A few of us in my extended family of aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins of every possible ordinal number, have a name for using leftovers and it’s not reinvention a la Food Madonna. At our gatherings, namely Cousins Weekend, we cook, plate, and graze all the live long day. And over the years, we’ve learned a bit about group food service from these weekends – like what food goes and what food lingers.
It seems there comes a time in a platter of food’s life, when just enough food has been taken from it, making it appear disheveled, and no longer a platter a food but food on a platter and at that moment, the remaining food becomes inedible. And this isn’t like just one cherry tomato and a soggy mushroom. Half of the food might be left, but if it’s strewn about on the platter without order like the comfort we get from cascading and groupings, it might as well be poison – because the food that remains screams – picked over. Not chosen, avoided; the food won’t move no matter how hard you pitch it.
But, take that same unloved food and arrange it on a new, smaller platter, of a different shape or color than before, and the mitts are all over it. Astonishingly, same food, but new presentation.
My cousin Janice (partner of a first cousin) and I call it re-presenting. This re-presenting (and chuckles that go with it) goes on until we take the last of the veggies and put them where all spent vegetables go to die – soup cemetery or shady oaks omelette.
Well this lovely story is a long way to addressing the dilemma that is leftovers. A reheat on a plate feeds them, but you get that god awful “not agaaaiiiiinnnn” and a lot of picking and picking over. With a scad of effort, a little presentation goes a long way. And in the case of leftover chicken, we’re re-presenting in a whole new dress – like a wardrobe change without all the Ann Hathaway.
We use our roast chicken from a day or two ago. You know cooked chicken will last a long time in the refrigerator, so roast a flock if you can.
You all probably make the classic chicken salad with grapes and please, I would love your favorite recipe for that one because mine never turns out. I’ll make it too and give you all the credit.
This little number, comes from Mark “The Minimalist” Bittman and my new favorite,but daunting, cookbook because it has three hundred thousand recipes (no it doesn’t) and shows us that real food matters. This one uses plums and as much as I love a plum on it’s own, I love plums more in something else.
It all begins, and it always begins, with a knife. Some slicing…
and toasting…only if you look very closely.
It comes together in a big bowl ready to be dressed.
Just before serving we add in the plums that we macerated in balsamic. Any of you boat owners, like my sister, are thinking something gross for maceration. But, in food preparation, macerating means to soak foods in a liquid so they absorb the flavor but also so they secrete more juices of their own, thereby heightening flavor.
Now, the difference in the ‘Mittman’ version from ours, was that true to his minimalist nature, the salad was slightly less flavorful than we like, so we added our own quick balsamic dressing for final presentation.
about last night’s chicken…here’s a plum idea
preptime: 25 minutes 4 servings
8 oz fresh plums, pitted and thinly sliced
2 + 1 T balsamic vinegar
3/4 c sliced almonds
salt & pepper
1 T chopped fresh oregano or 1 t dried
1/4 olive oil
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, chopped
8 ounces roasted or grilled boneless, skinless chicken, shredded (2-3 cups)
6 cups mixed greens
- Combine sliced plums and 2 T balsamic vinegar (cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours.
- Toast almonds in dry skillet over medium heat. Stir occasionally until the almonds begin to brown. Watch to make sure they don’t burn. Set aside.
- Sprinkle the plums with salt and pepper and add oregano, oil, celery, onion, and chicken. Combine gently. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Make balsamic dressing: combine 1 T balsamic vinegar with 1/2 tsp dijon mustard and 1/2 tsp brown sugar. While whisking, add in 1/4 cup olive oil in a slow drizzle so that dressing emulsifies.
- To serve: Place lettuce on plates and top with a generous portion of chicken salad, top with toasted almonds. Drizzle on dressing to taste.