the burner. Throw in the lemon juice and stir. Taste the curry. Now add a pinch of salt and taste again. Correct the seasoning with more salt if necessary.

When you serve the curry, throw some cilantro (see Pat’s note below) on top of each portion. Ask your guests to stir it into the curry. Serve with naan, paratha, or basmati rice.

Pat’s notes: A grandmother I cooked with once told me not to chop cilantro leaves as the leaves would turn brown. Pluck them or tear them instead.

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Presenting all the cookbooks in our potluck:

100 Perfect Pairings: Main Dishes to Enjoy with Wines You Love
By Jill Silverman Hough

Chock-full of delicious, creative, and easy-to-make recipes for everyday cooks, 100 Perfect Pairings makes food and wine pairing easy and approachable. With recipes organized into twelve chapters by wine variety, simply turn to the chapter for the wine you want to serve, make any of the entrees you find there, and enjoy it with your wine. It’s that easy. Be it Pinot Grigio or Pinot Noir, a big dinner party or a simple meal with friends, “100 Perfect Pairings” promises wonderful recipes that make every pairing, well, perfect!

Jill Silverman Hough is a cookbook author, food and wine writer, recipe developer, and culinary instructor whose forte is making food and cooking simple yet special.
On Jill’s blog:  Tortilla Soup from Almost Meatless

Almost Meatless: Recipes That Are Better for Your Health and the Planet
By Joy Manning & Tara Mataraza Desmond

Ideal for today’s conscientious carnivores, Almost Meatless is a timely new book featuring 60+ tasty recipes that go light on the meat.  Without compromising flavor or protein, these dishes maximize health benefits while minimizing the grocery bill and impact on the planet.

Tara Mataraza Desmond is a writer, cookbook author and recipe developer focused on food for health and wellness, pregnancy and parenthood.
On Tara’s blog: Yogurt Chicken with Yogurt Chutney Sauce from 100 Perfect Pairings

Brewed Awakening

By Joshua M. Bernstein

Brewed Awakening is Joshua M. Bernstein’s definitive take on the craft beer revolution. The book is the deeply reported story of the wild innovations and passions driving craft beer, focusing on the tales of the risk-taking brewers, bar owners and the dedicated beer drinkers across the globe. There’s a story in every pint glass, and Brewed Awakening gives voice to each one.

Josh Bernstein is a Brooklyn-based beer, spirits, food, travel and bicycling (phew!) journalist, as well as an occasional tour guide.
On Josh’s blog: The Jucy Lucy Burger from The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches

The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches
By Susan Russo

How do you keep a Dagwood from toppling over? How did the Hero get its name? And who invented the French Dip? Discover these answers and more in The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches—a chunky little cookbook dedicated to everything between sliced bread. You’ll find recipes for every sandwich imaginable along with fascinating regional and historical trivia. From the humble Sloppy Joe to the chic Nutella sandwich, from the iconic Po ‘Boy to the fresh-faced donut sandwich, The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches will satiate sandwich connoisseurs everywhere.

Susan Russo is a San Diego-based cookbook author, blogger (Food Blogga), and freelance writer specializing in food and lifestyle.
On Susan’s blog: Highlights from Brewed Awakening

The I Love Trader Joe’s College Cookbook
By Andrea Lynn

The ultimate one-stop shopping guide, The I Love Trader Joe’s College Cookbook finally offers starving college students a welcome relief from fast food fiascos. Designed to help shoppers recognize the best finds and reap the fruits of Trader Joe’s smart buyers, many recipes utilize TJ’s signature products to create unique meals like olive focaccia, frito pie, pulled-pork sliders, and fish tacos, among other things.

Andrea Lynn is a NYC-based food writer and recipe developer who has tasted almost every product Trader Joe’s has to offer.
On Andrea’s blog: Ravioli Lasagna and Baked Macaroni with Ricotta, Spinach and Mint from Parents Need to Eat Too

Parents Need to Eat Too: Nap-Friendly Recipes, One-Handed Meals & Time-Saving Kitchen Tricks for New Parents
By Debbie Koenig

Give a new parent the gift of sanity! Parents Need to Eat Too makes it easy for new moms and dads to take care of themselves as well as they’re caring for baby. Every recipe has been tested by a group of more than 100 moms, and every recipe also includes instructions for turning that dish into baby food. The book goes on sale in February, but author Debbie Koenig has created a special holiday offer, available now: She’ll send a free signed, custom-made bookplate and holiday card to anyone who pre-orders the book as a gift.

Debbie Koenig is a Brooklyn-based food and parenting writer and blogs at Words to Eat By.
On Debbie’s blog: Olive Focaccia from The I Love Trader Joe’s College Cookbook

Golden Afternoons: The Official Handbook of the Society for the Preservation of Ladies’ Afternoon Tea
By Roz Cummins

Roz Cummins is a Boston-based food writer who specializes in sustainability. She also loves tea and baking. She has worked as an editor, a teacher, and an arts administrator. She is currently working on a book called Golden Afternoons: The Official Handbook of the Society for the Preservation of Ladies’ Afternoon Tea.

On Roz’s blog: Steamed Meatballs with Tangerine Peel from The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook

Burmese Pork Curry

Myanmar, or Burma, as many people still call this pie slice-shaped country by the Indian Ocean  (the CIA Fact Book explains the name change by the military junta in 1989,) has been in the global public eye of late. We’ve read the headlines, we’ve seen the images: a saffron sea of monks flooding the streets of Yangon (or Rangoon), said monks running for safety as uniformed soldiers turned their bullets and batons on the unarmed crowds, and the tired lines that have creased detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s delicate face.

As significant as these latest events are, mine is not a political blog so I won’t elaborate on the political turmoil ravaging this small Southeast Asian country. However, I do believe Burma deserves to be in the headlines but for a very different reason. I’d like to draw your attention to a less controversial subject–food. Burma’s distinct cuisine is hitherto unknown to many of us in the Western hemisphere; that’s very unfortunate and needs to change.

With a population of almost 47.5 million spread across 657,740 sq km of land, Burma has many neighbors, being wedged in between Bangladesh, India, China, Thailand and Laos. So it’s not surprising their cuisine bears influences from these countries, as I discovered during my first Burmese meal at San Francisco restaurant Burma Super Star. Among my favorites: the knockout tea leaf salad (Lephet Thoke), served deconstructed on a giant plate then tossed with flourish at our table, comprised “fermented” tea leaves (the server would not elaborate on the origins beyond “we import it from Burma”), garlic bits fried to a crisp, roasted peanuts, tomatoes, shredded cabbage, dried shrimp and split yellow peas; a combination of tang and salt blossomed on my tongue, courtesy of lime juice and fish sauce as I chewed and crunched through every tasty bite. And their biryani arrived aromatic and vermillion-tinged, a milder riff on the classic Indian dish with its more cinnamon and clove-y notes in stark contrast to the usual up-your-nasal passage effect of chilies and cumin. As you can imagine, my senses were all agog.

Like many avid home cooks, the moment I tasted the remarkable flavors, I wanted to try making it in my own kitchen. There aren’t many Burmese restaurants, certainly none in Seattle where I live, but I knew that Burmese home cooking had to be thriving somewhere on this continent. So I was thrilled to have the chance to chat with my friend Manda Mangrai’s mom Alvina who lives in the Bay Area. (Manda, by the way, is the very talented pastry chef at Marjorie in Seattle.)

Born in Rangoon in 1936, Alvina is half Burmese and half English (Burma was a British colony until independence in 1948). Like many middle-class families in Asia, she had servants and cooks who took care of all the household chores. Alvina was a kitchen neophyte until she and her husband moved to the U.S. with their four children in tow in 1972. “I learnt how to cook in the U.S. because I was missing my food,” she said. “I was asking other people from Burma (in the Bay Area) for cooking tips.” With an excellent critic by her side–i.e. her husband–she was able to recreate her favorite dishes for her five children (and growing contingent of grandchildren which presently numbers 5.5–one is on the way), and even impressed her relatives visiting from Burma!

Alvina explained it very simply, “The more you cook the better you become.” Wise words of advice for any aspiring cook.

In any case, considering how basic and supermarket-available the ingredients are, as demonstrated in the Burmese curry recipe Alvina gave me below, it’s easy to keep experimenting until you get it just right.

Burmese Pork Curry

I have to admit, Alvina gave me this recipe over the phone so I wasn’t sure if it would work without tweaking. But when I cooked it in my kitchen, *boom*, the flavors all came together. You can substitute the pork with any meat of your choice–beef, chicken or shrimp–and for a one-wok meal, throw bite-sized vegetable pieces such as pumpkin, cauliflower or potatoes into the pan together with the meat. The curry itself is not too spicy as the Burmese tend to have side dishes and dips made from chilies and shrimp paste to turn up the heat. The paprika is added more for color than heat, so if desired, substitute up to 1 teaspoon of the paprika with chili powder.

Makes: 4-6 servings

2 pounds boneless pork (I used pork butt), trimmed and cut into one-inch cubes

2 teaspoons turmeric powder

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 tablespoon light soy sauce

1 tablespoon chopped garlic (about 3-4 cloves)

1 tablespoon grated ginger root (two-inches peeled and grated)

1/4 cup canola oil

2 medium onions, diced (about 2 cups)

2 tablespoons paprika powder

Cilantro leaves to garnish

In a medium bowl, marinate pork with next 5 ingredients. Mix well (your hands are the best tools for this but beware, your nails will be stained ochre by the turmeric so use gloves!) and set aside.

In a large skillet, sauté onions over medium heat in oil until translucent and a little brown at the edges, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add paprika and mix until onions are coated evenly.

Add pork to skillet, turn heat to medium-high and mix well. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for about 45 minutes to an hour until meat is tender. Adjust the heat if necessary, you don’t want the meat to burn.

Check seasoning and add salt if necessary. Garnish with cilantro leaves and serve with steamed jasmine rice.

(yes, I forgot the cilantro leaves!)