Potluck Jackpot

Maybe you spent too much on shoes, and payday is still a few days away.  Maybe you’re on a fixed income.  Maybe more than one person in the family has “La Grippe” (antique term for influenza), and a trip farther than the mailbox and/or trash bin right now is about as doable as a quick jaunt to Paris for lunch.  Or, maybe you’re snowed in.

But there are empty bellies, and the accompanying sad eyes.  So whatever chain of events brought you to this juncture, it’s here.  You’ve got faces to feed, and you’ve got to do it with what you have on hand.To research what might become dinner with a seriously depleted larder, I decided to play a mental version of Chopped, a Food Network show where the competing chefs get a basket of disparate odds and ends, then try to make something original and edible.

For inspiration, I chose a few items from my freezer, and inventoried my pantry.  You probably won’t have the same ingredients (that’d be weird and a little creepy), but maybe something similar that could spark some ideas.

I found a bag full of chicken from a ginormous rotisserie bird I plucked from Costco.  I’d already used half of the meat so had about 3 cups of clucker.

With it I could make:chicken dishesChicken salad flavored and sauced according to what else is in the kitchen.  I could make tacos.  Or mix it with some Eastern NC bbq sauce and have barbecue night.  Chopped and added to a frittata along with whatever kind of cheese on hand and some par-cooked spuds.  Folded into some cheese sauce and spooned over rice or pasta.  Stirred into soup or white bean chili.

There’s a package of pre-formed hamburgers in the freezer.  I could make them as burgers and dress them according to what’s in the fridge.

But.There’s no law that says they have to stay burger-shaped; or if I leave them as burgers, how I must fix them.  I could make burger parmesan by laying them in a dish, covering with marinara and melting some mozzarella on top.  I could make a cream sauce and have creamed beef burgers on toast.  Remold them into meatballs and slowly cook them in sweet and sour sauce, or a sweet smoky barbecue sauce.

But what if that proverbial cupboard is well and truly bare?  Say you’ve got one blue box of mac and cheese, and a few odds and ends of this and that.You could add veggies, like broccoli or shoe peg corn.  You could add bacon to it and then top it with a poached egg.  Or, make a frittata by pouring the mac which you’ve prepared according to directions in and around the beaten egg in the skillet.  If you want something that takes a little more work, but is heretically indulgent—make the mac, cool it, slice it, and then do a three-part dredge (flour, then egg wash, then breadcrumbs), let it set up in the fridge for at least an hour, then panfry it to golden brown.  Top with something green and lightly dressed; for contrast and to lighten it up some.And last, but actually one of my favorite need-to-go-to-the-grocery-store dinners is breakfast.  I scramble up a mess of eggs.  I always have a few potatoes floating around my kitchen, which I make into hash browns.  Then I add toast, or bacon, or even a small salad.  It’s the kind of feel-good meal that might just make you forget (or not care) why you couldn’t make it to the supermarket in the first place.Thanks for your time.

Alright, I give, it’s spring

They say when you’re drowning there comes a point when you give up fighting, a sense of peace envelops you, and then it’s all over.

And, here in Durham, it’s the beginning of April, so I just need to get over myself and my grudge against Mother Nature, and accept that spring came very early this year, and all the hoping in the world won’t slow it down, so that the dogwoods bloom on my birthday, in the middle of the month—Like.They.Are.Supposed.To.

It ain’t gonna happen.

So, taking the immortal advice of Queen Victoria, I’m going to lie back and think of England—which coincidentally has a much later spring.  I’m giving up the fight and accepting that winter is over, early or not.


When it’s sunny and 80 degrees in mid-March, a hearty, slow-cooked meal just doesn’t feel right.  But, despite feeling like late spring, produce hasn’t received the memo and caught up.

So, what’s a diner seeking seasonal fare to do?

A lighter springtime meal this time of year necessitates using a combination of imported fresh, frozen, and if possible, locally grown.

The first thing to do is figure out the flavors that epitomize the season.  You may have different ones in mind, but these are the tastes and colors speak to me.

Vernal chicken en papillottepaper chicken4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 lemon, sliced

8 cloves of garlic, cut into thick slices

2 leeks, cleaned and sliced, white part only

1 tablespoon fresh mint, cut into chiffonade (long thin strips)

4 tablespoons butter

Salt & pepper

4 12X12-inch pieces parchment paper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Crease the paper halfway across.  Lay the chicken in the center of one side of the paper.  Cover each breast with lemon slices.  Sprinkle each with ¼ of the leeks, garlic, and mint.  Place 1 tablespoon butter on the top; then season with salt and pepper.

Fold over the other half of the paper.  Then starting at one end, fold/crimp the paper all around the outside of the package. 

Bake at 375 for 25 minutes.  Place a package on each diner’s plate, allowing them to open the packets at the table.  Serves 4.

Light and sunny pasta saladspring orzoSalad:

6 ounces orzo

6-8 ounces goat cheese (keep in fridge until salad assembly)

1 cup frozen baby peas, thawed

Small bunch of asparagus, the thickest stalks you can find, cut into 1-inch pieces on the bias

1 cup grape tomatoes

2 tablespoon snipped Chinese chives or green onions, thinly sliced on the bias

Baby arugula or pea shoots

Salt & pepper

Dressing:spring dressing2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon honey

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt & pepper

Whisk together all dressing ingredients until emulsified.  Season, taste, then season again if necessary. 

Assembly: Into a large bowl, place in pasta, peas, asparagus, tomatoes, and chives.    Stir in dressing, leaving out about a tablespoon.  Break off pieces of goat cheese about the size of a thumbnail and gently fold into salad.

To plate: Lightly dress arugula or pea shoots with remaining dressing, being very careful not to over-dress.

Place a small mound of orzo salad onto plate, and top with dressed greens.  Serves 4-6.

Serve the chicken and salad with a piece of fresh baguette, and a cold crisp glass of a Vouvray or a dry Alsatian.  For dessert, I’ve got a fun and easy idea.Take your favorite store-bought biscuits (I’d use Bojangles’ biscuits; but you can use any you like, up to and including canned biscuits) and paint the tops with melted butter.  Sprinkle each with a spoonful of sugar and put under the broiler until it browns and bubbles.

Put 2 cups of frozen and fresh strawberries into a saucepan with a spritz of lemon juice and a couple tablespoons of sugar.  Cook on medium until the berries begin to break down and form a sauce.  Slice each biscuit in half. Fill with strawberries, and top with a dollop of whipped cream—homemade or store-bought.

So, even though the weather and nature’s bounty aren’t quite in sync, we can still eat like it is.  But I still won’t have the dogwood blossoms on my birthday.

Darn it.

You know…that kind of works for me.

Thanks for your time.


Birds of a Feather

When Petey and I first moved to Durham, I worked for a clothing chain that no longer exists, in a mall that no longer exists.The store was called Stitches, and we sold stylish unisex clothes for young adults.   Think Hot Topic, but more preppy, or Gap, but more trendy.

In this now extinct shopping center there was the obligatory food court.  There were also three eateries that I frequented.  One was Spinnakers; a fast casual which resembled Darryl’s or Bennigan’s.  Another was Picadilly, a cafeteria-style restaurant which was decorated in the style of a London gentlemen’s club with a dash of Southern gothic.

In this mall there was a Dillards.  And like many Southern department stores of days gone by, they had a restaurant in the back.  Like the Belks at Crabtree which had a famous cafeteria heavily patronized by genteel old ladies.  At 1:00 on a Wednesday afternoon, it was teeming with blue-haired doyennes of “Old Raleigh” (The old part is apt. I think some of these patrons might have dated the very Raleigh for which the town is named).After working at the mall for a while, I became friendly with many of my fellow mall employees.  Unsurprisingly, many of my new buddies were in the feeding business.

The gang at the Dillards eatery became good friends.  I’d always really liked their chicken salad so I asked one of the guys for the recipe.

They gave me the normal ingredients for a classic chicken salad.  But then he told me something shocking; something that I.WILL.NEVER.FORGET.That chicken salad I enjoyed so much?  Not much chicken in it, ‘cause it was made with turkey.  You could have knocked me over with a feather (chicken or turkey feather, either would have worked).

The guys told me that with a turkey breast (bone-in is best for favor and juiciness), you get only white meat.  It’s also easier to cook well, because unlike a whole bird the breast cooks to one temperature (165) at the same rate.  That way you don’t have a large chunk finished, but continuing to cook and dry out while the rest of the bird catches up.

But don’t fool around with that target temp.  You can cook it to 200 degrees or more if you like dry as dust turkey; that’s your choice.  But always, always make sure the temp reaches at least 165.  If you serve turkey sashimi you can literally kill people.  The bird will still be juicy at that safe, non-lethal temp, I promise.It’s possible you may have some leftover Thanksgiving turkey, hopefully in suspended animation in the freezer because a week in the fridge is too long for safe eating.  If you don’t have any turkey, maybe you’re planning on making more for another holiday meal.

Maybe there’s no turkey left, and none on the horizon—that’s ok, pick up a rotisserie chicken to make my faux chicken salad.  It’ll just be faux faux chicken salad (double negative; get it?).

But regardless the genealogy of the bird, my new recipe makes a tasty dish.

Autumn poultry salad


2 cup turkey (or chicken) into cubes

2/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted and cooled

2 apples of your choice, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar


Whisk togetherchicken-salad-dressing

¾ cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons honey mustard


1 ½ tablespoons dijon and 2 teaspoons honey

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

3 tablespoons (aprox) green onion sliced very thin

¼ teaspoon dry dill or 1 tablespoon fresh

Salt and pepper

Make dressing and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Sprinkle apples with 2 teaspoons vinegar to prevent browning.  Since the apples are crunchy, make the turkey cubes about 1 ½ times the size of the apple cubes.Stir together salad ingredients.  Fold in dressing, starting with half, adding more as needed.  Test for seasoning.  For best texture and flavor, serve right away (you can refrigerate the salad and dressing separately and mix right before serving).  Make 6 generous sandwiches.

When eating this, nobody will ever say, “Tastes like chicken.”

Because nobody will ever realize they’d just eaten turkey. Thanks for your time.

Hey jalousie

Jalousie is a French word, meaning louvers.  It’s also the technical name of this week’s dish.

But I have given it an American twist, used my writer’s prerogative, and renamed it.

This new recipe is now called “Saloon Doors”.

I learn the oddest and most arcane things writing these essays each week.  I should rent myself out for trivia games.  For today’s topic I did a little research on those swinging louvered doors festooning saloon entrances in Western movies.

And discovered they’re pretty much a Hollywood invention.

Think about it, having half doors swinging in the wind would have been a horrible idea for someplace like Montana in January.  And using those doors would have left no manner of securing the saloon when closed—which it did for at least a few hours every day (Miss Kitty needs her sleep, y’all).

But they make for very dramatic entrances of black-hatted villains and white-hatted heroes into the saloon and thus Tinsel Town has implanted them irrevocably into our collective psyche.

Anyway, back to my own, edible, clichéd, saloon doors.  The recipe calls for puff pastry, manipulated, stuffed and baked.  So once you know the procedure, you can fill it to your taste and occasion.  As a jumping-off place I’ll give you four ideas for filling; breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert.  Where you go from there is up to you.

This recipe is made with frozen puff pastry, found in most supermarkets, and made by layering dough with butter, rolling, and refolding, countless times.  This gives it up to a thousand layers.  The water in the butter evaporates while baking.  This produces steam which gives the puff.

I offer a few pieces of advice.  Try to purchase all-butter pastry; it tastes and cooks better.  Let it thaw overnight in the fridge, or if not possible, on the counter until it can be unfolded and worked.  If you seal the edges, you will not get left.  So don’t get egg wash on them; it’ll glue them shut.  When cutting; cut, don’t press.  When sealing the two pieces, be gentle.  Egg wash, then cut the slats, so the steam can escape.

Saloon doors

(Makes 2 complete pastries)

2 sheets puff pastry, thawed

1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 425.

Cut each sheet in half.  Lay out two pieces on parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Spread filling on each, leaving a ¾ inch border.  Brush beaten egg on naked border.  Fill. Top each piece with the other sheet.  Lightly press border to seal.  Brush egg on top layer.  Leaving ¾ inch border, cut 1-inch horizontal slats down the length of each piece.

Bake at 425 until the pastry begins to brown and puff.  Lower oven to 375 and bake until dough is dry, crisp and deep golden-brown.

Slice and serve.  Makes 4-6 servings.

Breakfast Filling:

breakfast door

Scramble 10 eggs.  Season.  Cook 6 slices bacon until crisp. Spread eggs onto bottom sheets of pastry, leaving ¾ inch border.  Sprinkle on crumbled bacon and chopped fresh parsley.  Top with pinched off pieces of goat or Boursin cheese.  Cover with second piece, brush with egg wash, and cut slats, leaving border.

Bake according to directions above.


lunch door

Sauté leeks and mushrooms until browned and dry.  Spread on pastry.  Sprinkle on julienned prosciutto.  Using a potato peeler, scrape ribbons of Parmesan cheese over top.  Lay on top pastry, prepare, and bake.


dinner door

Spread thin layer of pesto on bottom of sheets.  Cover with shredded rotisserie chicken.  Dot with sun-dried tomatoes and mozzarella cheese bits.  Finish and bake.


dessert door

Spread half of a jar of black cherry preserves on each sheet.  Cut one 8-ounce block of cream cheese into small squares.  Top preserves with cream cheese, and dot with toasted, chopped pecans.   Cover, finish, and bake.  Sprinkle cooled tart with powdered sugar, and serve with whipped cream, or ice cream.

These are easy, but look impressive.  If you often have unexpected guests, it’s not a bad idea to keep a box of puff pastry in your freezer.  You could fill them with anything that you have on hand.  And when you carry out one of these puppies they’ll be so fancy looking, you’ll make Martha Stewart look like a slacker.

Thanks for your time.

My, how fun

I was born with what I believe is a legitimate congenital defect.

The technical, Latin nomenclature for this is (or should be), Lingua Infans, or “Baby Tongue”.

Regardless of appetites or desires, the ingestion of fiery, spicy foods results in pain and distress.  As a result, I can eat almost no Indian food, and Jamaican food scares the pants off me.  Even a heavy-handed use of black pepper can overwhelm.

Many people make fun of this flaw, and inform me that it’s a matter of will; that if I want to be a grown-up and eat spicy foods, I should just put on my big girl panties, and do it.  Not true.  I’d love to be able to tuck into a plate of tikka masala, or some spicy nachos, but I am physically unable to do it.

But what I also don’t do is make a big deal out of it.  It’s my habañero-covered cross to bear, no one else’s.  So when eating out I’ve become very good at avoiding suspect menu items.

I think that’s one reason why I love Chinese food so much.  While there are dishes with enough heat to really hurt me, they don’t comprise the bulk of the menu.  Other Asian cuisine; most notably Thai, are not so safe.

This week’s recipe is my home version of Chicken Mei Fun (pronounced, “my fun”).  It’s very similar to fried rice, but instead of rice grains, angel hair pasta made from rice is used (Find it in Asian markets and some grocery stores).

Chicken Mei Fun

8 ounces rice vermicelli

Lay into a pot of very hot water, and soak for 20 minutes.  After soaking, pour into a colander in which you’ve placed the spinach.  This will wilt the spinach and get it ready to toss into the stir fry.



3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken

3 eggs, well beaten

2 tablespoons chives, chopped

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

Make an omelet with the eggs and chives.  Cut into 1/2-inch strips and set aside for assembly.



2 carrots, julienned

1/2 yellow onion, sliced thinly

8 ounces mushrooms

1 tablespoon vegetable oil



3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons grated ginger

1 large shallot, diced



Whisk together

3/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1 tablespoon Sherry



2 cups raw spinach

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

 *Stir frying goes crazy fast once it gets started, so get all of your prep done before turning on the burner.

To cook:

If you don’t have a wok, get a very large, very heavy pot almost smoking hot.  Add 1 tablespoon oil to the pan.  Put in the carrots and mushrooms.  Cook for a couple of minutes, and when all the liquid has released and cooked out, add onions.  Cook for 30 seconds.

Stir in aromatics then immediately add the proteins.  Pour in sauce and toss.

When coated, pour in noodles, spinach, and thawed peas.  Gently mix to coat.

mei fun

Serves 6-8.

I’ve eaten this from a few Chinese restaurants.  But the more popular recipe is called Singapore Mei Fun.  It’s a reflection of the Indian population living in Singapore, and this version has curry.  As you can guess, because of my affliction, I do not have a good relationship with curry.

But if you would like, you are welcome to Singapore up this recipe with the addition of 1 ½ tablespoons curry powder and 3 dried bird’s eye chilis.

Bon Appetite, intrepid soul.

Thanks for your time.

A very merry Matthews Christmas

Originally published in the Herald Sun 12/21/2011

Yep, this is a thing that actually happened–in the 80’s.  Check out the pom-poms on Nancy’s shoes…

Twenty-five years ago was our very first Christmas in Durham. It was also the first time Petey and I had been away from family at the holidays. The Kid be wouldn’t be making an appearance for another six years.

We’d moved to town the during the summer that had just passed, and were loving our adventures in the Bull City. We were both busy; separately, at work; and together, exploring our new home. My boss Joodi, a transplant herself, had taken us under her social wing, and we were spending time with Petey’s co-workers at Duke.

During his shifts at the hospital, I frequently visited him for meals. I liked his fellow nurses. We’d had cook-outs and Trivial Pursuit nights together. Late in November, Petey told me the crew at work was having a holiday get-together.

He was casual about it. Just a gathering at somebody’s apartment club house.

I had to work late, so Petey picked me up at the mall on the appointed night.

Dressed for the store, I was attired in off-white cargo pants, black ballet flats, and a hot pink sweater with a slight shimmer running through it. That minor sparkle was the fashion totality of my concession to the holidays.


I have nothing to say here; except at the time, this was the epitome of style.

You know something funny? Except for the giant, asymmetrical, shellacked hair-do, shoulder pads that were roughly the size and shape of ironing boards, and the fact that the waistband of my cool canvas pants came almost up to my arm pits, the duds I was styling that night have all come back, sort of.

My handsome knight’s shining armor was a denim jacket, jeans, and a sweat shirt. Even now, in Petey’s forty-sixth consecutive year of autonomous dressing, his play clothes are still the sartorial choice from late October through March. His uniform from April-September? Jeans and a t-shirt.

Ladies and gentleman–the Candian tuxedo; 80’s edition.  Thirty years later and Petey is still rocking this look, albeit with less hair than any of these guys.

I’ve lately started finding “dress sweat shirts” for him. A t-shirt though, no matter what Simon Cowell would have you believe, is sadly still, just a t-shirt. Especially with something like, “Raleigh: Where Barney goes to party”, emblazoned across your chest.

I asked him if we should stop at our place to change.

“Heck no,” he replied. “It’s just another hang-out night, only this one’s in December.”

I secretly fretted that my lightly sparkling outfit was a little dressy for the festivities.Should we bring pizza and a bottle of something? I queried. Nope, they said something about getting stuff. “I’m guessing Rinaldi’s chicken.” he prognosticated.

Then he admitted, “I really hope so. I’m hungry.”

I felt his pain, because I’d been too busy to eat all day. My stomach was already warbling the phrase, “Are we there yet?I’m hungry. Are we there yet?”

This is exactly what our sleigh looked like until somebody dented it in the Crabtree Valley Mall parking lot.

Party bound, we set off in our sleigh by Plymouth Motors.

At the time, I was working at the old South Square Mall. The party was in Hope Valley. The trip should have taken twenty minutes, max. Even with unprecedented traffic.

Unfortunately, the route Petey had gotten from the hostess, started out from our apartment, on Guess Rd. Unfortunate as well, my life mate, possessing the XY combo plate, didn’t write out those wrong directions.

And so, we started our trek by driving to Guess Rd., turning around and getting on 85 South. We kept going south. And going. And going. Until we reached Hillsborough. We figured it was a tad far, so Petey got us turned around. We were now heading north on 85.

We started laughing when Petey yelped, “Hey! 751! There was something about a 751!”We started howling when 751 took us on a tour through Duke campus.

By now, we were both almost swooning with hunger. Somehow, that was funny, too.

It took us more than three hours, but unbelievably, we eventually found the party coordinates.

From the parking lot, it seemed kind of dark in the club house.

Figuring we were still at the wrong place, I decided to peek in the windows while my true love waited in the car.

I scanned the room. There was a party in there. And I recognized some Dukies.

Then I walked back to my husband, got into our buggy, and said, “You wanna do drive-through? Or do you want to stop at Honey’s on the way home?”When he made the sweet little confused puppy face that all men make, I informed my beloved that although we were at the right place, he had been a smidge off, when it came to the dress code.madonna-susanThere were more black stockings, rhinestones and lace in that party than in an entire 1980’s Madonna video. It seems the “little get-together” was casual in the way that Kim Kardashian’s recent uber-wedding was casual. We didn’t even own the type of clothes that would have been appropriate.

Petey was right about one thing. They didn’t need my third-rate potluck contribution. The “stuff” they got, appeared to be a fully catered, gourmet cocktail party, staffed with waiters bearing trays, and a couple of bartenders.

We never did join the soiree. Sitting in our car, he looked at me. I looked at him, and started giggling. That did it. The entire situation hit us, and the comedy floodgates opened.The trip back home, including the delirious devour-ment of a quick dinner at Honey’s, took all of forty five minutes.

He more than made up for our evening of havoc. The next year, Petey took me to the official Duke nurse’s celebration. He looked sharp in a brand-new Alexander Julian suit, and I wore my very first LBD (ladies; insert your own, personal LBD happy dance here).

There were two unexpected benefits from that berserk road trip.

Since then, we have no trouble finding our way on the roads in and around the Big D of NC.And the next morning, Petey offered to bring us breakfast in bed. As I shook my head at the Ben & Jerry’s Heath Bar crunch he had chosen for us, I had a thought:

“Christmas here this year will be great. If after last night, I’m looking forward to tomorrow, and not on the phone with a divorce lawyer, then in a million years we’re still going to be having wacky adventures together in the old folks’ home.”

That was a quarter of a century ago, and we’re still getting all kinds of lost together, all the time. And believe it or not, we still laugh about that night.


I wish, but Petey says a bear would probably kill us.  I think that’s just the lying media with their anti-bear propaganda.

Happiest of Noels everyone.

Thanks for your time.

Tastes like chicken

I’ve always felt that there are two kinds of people who frequent tea parties (not counting little kids and their guests drinking imaginary tea out of thimbles).
First, genteel ladies and gentlemen who like to get dressed up, and be around other fancy types. I don’t know a whole lot of those people; I mainly hobnob with the sweat suit set.
Next are folks who are just nuts about tea; the history and lore, the various types and flavors. My tea appreciation begins and ends with giant Luzianne bags for pitchers of sun tea. Somehow, I produced The Kid, who is a genuine, over-the-moon tea fanatic. In my child’s pantry are two full shelves dedicated to all things tea.
Last week I discovered a third variety of tea party enthusiast, and also discovered I am one of them.
It’s that enlightened subset who shows up at tea parties for the grub.
I was invited to the Washington Duke Inn (3001 Cameron Blvd.) for tea. Constance Lue, the founder of the Old North State Tea Society, was our guide through the history and etiquette of the phenomena that is afternoon tea.
Here are a few tea facts I’ll bet you didn’t know:
Tea was responsible for much of the suffragette movement. Tea houses were the first respectable venues where a woman could go unaccompanied. High tea, contrary to popular belief, is not an extra-fancy tea, but is a working man’s tea, with a full supper. And my favorite tidbit; one of the welcome benefits of an at-home ladies-only tea, was the opportunity to remove one’s corset, and actually take a nice, deep breath for the first time all day.
At the hotel, in addition to an offering of various teas, we were presented with a three-tiered stand upon which was heaped both sweet and savory treats. There were finger sandwiches, tiny quiche and deviled eggs. On the sugar-coated end of the spectrum were brownies, truffles, chocolate-dipped strawberries and fruit tarts.
In the middle tier, next to the quiche, was a tart filled with chicken salad. Petey is a chicken salad man, I’m not really a connoisseur. But since I’d recently made a batch with a giant roasted Costco chicken, I was eager to sample their version.

Culture and civility abound at the afternoon tea at the Washington Duke Inn, in Durham, NC, held daily. And the food's pretty darn good, too.

Culture and civility abound at afternoon tea at the Washington Duke Inn, in Durham, NC, held daily. And the food’s pretty darn good, too.

Chef Jason Cunningham kindly offered the recipe off the top of his head, which I hurriedly transcribed. So the amounts may be off a bit, but the beauty of chicken salad is its flexible and forgiving nature.

Chef Jason’s WaDuke chicken salad

3 chicken breasts, poached in chicken stock spiked with orange juice, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
½ small red onion, diced
½ bell pepper, diced
Duke’s mayonnaise, to taste
1/2 cup seedless grapes, sliced in half
1/3 cup toasted pecan pieces
Salt & pepper

Toss first 5 ingredients with enough mayo to moisten. Fold in grapes. Season, and taste for seasoning level. Sprinkle top with pecan pieces, so the nut intolerant can remove if needed.

I thought for fun, I’d give you my newest chicken salad recipe, to compare.
My original salad had toasted pecans. But I decided since the WaDuke salad has pecans, I’d switch to pistachios, as a nod to them. The Fairview at the Washington Duke consistently does amazing things with pistachios.

Debbie’s WaDuke-kissed chicken salad

3/4 cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons garlic oil (slowly poach 2 cloves garlic in 2 tablespoons olive oil until golden, then strain )
Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk ingredients together.


2 1/2 cups shredded chicken from supermarket roast
1 ½ tablespoons parsley, chopped
1 shallot, diced
1 ripe Bartlett pear, peeled, cleaned, cut into ¼ inch cubes, and tossed with 1 ½ teaspoons vinegar
½ cup chopped pistachios

Mix together with desired amount of dressing. Taste for seasoning. Refrigerate 30 minutes before serving.

You can have chicken salad on dainty, crust-less bread with a cup of tea.
Or, you can eschew the gloves and hat, throw on a sweat suit, load up some Wonder bread, and serve with Funyuns and a bottle of Yoo-hoo.
But regardless of which style you choose, don’t stick out your pinky. That’s actually rather tacky.
Thanks for your time.