Ramadan Kareem to you! It’s that time of the year to reflect, to be grateful and to gather around the table with family and loved ones. We’re precisely halfway through the month and the routine of kitchen frenzy is balanced with introspection and worship. It is also the time when the last round of Iftar invites are sent out before the blessed ten nights of worship begins. Through this week, I will be sharing recipes that will make entertaining easier. Like these elegant croissant sandwiches filled with garlicky Chicken salad and a tang of citrus. It comes together very quickly and will make a classy yet fun addition to grace your table.
On a personal note, it’s been an awfully long break away from my blog. I’ve been dabbling with personal projects including moving houses towards the end of the year which was unexpected and nothing short of exhausting to have everything in place. And when it comes to blogging here, I just can’t get myself to rush through the process. Usually when I would blog it all begins with a whim. Once I start then I’ve got to go through my checklist methodically with styling, prepping, cooking, shooting and then editing. And that usually only happens when I have spare time from the daily grind. And with a growing child, that seems to be extremely hard to catch. I did know that no matter what, I have to blog during Ramadan. The last four years has seen me turnaround a handful of recipes during this month and it would have been a shame to let this year slip.
This chicken salad draws heavy inspiration from the Waldorf Salad. The original recipe has green fruit alongside fresh leaves that mask easily while lending it a sweeter taste. I start with chicken breasts cut into thin strips. Butter is melted and I wait till it browns and just about starts to smoke. At this point I tip in so many cloves of garlic that would have me sent to exile by the Queen had I whipped this in her kitchen (Her disdain for garlic is pretty famous). I hold a grudge against chicken that tastes, well, cold. This is the case for most chicken cooked off the bone and it’s a flavor I can’t enjoy. Chilled chicken sandwiches that I would eat are very rare and it all boils down to the flavor of the chicken. For this very reason, whenever a recipe did calls for cooked chicken, I prefer doing this. You would think that the chicken would pick up the garlic flavor quite strongly but it isn’t the case. It’s astonishingly on the milder side and the browned butter steals the show. The days when I have lettuce heads almost down to the middle, I make a quick salad and use the same technique to cook the chicken breasts. Halfway through, water starts seeping into the pan from the chicken and I season generously with freshly cracked pepper and sea salt and let it cook all the way through. It’s like a cheat stock cooking technique that successfully uplifts the meat from bland to flavorful.
This is where the ingredients become a bit Waldorf with the addition of a stalk of celery and half an apple. You could choose between green and red depending on how sweet you would like it. I’ve used red every time and my guests have never guessed that apple is one of the ingredients. My first tryst with Celery was back in high school when I would read the Babysitter Club series. Claudia Kishi’s love for Oreos and Twinkies is repeatedly highlighted considering it had to be hidden from parents’ policy of no junk. A snack they did approve of was celery with peanut butter. The story of how it tastes when I tried it, I’ll save for another time. I will say the flavor celery itself has slowly (very slowly) grown on me and it makes way into my kitchen when I make Fried Rice or this chicken salad. It’s characteristic crunch adds to the texture of the chicken filling. Considering its nutrient profile, this is a good way to sneak in celery into little bellies.
The next ingredient is the universally preferred binder of salad filling, the humble Mayonnaise. Here’s another ingredient that I couldn’t stomach (it was the smell honestly). I add a little at a time because it has a tendency to mask the remaining ingredients should you add too much. It’s more to bind the ingredients than to flavor for me. This is why I tone down any potential eggy aroma with freshly peeled Tangerine. The Moroccan variety that is still available has a slightly thicker pith so I take a little time to remove that before adding chopped segments. To steepen these citrus notes, I add orange juice instead of the usual lemon. This was clearly an experiment I got lucky with. Considering this is a ‘salad’ filling, I add Tahini (white sesame) paste towards the end. It melds with the garlic chicken really well and you can almost pick up flavor strains you would associate with Shawarma.
To tie it all together, you need to add freshly cracked pepper. There’s no element of heat apart from this ingredient so feel free to add as little or as much as you want. I had children in my guest list but they can handle heat pretty well. I added just enough so that the sweetness from the crisp apples still pushes through. Waldorf salads have Walnuts in them and I swapped them for toasted pine nuts. I know they’re more popular in winter but the former has a bit of a bitter after taste. My guests and I had a wonderful Saj platter on my birthday that was generously topped with Pine nuts and I loved how it tasted together.
And finally, what makes these sandwiches dainty to serve are these Croissants. Mind you, they make a great sandwich with everyday bread too. I had croissant sandwiches at a friend’s place quite a few years ago and it was an idea that had stuck with me. I picked mini Sourdough croissants from the supermarket as the tinier size makes for cleaner and easier handling. I am not exaggerating when I say these flew off the platter in my last Iftar party. Children approving of recipes is the most honest feedback one can expect.We were hosting my husband’s uncle who have a ten year old son who was fasting. He heartily ate the sandwiches until he was full and then loudly announced the remaining have to be packed to take home. His sheepish grin and his mother’s expression is one I’ll always associate with these croissant sandwiches.
Summer Chicken Salad Croissants
Chicken breast - 500 g
Garlic - 10-12 cloves
Worcestershire sauce - 3 tsp
Butter - 1 Tbsp
Celery - One stalk
Apple - Half
Orange juice - 3 Tbsp
Tangerine - 1
Mayonnaise - 5 Tbsp
Tahini - 1 Tbsp
Pine nuts - 3 tbsp (optional)
Freshly ground Pepper - to taste
Salt - to taste
Ice berg Lettuce leaves- Washed thoroughly
Clean chicken breast and cut into small strips.
Heat a frying pan and melt butter.
When it starts turning brown and smells nutty, tip in garlic gloves and sauté.
Watch closely and make sure it does not burn.
Once the garlic starts browning, add in chicken breast.
Sautee the chicken in the garlic butter.
Once it starts releasing water, turn up the heat to medium-high flame and continue sautéing in intervals.
When the water completely evaporates, add the Worcestershire sauce and mix it.
Taste the chicken and season only if required.
Let the chicken strips cool completely.
Chop OR mince the chicken strips to smaller bits.
Wash and then chop the celery stalk to small pieces
Peel and chop the apple half to small pieces.
Peel the tangerine and remove as much of the pith as you can.
Chop the tangerine segments to small pieces.
In a large bowl toss the chicken, celery, apple and tangerine segments together.
Add orange juice and give it a good mix.
Add the mayonnaise a tablespoon at a time and mix between each addition.
Add the tahini paste and pepper and mix well.
If you’re adding pine nuts, toast them in a pan for 4-5 minutes or until they turn golden.
Let it cool and then add to salad.
Check the texture of the salad. If you want it to be less thicker, add half a tablespoon of mayonnaise a mix well. Check the consistency again and add more till you’re happy with it.
Taste the salad and season if required
Cut the croissants through the middle. [I like to cut through leaving the end intact like a hinge. It makes holding the sandwich easier]
Tear the lettuce leaves by hand and place two or three in the middle of the croissant.
Spoon the chicken salad on top of the leaves. Don’t fill it too much as it will fall out and turn messy.
Chill the croissant sandwiches for at least one hour.
Remove the sandwiches from the refrigerator 10 minutes before serving.
Have a good food day.