Tarragon Chicken Salad with Avocado and Bacon over ArugulaI always keep a roasted chicken in the refrigerator at home. It's so handy to have around to make quick, last-minute meals. I'm lucky to live near a place in Los Angeles, Pollo alla Brasa, that roasts chicken over a wood fire. If you have such a place where you live, it's worth a special trip to go there for your chicken. You can really taste the wood and the fire flavors in the meat, and chicken cooked this way has a nice, firm texture. Because the amount of chicken you get from a whole chicken varies, I suggest you add the mayonnaise to the chicken gradually, using only as much as you think necessary.
8 strips thick-cut applewoodsmoked bacon
1 1 1/2-pound roasted chicken, meat shredded and skin and bones discarded (3-4 cups)
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh tarragon leaves, plus 1/4 cup whole leaves (about 40)
1 cup Garlic Mayonnaise (recipe follows)
1 ripe Hass avocado
8 cups loosely packed arugula leaves
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350°F.
Place the bacon on a baking sheet and cook it in the oven for 17 to 22 minutes, depending on the thickness of the slices, until it's done but stilly chewy, not crisp. Remove the bacon from the oven, transfer it to paper towels to drain, and allow it to cool slightly before tearing it into irregular pieces.
Combine the shredded chicken, chopped tarragon, and 3/4 cup of the Garlic Mayonnaise in a large bowl and toss to coat the chicken with the mayonnaise. (Add more if necessary to coat the chicken thoroughly.)
Halve the avocado, remove and discard the pit, and peel off and discard the skin. Cut the avocado into uneven chunks about the same size as the bacon and season them with sea salt. Put the arugula, avocado, and bacon in a large bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil, season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, and toss gently.
Mound the arugula salad onto four plates, dividing it evenly. Mound the chicken salad on top of the arugula and sprinkle with the whole tarragon leaves.Garlic MayonnaiseIn life, I believe everyone,
especially those of us who are serious about food, is entitled to one food vice
—something they love even though they have a hard time admitting it, whether it's Oreo cookies, Fritos corn chips, or Lipton onion dip made with onion soup mix. Mine, if I had to choose just one, is Best Foods mayonnaise (called Hellmann's on the East Coast). As many others as I tried and as much as I wanted to choose an organic brand for this book, I kept returning to my old favorite. The other mayos just didn't have that familiar, well-balanced flavor that says "mayonnaise" to me. This recipe uses Best Foods mayonnaise as a base to make a quick aoli (garlic mayonnaise). It takes minutes to make and is a delicious way to finish so many dishes.
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
4 large garlic cloves, grated or minced (about 1 tablespoon), or more to taste
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
Stir the mayonnaise, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and kosher salt together in a small bowl and season with more lemon juice, garlic, or salt to taste. Strawberries and Ladyfingers with Sour Cream, Muscovado Sugar, and SabaThis dessert was invented one night at a dinner party at my house. One of the guests brought strawberries from the farmers' market that looked so good, Carolynn and I decided on the spur of the moment to turn them into a dessert using whatever I had in the house. This is what we came up with, and it was a big hit. Muscovado sugar is an unrefined brown variety from Africa, made from cane grown in volcanic ash. It has larger crystals than conventional brown sugar and a very strong molasses flavor. It adds another dimension of flavor to a simple dessert like this one that plain sugar wouldn't. You can find it at specialty food stores, but if you don't have any, substitute dark brown sugar. Ladyfingers are small finger-shaped sponge cakes that are most commonly used in tiramisù. I like their light, delicate texture with this simple fruit dessert. They're made of a very plain batter of eggs, flour, and sugar, and are one of the few items where I honestly can't tell the difference between fresh and packaged. Fresh ladyfingers might be slightly softer than packaged, but the flavor doesn't suffer in the packaged version. Just make sure the packaged ladyfingers you buy don't contain any weird ingredients.
1 pint ripe strawberries, hulled and cut in half
1 1/2 tablespoons saba, plus extra for drizzling and for serving on the table
1 cup sour cream (or crème fraîche)
3 tablespoons light brown muscovado sugar
Place the strawberries in a medium bowl. Drizzle them with the saba and stir to combine.
Mix the sour cream and sugar together in a small bowl to combine.
Spoon the sour cream onto four plates and place two ladyfingers side by side on top. Spoon the strawberries over the ladyfingers and drizzle saba over each serving. Serve with the bottle of saba on the table for extra drizzling.
Excerpted from A Twist of the Wrist by Nancy Silverton, with Carolynn Carreno. Copyright © 2007 by Nancy Silverton. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.