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Curried Chicken Salad

7 Jun

Curried Chicken Salad Sandwich 2

I write this post with only one graduation ceremony in front of me before a few months o’ summer break. In truth, one of the reasons that I know that I love my job is that I will miss the classes that I had this last semester (the previous semester is another story). Specifically, the only British literature class I taught this year was one of the best I have ever had; we could engage in discussions about literature or culture or sundry cerebral topics with depth and curiosity.  Moreover, now they have the tools to understand some pretty complex reading, so it’s satisfying on multiple levels. It’s like they’re almost people, I dare say.

So a few weeks ago, I decided to plan an English tea party with them. Granted, this was my first period class, so it was quite an early tea in terms of English norms, but whatever. I fell short of making them dress up in suits and bonnets or having them raise their pinkies when drinking the tea for fear that they would tell me to piss off, but I did balk at it, of course.

I tripped out that, even with the ubiquitous Starbucks enterprise, most of them had no knowledge of a scone. Crumpets? They were bewildered. What the hell are tea sandwiches? Curry? No concept. But that’s why I’m there. So I told them where to go to buy what, and they had adventures.

When I introduced the idea, I explained that an English tea is another meal time across the pond…”very British,” I said. Their response? “You say ‘very British’ about everything in this class,” to which I responded in my best English accent, “Sorry,” which is very British as well. We generated a list of items to be purchased, set the date, and we were on our way. This event went smashingly well aside from a few hiccups, like kids eating un-toasted, cold crumpets, Flaming Hot Cheetos making the rounds, and my principal showing up towards the end of class as Eddie Izzard’s Glorious played on my Smartboard, but it all made it our own. No matter what career you’re in, throw a tea party in the states and people get titillated.

I have no idea where I got this recipe for Curried Chicken Salad, but I have refined it over the years and now it’s all mine. This works well with leftover chicken, too. It just kicks ass. I never order it anywhere now because mine’s better. This is probably not too bad on Weight Watchers, either.

Curried Chicken Salad

Makes enough for 10 sandwiches, I’m guessing


2 cups cooked, shredded or chopped chicken (Tip: Roast a whole chicken (450° for an hour) or some cut up chicken (400° for 35-45 minutes) coated with some olive oil and salt and pepper. Let it cool, discard the skin, remove the meat from the bones, and you’ll have the juiciest, most beautiful chicken ever. Or put a few boneless breasts in a pot and cover with water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer covered for 30 minutes.)

1/2 medium onion, chopped (whatever kind you have works)

2 cloves garlic, minced

3/4 cup light mayonnaise

1/2 light sour cream

2 heaping tsp. curry powder

1/2 to 1 tsp. salt (to taste)

1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans or almonds (optional)

freshly ground black pepper to taste

paprika for a garnish

Makin’ It:

In a bowl, combine the chicken, onions, garlic and nuts (if using). In another bowl, whisk together the mayo, sour cream, curry powder, salt, and pepper. Pour the dressing over the chicken and mix it well, kid. Chill it for at least an hour.

Scoop it on a bed of lettuce and garnish with the paprika, or spread it on soft wheat bread to make a sandwich. For the tea party, I cut the crusts off and then cut the sandwiches into four triangles. Easy as a hippie who needs a ride to a tree sit-in.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013


Slow Cooker Country Captain Chicken

27 Apr

Country Captain Chicken 003

Being a California native, I asked myself in my head, “What the hell is Country Captain Chicken?” the first time I heard of it. During my first years of teaching, one of my colleagues, originally from West Virginia, said she was making this for her son that night because he was coming home from college for the weekend and this was his favorite.  When I heard this, I asked her, “What the hell is Country Captain Chicken?” I received but a nebulous answer that it was chicken. And lastly, when I was looking through my Weight Watchers cookbook, I saw a Country Captain Chicken recipe, and I therefore inquired aloud, “What the hell is Country Captain Chicken?”  I am somewhat implacable concerning some things.

Briefly, Country Captain Chicken is a full-on American dish comprised of Chicken (told you), mushrooms, tomatoes, raisins, and curry over rice.  I would never have guessed, based on the ingredients, that it would be a southern tradition, but ’tis, and ’tis another reason I love the south.

Wikipedia, a reference that I mock and scorn as a teacher teaching research (yet I embrace as a lover of easily-accessible information in my private life), indicates that Country Captain Chicken could be regarded, as Chef Mamrej Khan has said, as one of the world’s first fusion foods.  Wow.  Wikipedia also describes that it was brought over here by the British probably through the port of Savannah with which the British East India Company traded.  Therefore, my Anglophilia is satisfied by this account and it is an Indian-British-American South dish.

Now with Weight Watchers, stews are very prominent because they fill you up, they can made without a lot of fat, and they still pack tons o’ flavor.  The Country Captain, whoever he is, does that job brilliantly here. The curry ties everything together, and you get a huge portion (2 1/4 cups) on rice (1/2 cup) for only 7 points on the old WW system (Points Plus and 360° can both fuck off indefinitely).  Moreover, it’s a slow-cooker recipe, so you can put this baby together before work and, when it’s time to eat, all you have to make is the rice.  Easier than a curious college student on Mardi Gras.

Slow Cooker Country Captain Chicken

Serves 4


3 cups mushrooms, sliced (any mushroom variety would work)

1 cup onion, chopped

1/2 cup celery, chopped

1 chopped bell pepper, seeded and membranes removed

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken (breast or thighs), chopped into bite-size pieces

1 tbsp. all-purpose flour

1/2 cup chicken broth, fat free if possible

2 tsp curry powder

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp.  black pepper

1/2 tsp. paprika

3 cups canned crushed tomatoes, or diced tomatoes crushed by hand

1/4 cup raisins or dried fruit

2 cups cooked rice, white or brown

fresh basil leaves (optional)

Makin’ It:

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and coat it with cooking spray or a tiny bit o’ olive oil.  Add the mushrooms, onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic. Saute these guys until they’re tender, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Add these to the slow cooker along with the chicken and mix it all up.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and the broth until it’s smooth.  Add it to the slow cooker. Add in the curry powder, salt, pepper, paprika, tomatoes, and raisins.  Stir this together until it’s well-blended.

Cover and cook on the low setting for 5 hours.  Spoon 1/2 cup o’ rice on four plates (use a measuring cup to make the cool rice dome you see in my pictures). Ladle the chicken and sauce on each plate. You can serve it with fresh, torn basil leaves too, and it’s wonderful.

Country Captain Chicken 009

This has been a regular in my house for years.  Taste it and you’ll know why.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

Chicken Curry Pot Pies

28 Feb

Curried Chicken Pot Pie 008

Nothing says home cookin’ like a pot pie, except someone who consistently practices saying “home cookin'” and should get their ass kicked.  Like many people, I went through my frozen Marie Callender’s pot pie phase in my early twenties and, yes, my nose effused sodium, I spoke thickly for some reason,  and I turned into a doughy, paste-y specimen of a human.  Once I hit my late twenties and early thirties, I needed to keep my ankles in shape, so I quit the store-bought pot pies.

And then I learned that making pot pies isn’t really that big of a deal, and there are shortcuts to be had, and they can be made so that you will not have to buy an early grave.  The first one I made was an Ina Garten recipe and, yes, it’s indulgent and fattening and beautiful.  But one can put all sorts o’ goodies into pies, and tonight I made a keeper.  My good sense told me not to eat the whole damn thing even though my wife almost had to hold my arm behind my back and tazer me to stop.  This pot pie was that good.  So, some background is needed.

I have said before that I am an Anglo- and Hiberno-phile, meaning a lover of things English and Irish.  Savory pies, some might call them pasties, are a staple of the British isles and Ireland.  Also, because of England’s cunning use of flags (thanks Eddie Izzard), they dominated India for many years, and they managed to steal curry from them, amongst other things, and they stole the word “pajamas” (no joke…look it up).

British pub chicken curry is a nut buster if ever there was one.  If you’re ever in Fullerton or Santa Ana, California, go to The Olde Ship and you’ll understand the beauty of pub curry.  One of the best indulgences I’ve ever eaten was French fries with curry sauce on them, and I got those in Ireland.  Granted, I had about 10 Guinnesses and some whisky in me to boot, but I still was touched on an emotional level and right after crawled to my hostel near the Galway road.

I know that there are pie shops in England that sell curried chicken pies, so I decided to do some investigating.  It started with me deciding that I wanted to make pot pies tonight with my thawed chicken breasts, the boring bastards that they are.  I looked through my mom’s old recipe book and found a pot pie recipe, so that gave me direction.  I have had a hankering for curry for a few weeks, so the perfect storm arose: I searched for some pot pie recipes and decided to get creative and improvise a bit.

The result is the recipe below, and I even impressed myself with this one, and it’s totally fucking easy.  While a normal pot pie might be a “cold weather” dish, this Chicken Curry Pot Pie is a year round option.  It’s easy to make, savory, and delicious, to be sure.  Better yet, this is not that bad for you.  It has around 14 grams of fat a serving (500 calories or something), and if you notice the ingredients, they’re not bad.  Other pot pies are loaded with butter, but these are rich without the fat.

Chicken Curry Pot Pies

Makes 4 in oven-proof small baking dishes (they should hold 2 cups  or so each)


1 tbsp. olive oil

2 tbsp. curry powder

2 cups peeled, diced potatoes

1 cup chopped onion

3/4 cup chopped carrots

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped into bite size pieces (1/2″ cubes)

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

1 cup sliced mushrooms

3/4 cup thawed frozen green peas

1 apple, peeled, cored, and diced

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

2 tbsp. cornstarch

3 tbsp. water

1/2 cup low fat cream cheese (1/2 of a brick)

1 box of store bought pie crusts (this was a shortcut that totally paid off), or a recipe to make 2 pie crusts

1 egg, beaten

Makin’ It:

Preheat the oven to 400°.

Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the curry powder and let it get happy for a minute as you stir it in and get a paste-y thing going.  Add the potatoes, onion, carrots, garlic, and chicken.  Cook this, stirring often like stir fry, for about five to seven minutes to get the chicken done. Then add in the broth, mushrooms, peas, apple , salt, and pepper.  Get it bubbling, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook it for another 5 minutes until the mushrooms are a bit juicy.

In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and water, whisking it to mix it well.  Add this and the cream cheese to the veggies and chicken skillet.  Mix this and cook it until the cream cheese is melted and it’s all thickened.  This is easy peasy.

Divide the filling evenly between the four bowls.  Brush the rims and sides of the bowls with the beaten egg.  Unroll the pie crusts (or roll out the pie crusts until they’re  about 11″ in diameter), and, using a similar bowl to measure roughly, cut out circles that will overhang the pie bowls about an inch or two.  You will need to roll together the scraps and cut the last two crusts from it.  Drape this over the bowls and press the dough onto the rim and the sides of each bowl.

Brush the dough on each pie with the rest of the egg wash.  Cut a few slits into each pie to let the steam escape.  Put the pies on a baking sheet (it catches the bubbly filling that might spill over) and put them in the oven for 30 minutes, until the tops are golden and gorgeous, like this:

Curried Chicken Pot Pie 001

And when you put your fork into it, it will look like this:

Curried Chicken Pot Pie 011

I’m not kidding when I say that this was one of the easiest pies I’ve ever made, and one of the most unbelievably bitchin’ ones I’ve ever tasted.  If you make this for company, everybody’s happy as long as they like curry.


Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

Chicken Saagwala

16 Jan

Chicken Saagwala 011

Yeah, I never heard of it either when I came across this recipe on the Weight Watchers website.  When I read through it, though, I saw the spices, the chicken, and the spinach, and I thought that it had to be at least worth a shot.  I was right.  I have made this on a regular basis for years now.  It’s good for you, it has roughage, and it’s got a spicy pizzazz, which of course is a word that people need to use more often.  Hopefully, because of reading this recipe, you will integrate pizzazz back into your vocabulary.  More importantly, this recipe manages to make interesting the ever-boring boneless, skinless, chicken breast and give it some soul.

On the old Weight Watchers, each serving is 5 points.  That serving, though, is a giant 1 1/2 cups.  Serve it with a 1/2 cup of white rice, and you have an old Weight Watchers 8, and you will be busting your seams, seriously.  It makes a great lunch the next day, too.

I add a bunch of Sriracha to this when I eat it.  The fresh, chopped cilantro gives this an edge as well.  If you like Indian spice and that “fresh” feeling for dinner, this is your ticket.  This is my variation of the WW recipe found all over the web.  I basically take it and up the spices to make it bitch-slap you a bit more.

Chicken Saagwala

Serves 4


2 tbsp. olive oil

5 tsp. curry powder

1 heaping tsp. coriander (heaping means that it’s a big one, wise guy)

1/2 to 1 tsp. cumin, which smells like sex

3 tbsp. fresh, minced ginger

3 large garlic cloves, minced

1 lb. raw boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 1/2″ chunks

2 large tomatoes seeded and chopped, or 1 can of diced tomatoes, drained

10 oz. fresh spinach leaves, rinsed

1 tsp. salt

1/4 cup water (if needed)

fresh, chopped cilantro as a garnish and for flavor

Makin’ It:

Mix together the curry, coriander, cumin, garlic, and ginger.  Over medium to medium high heat, heat one tablespoon of the oil in a large non-stick skillet that has a cover (you will need it later).  Add the mixture and cook this for 2 to 3 minutes until  they get all happy and fragrant.  It will look like this:

Chicken Saagwala 002

The mixture will absorb all of the oil, as you can see.  So you need to add the other tablespoon of oil to the pan and then add the chicken chunks.  Stir this well to coat the chicken pieces in the spices.  The result looks pretty, as you will see.

Add the tomatoes and cover the pan.  Keep this on medium heat.  Let it cook like this for 10 minutes.  Uncover the skillet and stir it well.

Add the spinach at this point, cover it, and don’t stir it, like this:

Chicken Saagwala 005

It might look like a lot of spinach, but it’s alright, even if you have to stuff it down a bit at first. Cover this again and let it cook for 5 minutes more.  The spinach will wilt quite a bit.  After the five minutes, stir it again and add the salt. Add the water if it seems dry; if not, fuck it.

In a shallow bowl, shape a 1/2 cup of rice to your liking.  Spoon the portion of saagwala around it, top it with cilantro and sriracha (if that blows your hair back), and serve.  You’ll get this:

Chicken Saagwala 011


Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

Potatoes Lots o’ Ways: Roasted and Good for You

14 Dec

Mustard Potatoes #2

I love potatoes.  In the U.S., they’re the quintessential side dish for everything, whether they’re fried, mashed, baked, roasted, boiled, barbecued, made into chips, or made into salads. We put them with everything at any meal at any time of day.

A few years ago when we decided to go on Weight Watchers, the potatoes in this house, alas, had to get the fuck out of Dodge.  If you’re trying to lose weight (rather than maintain), substituting squash and veggies is the way to go.

Still, I make potatoes at least three times a week, and I still loosely (and this XMas season, I mean loooooooooosely, unlike my belt) follow some sort of weight control regimen.  This general directive is a sort of guiltless recipe for potatoes that has lots of options and still gives one that “potatoes on the side feeling” without sacrificing the potatoes themselves or the flavor and richness of them.

Roasting potatoes is easy.  The scheme upon which I elucidate below can be molded into whatever “theme” you’re cooking that evening.  The best part of this is the experimentation.  If it sounds good, go for it.  The basic method still applies.

Roasted Potatoes a Lot o’ Ways


2 to 3 lbs. of any type of potato you want or have, cut into 1″ to 1 1/2″ chunks (really…any potato works, peels on or off, for that matter)

a few teaspoons of olive oil, if you’re cool with the extra fat and calories


a bunch of cooking spray, the olive oil kind is best for it

salt and pepper to taste, a good dusting of each…but remember, as my mom always told me, you can always add later, but you can’t take it out!

Makin’ ‘Em:

Preheat the oven to 425°.  Spray a baking sheet or baking dish with cooking spray or just grease it somehow.

Whatever preparation you choose above or below, roast them in a single layer on the baking sheet for 40 minutes.  They look like this going in:

Mustard Potatoes before baking

(Mustard Crusted with Onions)

Turn them once or twice to brown them evenly.  They look like this coming out, in case you forgot:

Mustard Potatoes #2

(I might enter this picture in the county fair next year, now that I look at its beauty…)


Different Ideas Before Roasting

(Note: each variation expects that you will toss them with either a tablespoon or two of olive oil or a bunch of cooking spray.)

Salt ‘n’ Pepa:  a really bad ’80’s band, but a great classic way to roast potatoes. Toss with a good dusting of salt and pepper…a teaspoon or more of each.

Mustard Crusted (shown in the pictures):  Toss with salt, pepper, 2 tbsp. whole grain mustard, and some parsely, dried or fresh.  Add a quartered onion into this and you’ll have people offering you reach-arounds.

Smokey: Toss with salt, pepper, and a teaspoon or two of smoked paprika, which is very cheap at Costco.

Paprika-y: Toss with salt, pepper, and a teaspoon or two of regular paprika.

Indian:  Toss with salt, pepper, and a teaspoon or two of Garam Masala or curry powder.

Mexican:  Toss with a bit of salt and a packet of taco seasoning (or homemade taco seasoning, which is what I do:

Carribean:  Toss with salt, pepper, and a teaspoon or two of jerk seasoning.

Scandinavian:  Toss with salt, pepper, and a few teaspoons of dried dill (this is especially good if you roast carrots, parsnips, and onions with them, but up the dill to a tablespoon or two if you do it).

Herbed:  Toss with salt, pepper, and a few teaspoons of dried thyme or marjoram or something herb-y.

New Orleans:  Toss with salt, pepper, creole seasoning (like Tony Chachere’s), and some cayenne, depending on how spicy you want them.

In all cases, good, healthy additions are onions, carrots, parsnips, fennel bulb slices, etc.  Just make sure they will be done at approximately the same time as the potatoes.  Green Beans, for example, don’t work because they will get burnt before the potatoes are done.

The sky’s the limit with the variations  on roasted potatoes and, truth be told, I’m guessing most already know this.  But, this is Dinner with Jonny, and through the years, I have been amazed when people ask me, “How did you DO that?”  And when I tell them, they’re like, “You’re joking, right?”  Nope.  I’m serious.  ‘Tis easy.

Until later, east, drink and peace out.

Tandoori Chicken Pita Sandwich

10 Nov

Look at this beautiful thing.  I won’t even get into why, for a guy, this looks inviting or even obscene.   This is a tandoori chicken pita with all sorts of good stuff in it.  On a Friday night when I’m tired from the week and I need an easy dinner, this nails it every time.

A few months back, I was doing the perfunctory search through to find chicken breast recipes.  I find myself often looking at chicken breasts in a state of ennui, trying to give them some respect and pizzazz.  On this night back then, the foodnetwork gave up a gift, and it has been a staple ever since then.

It’s from Bobby Flay who, if you are not familiar with him, is the real deal in terms of being a chef and a teacher.  His recipes almost always kick ass (by comparison, Sandra Lee’s recipes almost always suck frog penises), so I was down with it from the start.  Here is the original recipe I found:

I have always served this with couscous from the box by a company called Near East, which is 1) fantastic and 2) so simple that even full-time four-leaf clover searchers could make it successfully.

Tonight, I diverged from that path and bought some Israeli couscous from Trader Joe’s.  The recipe on the box looked good, so I went with it and got yet another staple recipe to be sure.  But more importantly, I now understand Israeli couscous a bit, so I have a new medium for side dishes too.  I love when that happens because it’s not often. Here are two of my Israeli couscus recipes that I have since created since I first posted this:


The Chicken Situation

The first few times I made the chicken, I followed Flay’s recipe to a tee and it’s good, no doubt.  But I had a few execution problems because of my kitchen/ grill situation.

First, this recipe is intended for someone who is working solely off of a grill.  I do have a giant Santa Maria style barbecue pit in my backyard made of brick from the old Guadalupe, California, bank that was knocked down some years ago.  While it’s impressive and does its job when needed, I am not going to fire up an oak fire pit for two pita sandwiches, obviously.  So, most of my “grilling” is done on a grill pan in the kitchen.

The tandoori spice paste in his recipe does not work well on chicken in a grill pan; the spices get too blackened and thick (I also think his measurements are off, but perhaps I need to see how he makes it himself).  So, I treat his spices as a dry rub instead and it works marvelously.  The recipe for the dry rub below is enough for about 6 to 8 chicken breasts (even more, really)

I also stopped making the tomato jam thing; it’s too rich for me and the tandoori spice is enough.  In its place, I slice up some fresh tomato; it gives it a fresh taste and crunch.  I also like avocado slices on mine for an added element.

The yogurt sauce recipe is perfect for this and other dishes.

Here are the components of Tandoori Chicken Pita my way

Chicken and dry rub:

1 pound boneless chicken breasts

  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons ground ginger
  • 2 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon ground white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

Makin’ It:

Blend the spices and keep them in an airtight container (how Flay uses all of this spice in his one recipe is beyond me…I think it’s a typo or something).  In any case, rub it on the chicken breasts and heat up a grill pan on medium high heat.  Spray it with cooking spray or put some oil in there.  Grill it until done, usually 7 to 9 minutes each side for me.  Take it out of the grill pan and let it rest for at least 5 minutes, but hopefully a lot more. When grilled, rested and sliced, you should see this:

Yogurt Sauce:

1 cup non-fat Greek yogurt

a handful o’ mint leaves

a half-handful of parsley

1/4 tsp. salt

Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender.  Process it until its smooth and check for taste.  It should have a minty taste but savory too.  Here is what the final sauce looks like:

Slice up some tomatoes and avocado.  Get some pita breads and heat them either on the grill with some oil (good but fatty) or in the microwave (also good, but not fatty and thus not as sexy). Open a pita and fill it like…

Me:  a smear of yogurt sauce and a squirt of sriracha, a layer of chicken, tomato, avocado, more yogurt sauce, and another dab o’ sriracha


The Wife: a smear of yogurt, a layer of couscous, chicken, tomato, and another dab o’ yogurt.

Mine is the picture that opened this meandering exposition.

When you actually lay it all out, it might look like this.  Have everyone assemble their own, like a taco bar.  If you’re creative, I’m sure you can add some more condiments and sides for kicks.

Drinks:  Notice the wife’s sangria on top, and my Mondavi cabernet on the bottom.  If I was younger on a Friday night, this would be beer and whiskey.

It really only takes about 15 minutes prep and 30 minutes of cooking, if that…and totally worth it.  Kind of like a one night stand after lots o’ pints.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino