Have I ever told you I’m vegetarian? Because, strictly speaking, I’m not (as if the title of this post didn’t give that away). If I’ve told you that I’m vegetarian, it’s because I didn’t want you serving me beef shoulder or pork loin… or sloppy joes or meatloaf or any other kind of meaty concoction instead of a well-balanced, vegetable bountiful (if not vegetable only!) meal. Or, it’s because I didn’t want you to be upset and disappointed if you did serve me something meaty and I couldn’t eat it.
But it’s not as if I’m entirely lying either. Ninety five percent of my diet is vegetarian. The other five percent is comprised of chicken and fish. And that five percent only comes about every once in a while. Most weeks, air or water animals’ flesh does not cross my lips.
Though, if I may express my absolutely sincere apologies to my vegetarian and vegan friends, please do not hate me too much for capitalizing on your self control and virtue. Calling myself a vegetarian is just easier than hearing my co-workers at a meat-filled office lunch say, “well, you never said you were a vegetarian.” It’s been six or seven years since I’ve eaten beef and most forms of pork. I’m not starting now just because someone thought that a hot dog buffet was a cost-effective way to feed an office.
All that said, when I do eat chicken or seafood, I want to make sure it’s good. I’m not wasting precious lives and resources so I can have an over-fatty, otherwise flavorless chicken nugget. This means most times I eat this kind of meat, it is something nostalgic, meaningful, or having some measure of integrity that processed fast-food does not.
Chicken salad, good chicken salad… is one of those things.
I don’t know what it is, but slather something in mayonnaise and it’s bound to make a good food memory in most people’s minds (there are always exceptions, I know). But now that I’m “all grown up” I’m not going to waste my time and money on some store bought, high fat, too much mayonnaise, low taste monstrosity. I’m making it myself.
So, taking a cue from a blog that I read often, I embarked on a Curried Chicken Salad recipe that called for Greek yogurt instead of so much mayonnaise. With a few necessary alterations, the result was delightful.
Curried Chicken Salad
Adapted from Pink of Perfection:
3 c roast chicken, chopped (I used a store-bought garlic and lime roasted chicken instead of roasting one myself. A small roast chicken yielded about 4 c of meat, so I had to increase some of the “binding agents” a bit. I also was left with a chicken carcass. More on that later…)
1/2 medium red onion, diced (1/2 cup)
6 ounces nonfat plain Greek yogurt (I used Tzatziki, a yogurt-based dip that’s heavy on garlic and dill)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1-2 tablespoon curry powder (different kinds vary in spicyness, so choose one you like and add bit by bit until it’s the right flavor for you)
1 cup halved red grapes
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves (I did not have cilantro, but chicken salad is somehow bare without chopped walnuts… voila! Substitute with 1/2 c chopped walnuts!)
Mix the yogurt and mayo, add the curry power. Combine with chicken, then mix in onions and walnuts. Fold in grapes. Even better the next day.
It’s especially good as an addition to a leafy green salad. Spinach and a little arugula form a nice base for this flavor-filled chicken salad. Toasted on bread is a perfectly acceptable way to eat it, too.
The only thing not so peachy about this do-it-yourself method is the carcass. Yes. The carcass. Folks who eat meat regularly and don’t acknowledge that it came from a living animal are delusional. A carcass is a good reminder.
But I didn’t want to put this carcass to waste! I mean, after all, it belonged to a living thing. All those bones kept that chicken together and clucking while it was alive, so I couldn’t just throw them away.
Hence, my first experiment in do-it-yourself stock.
(Anyone not willing to read biologically accurate descriptions of a dead chicken carcass, please read no further. Vegan and vegetarian friends, you may want to look away.)
I put the remains of the chicken (including bones, cartilage, and skin) into a stockpot and covered with water. Once the water was at a boil, I let it simmer at a low boil for about an hour and a half. I’ve never done this before, so I was just guessing. At one point, I tasted the hot liquid, and it needed some salt. So, I added about a half teaspoon (I imagine that most recipes where I use this stock can be seasoned then and there… otherwise, that salt is hidden in the stock and forgotten about). After that hour and a half, I poured the contents of the stockpot through a strainer into a large container. Because there was a good amount of fat still connected to the skin, there were lots of little golden discs of fat floating at the top. Into the fridge it went, and the next morning, all the fat had solidified, thus making it much easier to take out and discard. What remained was golden, fresh chicken stock. Still no word on how it tastes. Like most things, though, it might have done better with some vegetables and herbs thrown in.