Stella’s Chicken Salad

There are a million chicken salad recipes, but here’s mine! I think the tiny bit of Dijon mustard and splash of balsamic vinegar really make it extra tasty. I also love slivered almonds.

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken*
2 Tbsp olive oil, separated
1 cup celery, finely diced (one regular sized celery rib)
2 Tbsp minced white onion
1/4 cup crushed pecans
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup kefir
1/4 cup full fat mayonnaise
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp dried dill
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 black pepper

1. Preheat your oven to 375°. Place the chicken in an oven-safe dish and drizzle with half the olive oil. Lightly salt and pepper. Bake for about twenty minutes, turning once or twice, or until chicken is fully cooked through. Remove from oven and let cool.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the other ingredients. In a large bowl, toss celery, onion, pecans, and almonds. In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine kefir, mayonnaise, mustard, balsamic vinegar, and lemon juice. Whip with a whisk until well combined, then add sugar. Keep whisking until it becomes silky smooth, then add dill, salt, and pepper. Stir thoroughly and taste; add more salt and/or pepper as desired.

3. Chop the cooked, cooled chicken into chunks of desired size (or shred, if preferred) and mix with the vegetables and nuts in the large bowl. Then pour the dressing over the salad, tossing gently until the ingredients are well mixed.

4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lid and cool in refrigerator for at least two hours, or even overnight. To serve, re-stir with a large wooden spoon and eat as a main course, sandwich filling, or green leaf salad topping.

*I used white meat here, but you can use either white or dark; the latter will give your salad a slightly richer flavor and fattier texture.  I wanted a light, crisp, cool salad for summer, so I went with white meat—it’s supposed to hit 106° today!

Three days of food!

For the holiday weekend, my parents decided to come visit.  So it was another long weekend of celebratory food.  Here is some of what we’ve enjoyed here in sunny, beautiful Austin.

Happy hour!  Started the weekend early at 4:00pm at Freddie’s.

Crème brûlée at the Driskill ($6 – and a ridiculous $3 during happy hour).

Breakfast tacos from Arturo’s (now open again for Saturday breakfast, 9:00am – 1:00pm!).

Milanos dipped in coffee!

My new favorite allergy medicine: the Tartufo cocktail at Sagra (regular $10, $8 during happy hour).  Waterloo Gin (from Treaty Oak Distilling Co.), honey, and lemon.

Gin and tonic, expertly mixed by one of my favorite bartenders in Austin, Dred at Clay Pit.

One of the specialties of the house at Clay Pit: Khuroos-E-Tursh.  Khuroos-E-Tursh ($15.00).  Medallions of chicken-breast stuffed with seasoned spinach, mushrooms, onions & cheese, simmered in a rich cashew-almond cream sauce.  Possibly one of my all-time favorite dishes.

Goan Yellow Curry with Shrimp ($15).

Perfect basmati rice.

Aloo Ghobi: braised cauliflower and potato curry  ($10).

Threadgill’s special: Shiner-braised pot roast served over mashed potatoes, with a side of black-eyed peas and macaroni and cheese ($12.95).

Chag Pesach Sameach, Happy Easter, and Happy Spring!

Skillet Paella at Joe’s Crab Shack on Town Lake: clams, shrimp, mussels, scallops, and sausage simmered in a tomato basil sauce served over rice and topped with crispy calamari.

Salmon Orleans, topped with a creamy Cajun sauce and crawfish, shrimp, and andouille sausage. Served on a bed of dirty rice. This was awesome.

Ragin’ Cajun Steam Pot: Dungeness crab, Queen crab, shrimp, andouille sausage, and corn on the cob.

Honey Mustard Collard Greens

Another variation on one of my favorite type of greens, this savory side dish will be liven up any dinner.  The bacon grease gives these collards their distinctive Southern flavor, while the honey mustard provides an unexpected note of sophistication.

~4 cups collard greens, washed and chopped
2 tsp bacon grease
1/4 yellow onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup red wine
2 tsp whole grain mustard
2 tsp honey

1. In a large skillet, melt bacon grease over low heat. Add garlic and onion, stir, and sauté for about five minutes, until fragrant and translucent.

2. Deglaze pan qith red wine, then add collard greens and balsamic vinegar. Stir continuously for about five minutes, until the greens begin to wilt and turn bright green.

3. Add mustard and honey, stir thoroughly to coat all the leaves, and remove from heat. Serve immediately.

Serves 2. What looks like a huge pile of raw greens turns out to be just right for two people! Double or triple recipe as desired, but don’t cook too much! These are best freshly cooked—leftover greens don’t translate.

Shown here with oven-baked bison sausage and a side of creamy brown rice.

Creamed Hominy

This one’s pretty straightforward, but I want you to enjoy it as much as I did, so I’m posting it!  If you like hominy (and you should like hominy), you’ll love creamed hominy.

4 cups fresh (or fresh frozen) hominy
1 cup heavy cream
4 Tbsp butter, separated
dash of raw sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1. Rinse the hominy and pour into a stock pot or slow cooked (I prefer the latter). Cover completely with water, add a dash of salt, and boil for approximately an hour. Reduce heat to low and cook for about another four hours, until hominy is tender but still firm. It can now be cooked, or stored for future use within (This step can be skipped if you’re using canned hominy, bless your heart. If you’re using raw, unsoaked hominy, follow these steps–you are a braver cook than I!)

2. Drain the water from the hominy and pour it back into a stock pot with the cream. Bring just to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to simmer, stirring constantly.

3. Add butter, sugar, salt, and pepper. Continue to stir until all ingredients are melted and well mixed, cooking over low heat as hominy achieves a thick, creamy texture. Serve warm as an addictive and filling side dish.

Serves 4.

You could also use corn. But it won’t be nearly as buttery and delicious!

Shown above with butternut squash and potatoes roasted in bacon fat and olive oil, with a little salt, pepper, and fresh sage and rosemary, topped off with a little grated parmesan.