Monday, August 11, 2008

Alice Waters: Now THAT'S a Salad

I used to roast a lot of chickens, especially after I read Laurie Colwin's wonderful Home Cooking books. She was big on chicken roasting, and indeed there is something very ceremonial and festive -- but in an easy, everyday way -- about a whole roasted bird. (I love calling chickens "birds.")

But I think I roasted a few too many birds. Approximately one per week for the first 9 years of my marriage. I tried different techniques, different roasting temperatures, different stuffings. And then I stopped. Completely stopped. I haven't roasted a chicken in at least three years. (There is a little more to that story, but I trust that eventually my personal troll, thanksalot, will fill you in on the details in the comments section.)

I decided to roast a chicken in the no-frills Alice Waters style (Art of Simple Food) last night. Her instructions: Salt and pepper the bird, refrigerate over night, bake in a 400 oven for one hour, turn three times, let it rest a few minutes, enjoy.

How was it? It was fine. I just don't get all that jazzed about roasting a chicken anymore. 

But chicken salad is another story! 

I rushed home from my tedious morning errands to prepare Alice Waters' chicken salad, which starts with homemade mayonnaise. Good Lord. It has been a decade since I made mayonnaise from scratch and I had forgotten just how much oil a single egg yolk can absorb.

So, to make the salad, you mix your chopped leftover roast chicken with the mayo, add celery, chives, and capers. Waters says you can mound this on lettuce leaves, but it looked like it belonged between slices of pillowy white bread. I mean, why start counting calories now? 

It's not an innovative recipe. I'm sure there are others exactly like it, others that are less fattening, and others that are even tastier.

But this was very delicious. And unlike roast chicken, for me, chicken salad still has glamour.