Today: Merrill finds a way to make leftover roast chicken exciting.
There are few things more satisfying than a crisp-skinned roast chicken straight out of the oven, served with warm, salty pan juices.
Since there are only two of us with adult-sized appetites in my house, we rarely manage to finish off even a small chicken at one sitting. Half of it invariably goes in the fridge, and I tell myself I'll figure out what to do with it tomorrow.
But then tomorrow comes, and the meat has cooled and tensed up, and the skin has become a rubbery shadow of its formerly crisp self. It makes me sad. It's nearly impossible to thoroughly rewarm a leg or a chunk of white meat without overcooking it, and you're never going to get that skin crispy again. Yes, the second night of roast chicken can be a real disappointment.
Some people love cold roast chicken (my father's idea of heaven is a cold chicken sandwich on white bread with butter), but I just can't get jazzed about it.
Years ago, my mother came up with an excellent solution to the leftover roast chicken problem, which I'd forgotten about until recently. On a pretty regular basis -- usually a day or two after we'd had roast chicken for dinner -- we would have what we called "warm chicken salad." You're probably picturing a standard chicken salad, with mayo and maybe some celery and red onion -- only warmer. This is not that, because that would be gross.
You start this chicken salad by making a dead simple vinaigrette: red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, olive oil, all whisked furiously together.
Perhaps you have some leftover boiled potatoes from your roast chicken dinner a few nights before. If you don't, boil a few until just tender and let them cool. Slice them into rounds.
Now comes the brilliant part. You heat some of the vinaigrette in a pan and warm the potatoes and bite-sized pieces of leftover chicken in the dressing, letting the oil crisp and brown both the chicken and the potatoes.
To serve, spoon the warm chicken and potatoes over a bed of soft lettuces, which will wilt ever so slightly under the heat, with some more of the vinaigrette and a shower of chives. Never despair at the thought of leftover roast chicken again.
4 fingerling potatoes, scrubbed clean
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
3 cups red leaf or Bibb lettuce, cleaned and dried and torn into large bite-sized pieces
1 cup shredded leftover roast chicken (make the chunks as delicate or as rustic as you like)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
Photo by James Ransom