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Cherries and Rice

Donna Deane's Curried Chicken Salad on Naan


Subpar curried chicken salads have practically become a bad dining cliche. Texturally questionable meat, possibly some raisins (truly a horror), all bound up in loathsome mayonnaise and then folded into a cold, inflexible flatbread wrap (tomato-flavored! or perhaps spinach, for health. Am I the only person on this planet who thinks those things should be abolished forever?). What you're left with is a gloopy, chewy nightmare of a lunch. Just thinking about it makes me a little queasy.

So why would I even entertain the thought of making something like that for dinner?

I'll tell you: the L.A. Times Encore feature. I'm totally in love. The editors find older recipes in the archives and put them back online for a repeat. Something about being featured a second time convinces me that the recipe must have really been good, that it's important I pay attention this time around, and not dismiss something as grody as a curried chicken salad sandwich with a wrinkled nose and an impatient click of the mouse. Would Donna Deane lead me astray, twice? I should think not.

So after cuddling a delicious little baby for a few hours after work, I headed to the grocery store, head awash in a fog of happy hormones (what is it about those little feet and fuzzy heads?), and bought chicken legs, lemon grass, fresh naan (now available at Whole Foods!) and limes. A promising start to the meal, I thought. At home, chicken legs poached in boxed chicken stock doctored up with chopped lemon grass, while I stirred together plain Liberte yogurt with lime zest, juice and curry powder, and tiny dice of red pepper, celery and scallions.

When the chicken had cooled, I pulled the meat off the bones, folded it into the tangy yogurt sauce and piled the salad onto the warmed naan. A few chopped peanuts went on top (I eschewed the cilantro, oh, and the sliced lime for garnish - it was a plain old weeknight, after all) and the soft, warm naan rolled easily around the cool, faintly spicy filling. It was a bit of a mess to eat, but the pillowy bread was a lovely counterpoint to the silken salad and the occasional crunch of peanut or pepper. Ben ate two of the sandwiches, stopping only to say happily, "this is exactly what I wanted for dinner".

Sometimes, satisfaction comes so easily.

Curried Chicken Salad on Naan
Serves 4

2 whole chicken legs, about 1 3/4 pounds
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup chopped lemon grass
8 ounces low-fat plain yogurt
2 teaspoons chopped lime zest
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup diced celery
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro plus 8 whole sprigs
1 teaspoon salt
4 pieces naan
1/4 cup chopped salted peanuts
1 lime cut into wedges for garnish

1. Place chicken legs, chicken stock and chopped lemon grass in a medium saucepan. Bring the stock to a gentle simmer over low heat. Poach the chicken for 30 to 40 minutes until cooked through. Remove from the stock and cool. Remove the skin and bones and shred the meat into bite-sized pieces.

2. While the chicken is cooking, stir together the yogurt, lime zest, lime juice and curry powder. Add the green onions, red pepper, celery, chopped cilantro and salt. Gently stir in the shredded chicken.

3. Place the naan in a 350-degree oven on the rack and heat until warm but still flexible, 1 to 2 minutes. Do not allow it to crisp.

4. Place each piece of naan on a plate and spoon one-half cup of chicken salad on top. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon chopped peanuts and lay 2 sprigs cilantro on top, extending out the sides. Roll the naan around the filling.