Monday, February 26, 2007

A Retro Sunday Lunch

It had been a scorcher of a weekend in Buenos Aires; coupled that with a lack of sleep due to jet lag, bloating, and much lower abdominal pressure, the last thing I could face was to cook.

On the other hand, our friend Miguel's lovely daughter Gabriela was very excited about the baby news so they came over on Sunday for a light lunch. It was hot, I was tired, and Miguel is vegetarian so I cheated and just put together two salads.

In the days before "designer leaves" tossed with aged aceto balsamico di Modena became commonplace, there was iceberg lettuce and sliced tomatoes with that suspiciously salmon pink Thousand Island sauce (similar to salsa Golf); and way before that there were the Russian salad and the Waldorf.

Ensalada Rusa is still available in this land; it is also a favourite of Miguel's so that was a no-brainer. The Waldorf salad makes a good summer's lunch but I wasn't sure if raisin, apple and walnut would go down well with my two junior guests so here is what I did:

I first boiled a small pan of water with celery leaves, peppercorn and star anise. When it came to the boil, I immersed two chicken breasts into the water. I turned off the heat immediately (butterfly the breasts so they cook more easily) and let them sit in the hot water bath until the water cooled. Chicken cooked this way is very tender.

I just chopped the stalks of the celery into tiny pieces. I cubed the chicken breasts into chunky pieces and mixed them with mayonnaise and a light sprinkling of paprika. You can save the broth for cooking.

On the subject of mayonnaise, I promise you that you will never have shop-bought again if you tried home-made – they are completely different and you can guess which one tastes better. It is a simple and beautiful alchemy of oil and eggs; since eggs are back in the good book as far as cholesterol is concerned (it gives you the good cholesterol, HDL), I have no problems with eggs being a main ingredient. However, raw eggs are a little risky for pregnant women so that is the only situation when shop-bought is the preferred option.

For the Russian salad, my twist to the classic was boiling the potatoes and carrots (separately) with a handful of bay leaves. I also had some peas, lightly boiled. When cooled, I cubed and mixed them with mayonnaise and Dijon mustard. It brought back memories of my childhood, except it tastes just a little bit better this time.

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