Remember the '80s? Crystals. Pyramids. Channeling. Mood rings?! Ronald Regan legitimized the brown for crying out loud suit. Ketchup was a vegetable, while Chez Panisse over in Berkeley was flexing its muscles. I was working in San Francisco at the time. I wore business suits, just not brown ones. A new lunch spot opened near my office, easy walking distance. I don't remember the name of the place, or if I ever ordered anything but this sandwich. I have no memory of what it was even called - the New Age bit is my own. I do remember as clear as yesterday sitting down right there to eat it, a book to hand, rather than return to the office where someone might do something so uncivilized as interrupt my state of bliss with conversation. The combination of flavors was simply so perfect, bite after exquisite bite. And I don't recall that a pregnancy was involved.
I've been making it ever since in various reincarnations. When lettuce wraps sailed onto the culinary horizon, I was at the ready, matey. The original was served on a heavenly fresh dill bread; I've also used Julia Child's potato-dill bread. Sometimes during the summer, though, it is just too hot to fire up an oven for bread. So during the hot months I've taken to stuffing it into pita halves. Great camp/hiking food. Portable, a cinch to transport everything broken down to assemble at the top of the trail you've just climbed, or on a picnic table at the edge of a lake you've just swum out of. No crystals or pyramids to lug along, simply the channeling of a great lunch. And don't get me started on that brown suit . . . —boulangere
8 pita halves
leftover chicken or turkey meat OR 1 pound chicken thighs
Sea or kosher salt and pepper
small can diced pineapple, drained
red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, 1/4" dice
small red onion, 1/4" dice
or so chopped Italian parsley
very good olive oil
fresh tarragon, chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Sea or kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
pita breads cut in half to expose the pocket
leaf of butter, green leaf, or red leaf lettuce, washed, top half only, per half pita
frozen gel packs (the soft-wrapped ones)
large rubber bands
In This Recipe
This is a great way to use up some leftover chicken or turkey. I routinely roast 2 chickens at a time. It takes just as long as roasting 1, and a whole chicken full of meat pulled off and frozen for an instance such as this, well, it's sort of like finding buried treasure. Which gives you an idea of what my freezer looks like. Alternatively, rub some chicken thighs with olive oil, dust with salt and pepper, and roast at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. While chicken is cooking and cooling, prep the rest of the ingredients and make your dressing.
Once chicken is cool, dice it into 1/2" cubes and move to a mixing bowl. Add the drained pineapple, the bell pepper, red onion, and Italian parsley. Use your hands or a spatula to toss everything together.
Make the dressing in a small bowl. Whisk together the vinegar and mustard. Add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking continuously so as to maintain your emulsion. Whisk in the oregano, then season to taste with salt and pepper. And because everything is better with red pepper flakes, add a pinch. Add dressing to other ingredients and stir to dress everything evenly.
If serving immediately, stuff a lettuce leaf into each pita half, then scoop in some filling. Repeat until all are filled. Using mini pitas as an hors d'oeuvre? You're brilliant! Just tear the lettuce leaves smaller.
If traveling, wrap washed lettuce leaves in a couple of damp paper towels and store in a ziplock bag. Pack the filling into one or more ziplock bags. Place a frozen gel pack on either side of the bag(s) and secure at the top and bottom with large rubber bands. They'll keep the chicken filling cold and everything else, too. Cut pitas in half so you don't need a knife and cutting board if you weren't planning on taking them anyway. Return them to the bag they came in. Place everything inside a plastic bag that can function as a garbage bag on the return trip. Set out, and enjoy a beautiful summer day!