Nigel Slater's Clams with Ham and Sherry
Chloe Doutre-Roussel's Spicy Hot Chocolate

Nigel Slater's Chicken and Rice Salad


I'm not going to be beat around the bush here. Gentle readers, I have to tell you, this NaBloPoMo thing? Is exhausting me. It's been such a great week, what with those elections and the first female Speaker of the House and healing my great heartbreak from 2004 (and, frankly, 2000, but let's not even get into that because the rage heartbreak there is unhealable) and all, but mostly I just want to lie down and take a nap. Daily posting is wearing me out, friends.

But because I am nothing if not committed, I am forging on. Onward ho!

Last weekend, while pouncing upon clams and chorizo for dinner, I grabbed a rotisserie chicken as well. It was too late in the day to roast our own, and I knew Ben needed more than a soupy bowl of clams with crusty bread for dinner. I boiled and mashed some potatoes and thought about dressing a salad (sometimes that's enough), and there we had it, our fine little dinner. But we barely made a dent in the chicken (I was too concerned with finishing every last drop in the bowl of clams) and I found myself contemplating the remains of it the next day.

In The Kitchen Diaries, Slater has quite a few thoughts on leftovers, sometimes with full recipes and sometimes just written out as thoughts. But then he'll get moody and leftovers will be declared a waste of time. Soon after that, though, he'll go back to concocting delicious meals out of cold, sliced meat and day-old noodles and whatever else you've got lying around the house. They clearly inspire him.

I freely admit that leftovers rarely inspire me. There's something about day-old food that usually leaves me feeling nauseated (though I'd like to point out here that for the sake of frugality and the plight of starving people around the world, I usually do choke down whatever's sitting in my fridge for lunch the next day - aren't I a martyr, I know). But if I can create a fresh, new meal using older ingredients, then that makes the whole process a little bit more pleasant.

And so it went with this leftover chicken carcass. While I carefully picked every last scrap of meat off of it, I soaked and rinsed some basmati rice, and then boiled it in barely salted water until it was tender. The chicken strips were tossed in a dressing of fish sauce, lime juice, olive oil and chopped red chilis (I left the mint out because I didn't have any - but I added chopped scallions. So there.). The cooled rice was added to the dressed chicken and the whole thing was tossed for good measure.

The result? A pungent, spicy, interesting take on that most pedestrian of leftovers: roast chicken. The lime juice tamed the funk of the fish sauce, and though I would usually say to keep fish sauce far away from chicken (especially after this), that similar gaminess didn't come out here. We didn't let ours sit for 20 minutes, as he instructs you to, and I'm actually quite glad I didn't. I liked the hurried freshness of the salad, and the fact that I could still taste the herb rub on the cold chicken separately from the spicy dressing.

Regular old roast chicken turned into a cooling, faintly Asian, main-course salad and we ate up the entire bowl. Isn't it great when you discover a whole new approach to something you only ever thought of a certain way?

Chicken and Rice Salad
Serves 2

1 cup basmati rice
1 3/4 cups sprouts (mung bean, lentil, etc)
2 fresh, red chili peppers
6 sprigs mint
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
several handfuls of leftover chicken

1. Wash the rice, put it in a small pot and cover it with the same volume of water. Add a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and let the rice simmer, covered, until the water has evaporated and deep holes have appeared in the surface of the rice. Turn off the heat and let the rice sit, covered, in its pot for 10 minutes. Fluff up the rice and let it cool.

2. Rinse the sprouts in cold running water and drain. Make the dressing by chopping and seeding the chilis, chopping the mint leaves (throw away the stems), and mixing them together in a serving dish with the fish sauce, lime juice and olive oil.

3. Cut the chicken into thin strips. Toss the chicken with the dressing, then add the cooled rice. Mix gently and check the seasoning.