WND – Grilled Chicken Salad

June 12, 2008

There are advantages to living in the US – libraries, book stores, movies, TV – but I wouldn’t class grocery stores as one of them.

What I like about shopping in France is that by and large it still operates on the principal of buying your food only 2-3 days in advance. There are green grocers and butchers and bakeries in the middle of cities – not just in the residential areas, but in the financial districts as well. Food and food shopping hasn’t been relegated to the outskirts and the suburbs. I am always frustrated by the fact that if I forget something at the grocery store on the weekend there is nowhere easy for me to pick it up during the week. There’s no small grocery store on my way home where I can go to buy a can of tomatoes, or bag of flour. There’s a 7-11 where I can get some milk, but no eggs or cheese. There’s a farmer’s market in town twice a week during the summer, and while I can get amazing tomatoes there I can’t pick up a box of pasta. If I forget something when I go shopping on the weekend it means that at some point during my week I’ll have to get in the car to go back to the grocery store to pick it up.

The difference between shopping in France and shopping in the US is that in France the norm is still a small neighborhood grocery store and the expectation is that you’ll go to a baker for your bread and a butcher for your meat. The structure of large grocery stores still reflects that societal norm. The Intermarche may be a large conglomerate, but it has a cheese counter that seems to take de Gaulle’s assertion that France is a land of 246 cheeses as a personal challenge. It’s the French equivalent of Target, but it has a fully staffed meat counter and you can get your meat cut, trimmed or ground any way you like.

If I want to find that same kind of service or product I have to go to a Whole Foods, or to a local farm. I can do that, and more to the point I can afford to do that, but shopping at Whole Foods always makes me feel like a particular kind of pretentious yuppie. Not the kind of yuppie who occasionally buys cheese and bread for a picnic dinner on a Friday night, but the kind of yuppie who uses words like macrobiotic without a trace of irony. Also, I object on principle to a grocery store where you can’t buy light bulbs. Wilson Farms, which is our local farm, caters to a different kind of yuppie – the goats milk ice cream, and organic vegetables kind. Mostly I’m okay with being that kind of yuppie, but shopping in those stores marks me as belonging to a particular social class and educational background in a way that it wouldn’t in France.

I’m not entirely sure what my point here is. I think it’s that I miss the cultural construct of the way that food is thought about in France. In my parents’ village, and in most villages in France, you can find a green grocer, a butcher, and a bakery in the center of town. The center of my town has a Starbucks and a computer café. Lexington, which I think has a charming town center, is stocked with restaurants and boutiques and not a single shop that carries produce. If you want to buy an apple or lettuce you have to go two miles down the road to Wilson Farms, or two miles up the road to the Super Stop-n-Shop. In our quest for convenience we’ve made life less convenient; we’ve moved food out of sight, and I wonder if we haven’t also moved it out of mind to a certain extent. Alternatively, I could just be bitter that I can’t buy butter on my way home from work.

Grilled Chicken Salad

Grilled Chicken Salad

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but we’ve been having a little heat wave in the Northeast. I turned the oven on for 20 minutes on Monday night and just about wanted to die. Normally when it’s this hot I’d do all my cooking on another night so I didn’t have to heat the kitchen up when I had a full house. But, the weatherman promised me that the heat was going to break on Wednesday and it seemed saner to cook in 85 degree weather than it did in 98 degree weather. I got lucky and the weatherman was telling the truth, and while the kitchen was warm it wasn’t unbearable.

A grilled chicken salad comes in pretty much an infinite number of variations. I split my chicken breasts and then marinate them overnight. Pretty much anything that involves an oil and an acid will work as a marinade and I use my marinades more or less interchangeably on white fish or chicken, although I usually only marinate fish for about 30-40 minutes.

Olive oil
White wine vinegar
Zest & juice of 2 lemons
3-4 springs of rosemary
4-5 springs of thyme
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
Squirt of honey

I also frequently use orange juice/ginger/garlic as my base, or white wine and olive oil with garlic and herbs

Grill the chicken until done and then cut into strips and arrange on salads. You can add anything to the salad that you like. I used cucumber, mushrooms and tomatoes this week and served it with biscuits and melon. I served it with a choice of balsamic vinaigrette or spicy ranch dressing.


Recipe previously given: Farewell to Summer Dinner

I know I said you have to put your biscuits in the oven as soon as you made them. This isn’t strictly true. You can make them a little bit in advance and cover them with a damp towel until you want to bake them. I wouldn’t recommend trying to hold them for more than about 30-40 minutes before you bake them, but you don’t have to put them together at the last minute.


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