Curried Chicken Salad on Watercress for Cook the Books Club

Our latest (Aug/Sept) Cook the Books Club selection was the lovely, and entertainingly intimate, foodie memoir by the late Laurie Colwin, Home Cooking.

The book reads like an extended, laid back conversation between a couple of good friends. You won't agree with everything anyone says, but the dialogue is never boring.  

For instance, I happen to love stuffing.  (She hates it) Prefer it to the turkey, in fact.  And a rolled stuffed flank steak, can be delicious, albeit like anything else, if done correctly.  Not haveing had a "gray and stringy" or overcooked one, perhaps I'm biased.  Still, reading that chapter gave me the impetus to try it her way, marinated and grilled fast, then sliced paper thin.  An excellent idea, especially as it is a much easier way of treating a good inexpensive cut of meat.

The chapter on "Repulsive Dinners" was especially reminiscent of that give and take sharing of experiences, between a few close friends, each outdoing the others with their most horrid dinner experience.  So freaking funny.  It begins:
"There is something triumphant about a really disgusting meal.  It lingers in the memory with a lurid glow, just as something exalted is remembered with a kind of mellow brilliance.....My life has been much enriched by ghastly meals..."
"For dessert we had a packaged cheesecake with iridescent cherries embedded in a topping of cerise gum and light tan coffee."
 There were quite a number of things from the book that I wanted to try, and a few accomplished so far.  The West Indian Black Cake with which she closed her book, is stewing along, awaiting Christmas for the baking and tasting.  The descriptions were just so tantalizing, and absolutely could not  be ignored.  I've been wanting to do that Green Almond Sauce, but it has most likely been the lack of a recipe holding up my attempt.  It will take a bit more thought.  Also want to try her fail-proof fried chicken recipe and the Creamed Spinach with Jalapeno Peppers.

Finally, it was Curried Chicken Salad that came through for this occasion, inspired by a Birthday party.  Two friends were celebrating, with a Girls Day overnighter in an oceanfront B & B, to which another friend invited us.  With Food.  Supplied by us.  Things we'd been wanting to try.

Linda made a lunch of toasted, sprouted 7 grain bread, topped with pesto, tomatoes, cucumber and avocado. Just delicious.  For supper we had a yummy Tomato Pie, made by Nancy, which you can see above, and this Chicken Salad which I brought, surrounded by watercress.  Quite good if I do say so.

Curried Chicken Salad with Watercress

adapted from Home Cooking, by Laurie Colwin

2 chicken breasts, bone in, slow poached and sliced
1/2 cup mayonnaise (preferably homemade)
1 teaspoon curry powder (I used an excellent prepared one from our Natural Foods store)
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 red or green bell pepper, diced
2 green onions, sliced thinly - use both green and white parts
1 bunch watercress, leaves separated from thick stems
slices of tomato, paprika or pimento pepper for garnish

As Colwin says: "1.  First the chicken breasts must be poached very slowly and tenderly.  The water must not boil but smile, as the French say, for an hour and a half or more.  The result is chicken that is tender and almost custardy.  It is never stringy or chewy. 
2. The meat is skinned and taken off the bone and put into a bowl.  Some of the broth is ladled over the meat.  The bowl is covered and put into the refrigerator.  The next day the meat is removed, the chicken jelly is scraped off and the meat is cut up.  The chicken is moist and slightly gelatinous."  And that broth from the poaching is wonderful for a later soup.  

Now prepare your dressing - mayonnaise into which the curry seasoning has been incorporated.  Taste this, see if it needs salt or anything else.  I added some lemon juice, a small clove of garlic and mustard.  Pour over the cut up chicken in a large bowl.  Mix in the chopped vegetables, surround with the watercress leaves and top with decorative slices of pepper or tomato.  "The result is ambrosial."  Truly.  And a fabulous time was had by all.  Great book, I think you'd enjoy it.


Swathi said...

Looks like great fun, it always good to have friends and food together.

Debra Eliotseats said...

What a great girls luncheon. I found myself laughing out loud more than once. I just keeping thinking of those ghastly meals with a halo of remembrance. LOL

Great CTB post, Claudia.

Deb in Hawaii said...

What a great time with friends--everything looks delicious--love the salad on the green watercress.

I am glad you enjoyed the book--I have been wanting to share it for a while now so I am happy everyone seemed to like it. ;-)

Simona Carini said...

What a nice way to celebrate (and a gorgeous view). I really like the way you describe the book. And your curried chicken salad looks great.

Kaye said...

That salad looks great! What a nice dish for a special occasion.

Rachel said...

Nothing like a good meal with friends. The watercress sounds intriguing. I'll have to obtain some and play around with it.

Anonymous said...

Love your post! I was somewhat intrigued by creamed spinach with jalapenos too...but...like you chose something a little more complicated! Sounds like you had a marvelous time with "the girls!"