Friday, July 16, 2010

Old Faves, New Craves (Oriental Chicken Salad/Focaccia Bread)

You know how there are some foods that are simply family traditions? Maybe your great-great-great-grandma brought it over from "the old country" quite a few generations ago. Maybe it entered your family more recently. Take my mom's famous Oriental chicken salad. Not so very old, the recipe was given to my mom by her sister, but it has taken its hold on our family. It has attended two of our families' weddings, many potlucks and family get-togethers, and my older brother has even been know to say that it would be his food of choice were he to ever be stranded on a deserted island and had to eat one food for the rest of his life (assuming he had a choice). The uncovering of the salad bowl is usually accompanied by several "ooh"s and lip-licking is sure to follow. Why is it so desirable? Maybe it's because of the pretty blend of colors or the satisfyingly crisp crunch of the cabbage. Maybe it's the lightness of it on a hot summer evening. Or maybe it's the memories we have of the house filled with smells of toasting almonds on a Saturday night. Or the ones I have of sitting at the kitchen counter chopping piles after piles of cabbage while listening to Adventures in Odyssey on the radio or chatting with my dad or a young sibling beside me who is "learning how it's done." Sometimes it seems with family favorites the flavors and aromas are so intertwined with the memories that it is difficult to separate the two.
I had decided today to make my mom's sought-after-salad, since it is a hot summer day and something like a cool, crunchy salad seemed just the thing. My first thought for a side dish was to get out some of my freezer roll dough to make bread sticks, but I only had enough dough for three, which isn't quite enough for my hubby and I! So I thought, well, I'll just have to make my own! And while searching for a bread stick recipe, I stumbled upon a recipe for focaccia bread, which looked absolutely delicious, but not too difficult. So, in-between my usual Friday/Saturday duties of getting the bulletin and the PowerPoint done for church, I mixed, kneaded and let my focaccia bread rise. It is very aromatic, sprinkled through with rosemary!
Later on, as the last of the rising was happening on my stove top, I cooked up a large chicken breast, and began chopping away at a head of cabbage, memories flooding over me. Into the oven went the focaccia bread, along with the sesame seeds and slivered almonds to toast. Needless to say, I cut the recipe in half. This really feeds a crowd, so even halved, my husband and I have leftovers!
When everything was sliced, diced and toasted to perfection and the bread was giving a wonderful scent to my kitchen, it all went together into a pretty salad bowl. When mixing up the dressing, I had to make one always made the dressing with rice vinegar, and since I had none on hand I replaced it with cider vinegar. This resulted in it not tasting just like mom used to make, but pretty close! :)
I tossed the dressing with the salad just as the bread was cooling. Taking a bite of each, I decided that the old held up its reputation with honor and the new made a delightful addition!

Mom's Oriental Chicken Salad
(printable version)
serves about 12

2-3 cups cooked chicken (diced)
1/2 cup sesame seeds
3/4 cup slivered almonds
2 pkgs ramen noodles
1 lg head green cabbage, thinly sliced
1 bunch green onions, sliced

1 cup oil
6 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
flavor packet from ramen noodles (chicken flavor)
salt and pepper to taste

Toast sesame seeds, slivered almonds, and ramen (broken apart) on cookie sheet in 350 oven for 10-15 min. Let cool. Combine all ingredients (except dressing) and mix well. Pour dressing over all and toss to coat.

Betty Crocker's Focaccia Bread
(printable version)
makes 2 loaves

2 1/2 to 3 cups flour
1 tbsp dried rosemary
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 pkg yeast
3 tbsp olive oil
1 cup very warm water

2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Mix 1 cup flour, rosemary, sugar, salt and yeast. Add oil and water. Beat with mixer 3 min. Stir in remaining flour. Knead 5 to 8 minutes. Grease lg bowl, place dough in bowl and turn to coat. Cover loosely and let rise 30 min. Grease two round pizza pans. Deflate dough with fist and divide in half. Shape into 10 in rounds on pans. Cover loosely and let rise 30 min. Make depressions in dough with fingertips 2 in. apart. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with cheese. Bake in 400 oven 15-20 min.

1 comment:

  1. Yummy! Ya know, I really should make this for Josh sometime. I have yet to do it and I have a feeling he might just really love me if I make it for him, lol!


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