06 March 2012

Chicken Salad with Almond Butter: Food Item Thirteen: A&S 50 Challenge

Chicken Salad with Almond Butter: Food Item Thirteen: A&S 50 Challenge
Bārida dish, Um al-Faḍl made for al-Mahdī
Ibn Sayyār al-Warrāq’s Tenth-Century Baghdadi Cookbook
Translation by Nawal Nasrallah
Redaction by Sayyeda al-Kaslaania
March 2012

English Translation from the chapter: “Cold Poultry Dishes”

    Grill pullets to succulence, disjoint them, slice the breasts, and arrange the pieces on a platter (jām).
    Thoroughly crush 20 skinned almonds. Crush with them ¼ raṭl (4 ounces) white sugar and the pulp of 2 khiyārs (small and smooth cucumbers). Pour on mixture ½ raṭl (1 cup) wine vinegar with 2 dirhams (6 grams) salt. Add to the mixture, 1 ūqiyya (2 tablespoons) olive oil and 1 ūqiyya (2 tablespoons) almond oil. Beat all these ingredients in a bowl (ghuḍāra) to mix them well.
    Pour sauce all over the chicken. When [after a while] sauce is absorbed, drizzle ½ ūqiyya (1 tablespoon) almond oil all over it and garnish with khiyārs, chopped fresh thyme, naʿnaʿ (cultivated mint) and basil (bādharūj).
As it appears in: Nasrallah, Nawal. Annals of the Caliphs’ Kitchens. Brill: Leiden, 2007.

One quarter recipe:
½ of a roasted chicken
1 Tbl almond butter
1 oz white cane sugar
½ cucumber
¼ c red wine vinegar
Pinch salt
½ Tbl green olive oil
½ Tbl almond oil

Splash almond oil

Strip the meat off the chicken and reserve the carcass for another use. Peel the cucumber, slice lengthwise, and use a spoon to remove the pulp (the “jelly” with seeds in the middle). Slice and keep the cucumber for garnish when serving. In a bowl, mix almond butter, sugar, and olive oil. Add the cucumber pulp to the mixture, crushing with the back of a spoon. When well crushed, add the almond oil, salt and vinegar. Mix well, and pour over the chicken. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Serve with garnish.

    We started with a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. While one of was preparing this dish, the other was making chicken salad with the other half of the chicken. When the sauce was completed we tasted it and I announced: “this would be great as chicken salad!” We decided we had a winner.

    I regularly use almond butter for “well crushed almonds.” When our house gets a good food processor I will try making almond butter from blanched almonds to see how different it is. This recipe was interesting because it called for the pulp of the cucumbers. Other recipes in this collection tell the reader to remove the pulp from cucumbers, so I felt that I was on the right track with this reading of it. I used regular grocery-store-green cucumbers for this attempt, and I have not yet done research on the differences in the two common medieval cucumbers. The quantity notes were included by Dr. Nasrallah in her translation. A pullet is a hen younger than 1 year. I would like to try this recipe again with a pullet from the farmer’s market.