Beach Picnics Part 1 – Chicken Salad Sandwiches

The last couple of weekends I’ve been lucky enough to have Tim free on Sundays. Since we sometimes work opposite schedules, it’s a real treat when we both have a day off. We had been making a routine of hitting up brunch at The Hammered Lamb over on Ivanhoe Row. It’s the only place that has been able to break me of my standard eggs benedict and mimosa meal. Now I always order a BLT and their bloody mary bar. I’m definitely one of those classless assholes that tops their bloody mary with four pieces of bacon, two skewers of blue cheese stuffed olives, a few artichoke hearts and a stick of string cheese. I tried their BLT on a whim, since I’ve had a very strict policy ever since I was a toddler that bread and vegetables like raw tomato and lettuce should never meet. Sometimes food just beckons you, I suppose.

There is also a very distinct flavor in their BLT. They use an herbed mayo that is rife with thyme. I love herbs on my eggs, and its not uncommon for me to sprinkle herbes des Provence on eggs when cooking breakfast at home. I feel like you usually find thyme in much more rich and savory dishes, like French onion soup or anything else where beef is simmered for hours. But thyme also has a wonderful flavor that works well with lighter dishes, like eggs and chicken.

The Florida summer has really had me yearning for the beach, however. I usually never go because I got in the habit of only going for 2 or 3 hours and then heading home. When I was growing up in New Smyrna Beach, that was fine. Now that I live in Orlando and it’s easily an hour before I can even put a foot in the sand, I’d rather make a day of it. Tim and I took our brunch money and invested in all the tools necessary to make us look like every other Orlando resident that I grew up annoyed by yet thankful for; my beach umbrella, cooler and chairs a reminder of my time working at Mon Delice where I’d make sub sandwiches and box pastries up for the tourists.

I had been wanting to hit up Playalinda in Titusville. To keep us on the beach, I decided I’d pack the cooler with a great picnic spread. First, I’d make big chicken salad sandwiches on wheat buns. I chopped up some cucumber slices and celery sticks to go with hummus. For dessert, I made rosemary lemon shortbread cookies. Those actually turned out to be quite the Pinterest Fail, and I’ll be sure to post all about that so you can enjoy. For good measure I grabbed the vodka and a bottle of bloody mary mix.

Chicken salad is one of those recipes that I always forget how much I like. Although it can be labor-intensive, I enjoy how few ingredients it takes. Its also pretty cheap to make because I take bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts and roast them in the oven. Not only are they half the cost of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but they have so much more flavor and moisture when you cook them.

The labor-intensive part is standing in the kitchen pulling the meat from the bone and shredding it by hand. Not only will you be able to make sure you separate the little bones and bits of cartilage, but I think the long shreds hold the sauce nicely and give a different texture. I also have made this recipe with salmon I’ve cooked. Salmon goes wonderfully with either herb, but especially with dill. Again, you’ll want to flake the salmon apart by hand; that will keep the thick flaky texture instead of mushy like bad tuna fish salad.

There are other ingredient swaps you can use in this recipe. For the mustard, I have Dijon listed. I’m also a big fan of stone ground mustard or even deli-style mustard with chicken in particular. I like to use a combination of half mayo – half low fat Greek yogurt to lighten it up. I’ve also made this with just Greek yogurt, but we like the extra richness the mayo gives. Play around with the proportions that you like, or even try with a vegan or paleo mayonnaise. Get funky.

dancing gif

2 Chicken breasts with the bone in and skin on, or about 3 cups of cooked shredded chicken
1 Cup celery, diced
½ Cup Mayo
½ Cup Greek Yogurt
¼ Cup Dijon mustard
1 Tbs. Thyme or Dill
Salt and Pepper, to taste

1. If you’re starting with uncooked chicken, bake the chicken breasts skin-side up in an open pan at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Let them cool until they are cool enough to handle with your hands.

2. Discard the chicken skin… Or snack on it like I do while I make this! Its like chicken bacon.

3. Shred the chicken using your hands.

4. Combine all ingredients except the salt and pepper and mix thoroughly.

5. Check the mixture for seasoning. Some mustards have different flavors, so get a feel for where your flavors are at before adding additional salt and pepper. I usually will add about 1 teaspoon of salt at this point.

6. Let the mixture sit in the fridge for at least an hour before making your sandwiches.

Sides: BBQ Deviled Eggs

I happen to work for a barbeque restaurant. I prompted everyone to find a creative way to use one of our products, a Carolina-style mustard-based BBQ sauce, in a recipe. Tomorrow is judgment day, and we’ll all be competing for a cash prize and bragging rights in the office. I’ve postponed this competition once, and it was only until today at 4:30p that I actually started thinking about what I’d be making.

I feel like there is some pressure here! Not only am I talking a big game in front of my coworkers about how much I cook, but I have you fine readers to impress as well! It’s like the first time I skated in front of non-derby friends…

So I’ve settled on a barbeque classic: deviled eggs. In my family, it’s not a get-together without them. This barbeque sauce lends itself to the recipe because it’s replacing main ingredients vinegar, mustard, and salt. Some people add sugar, and BBQ sauce would cover that as well.

There are some other changes that will make this egg unique to me. My mom has always put pickle relish in her deviled eggs. I’m going for a slice of dill pickle nestled in the filling on top, like a garnish that actually serves a purpose. I also always see paprika, and while there’s nothing wrong with it paprika doesn’t do much for flavor. The egg whites are bland, and when you take a bite of a deviled egg you want to see color and texture and get some flavors going. A good BBQ rub will have sweet, smoky, spicy and salty covered and it will look great against the blank canvas.

Try these out at your next family get-together, or at a pot luck with friends. Though humble and seen as out-dated, there are definitely ways you can modernize this Southern classic.

My handsome little egg!

My handsome little egg!

You’ll need:

1 dozen hard boiled eggs, shells removed

½ cup of quality mayonnaise

½ cup of Carolina-style mustard BBQ sauce

1 mini dill pickle

Your favorite BBQ spice blend

    1. Slice each egg lengthwise. Gently squeeze the sides until the yolk loosens, or take a small spoon and finagle it out. Reserve all yolks in a mixing bowl. Set your empty whites on your serving tray (if you are so fancy).

    Squeeze the whites gently to loosen up the yolk.

    Squeeze the whites gently to loosen up the yolk.

2. Take a fork and break up all of the yolks until they resemble corn meal. Try to get as many lumps out as possible.

Crumbled yolks

Crumbled yolks

3. Add the mayo and BBQ sauce, and thoroughly mix it. Keep trying to work out any lumps you may have.

4. Taste test! Does your mixture need salt, or did your BBQ sauce have enough? Mine didn’t, so I added about a teaspoon of salt. Don’t forget that you’re dolloping this onto bland egg whites, so if you prefer a spicier mixture feel free to add some of your favorite hot sauce.

5. Spoon or pipe your mixture into the egg whites. For a makeshift piping bag, scoop your filling into a plastic baggie, seal, and snip off one of the corners. Instant piping bag! (with no cleanup after, of course)

6. Take your dill pickle and slice thin slices, enough for each egg to get a little garnish.

7. Sprinkle all of the eggs with your BBQ spice rub.