When I left my bank job to enroll in culinary school, I bridged the gap between working full-time and the decision to stay at home full-time with our daughter who at the time was 9 months old. Beyond that, I really didn’t have any clue what to expect.
I thought culinary school would be a fantastic learning opportunity and introduce me to lots of new people both of which were true. I also knew it would be challenging but felt that if I could handle my ten years in banking summarized as making presentations to ask many men if I could lend large sums of money to other men to support their growing businesses, I felt confident I could manage!
In any case, what I didn’t anticipate was the home practice that was expected of you as a student of the culinary arts. I had a 9 month old baby who turned into an almost 2 year old by the time I graduated! And half-way through my schooling, we were pregnant with our second child which made things extra challenging. Among many things, hand made pastry dough using traditional French methods (no food processor ever!) needed to be mastered. I remember our daughter would be in her car seat while I practiced making dough on my old laminate counters in our tiny first kitchen and hoping I could get it to hold together before she needed something! I’ve never made so many cakes and pastries, all in the name of practice in my life. But we were graded on technique along with taste and presentation so mastering those skills was essential. Things settled down a bit once our Baking Essentials curriculum was finished and we transitioned into Savory and Regional cooking.
Fast forward to my graduation a year later, I was 6 months along with our second and had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my new chef’s certificate. It wasn’t practical for me to think about working in a restaurant with two littles, nor was the internet what it is today so the notion of doing anything online like a blog wasn’t even in my purview. Oh my God that sentence makes me feel ancient!
I dabbled in a few things including private cheffing for a family, teaching groups of friends and donating dinners and cocktail appetizers to various auctions in town. And then, and this is where things get fuzzy, I must have responded to an ad in the paper from one of our beloved stores in town that serves the most wonderful baked goods including their signature scones, and a host of prepared foods for easy pick up like sandwiches, quiche, etc. It worked out that I was to develop a few recipes for them to use. This curried chicken salad is one of those recipes with the inspiration coming from The Boston Globe.
I decided to make it during our quarantine to shake up lunch, and I tweaked it just a bit further from my original. We happen to love curries and unlike some curried salads, this one does not have any raisins. You will need two ingredients to make this dish complete. One is madras curry powder which really isn’t too hot, but has great depth of curry flavor. The other is mango chutney which lends just a little touch of sweetness to balance out the curry powder. In a pinch you could probably use apricot jam. But please don’t use just any old curry powder as it really won’t do the salad justice and the madras curry powder is pretty easy to find. You can use a regular or hot version according to your preference. I like this one. The remaining ingredients are celery, red onion and some toasted pecans. Simple but so flavorful.
Back in culinary school we learned to poach chicken which served as the base for a lot of different types of dishes. It’s a wonderful way to get moist, tender chicken and I’ve given instructions in the recipe, but you can also do what Ina does and cook bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts as she does in this recipe and use that instead. Or use a rotisserie chicken if you prefer. Anything goes – it’s summer and we have lots of other things to do than be in the kitchen, right?
Which leads me to ask how is everyone? We are hanging in there and I hope you are too. Our adult daughters are starting to reengage in their lives and I’m thankful that there is a teeny sense of balance for them. But life is surreal and I miss being able to hug my friends properly. I hope down the road we can hug one another again.
Have a great weekend and please do let me know if you make my Curried Chicken Salad. It is great for lunch or a light dinner. Make a batch to feed your troops and maybe give yourself a meal off!
Until next time…