There’s quite an art, as you’ll be finding out all this week, to brown bagging. We are big believers in the benefits of bringing your lunch with you to work (we have a whole chapter about “packing the quarter-life lunchbox” in our book!), on planes and trains, and wherever your day may take you.
We want to motivate the college set–post-grads starting first jobs and undergrads doing summer internships–to get in the habit early. So this week we’re co-hosting a Brown Bag Challenge with Small Kitchen College and a host of other bloggers. The challenge is sponsored by BuiltNY, and all week we’ll be posting recipes and guides on our site and on SKC, and hosting live lunchtime chats with twitter and facebook fans. Tune in!
As for brown bagging, there’s a way to make leftovers satisfying and a way to make sure that lunch isn’t breaking your diet. But there’s another kind of lunch, one that’s maybe just a little less practical. It’s the kind of lunch that makes you especially antsy all morning, in anticipation, the kind of lunch you look back on with a smile all afternoon. In our book, we call this the “Aesthetic Pleaser,” the kind of food that delights all your senses, not just your tastebuds.
In other words, it’s a perfect lunch. One that’s not just the scraps from your fridge repurposed, no matter how delicious that may be. It’s a lunch that’s attractive, even after sitting around for hours, and delicious, perhaps having gotten better with time.
The Curry Chicken Salad that sits inside these lunchtime wraps is just the thing. I don’t know if any of you have ever even eaten Curry Chicken Salad, but if you haven’t, you’re really missing something. See, the curry takes to the mayo in this salad like peas to carrots, the celery and shallot add an awesome crunch, and the raisins provide a haunting sweetness that in turn makes the curry taste even better. A sensory feast indeed!
Like many brown bagging favorites, Curry Chicken Wraps are also a great picnic staple–an evening in the park last summer is actually when I first made them at home. But it was many years before that that I was hooked–when I first tried the salad, from the famous Loaves & Fishes.
From my kitchen, creating lunchbox perfection, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Curry Chicken Wraps
Makes 3 sandwiches
The most crucial element here is very fresh curry powder. If you’ve had your jar for more than about 9 months, it’s time to refresh. Pick up a new packet of curry powder before you start. This makes enough for 2-3 lunches; either find a friend to share it with (and then make her bring you lunch another day this week), or embrace the fact that you’ll be eating this for a couple meals. I promise, it won’t be a hardship.
1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 carrot, cut into chunks
1 small onion, halved
3 medium celery stalks, 1 cut into rough chunks, the other 2 halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 sprig parsley (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped toasted pecans*
2 tablespoons raisins, chopped
1 shallot, finely diced
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Madras curry powder
1 tablespoon honey
freshly ground pepper
3 8-inch flour tortillas or wraps of your choice
1/2 bunch arugula, rinsed well, trimmed, and dried
Note: to toast nuts, place them in a small, dry frying pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally and watching carefully, until the nuts have darkened and are fragrant. Pour the nuts into a small bowl to cool, then chop.
Poach the chicken: add the chicken thighs, the carrot, onion, the roughly chopped celery, 1 teaspoon salt, and parsley if using to a medium pot with a lid. Cover with water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Skim any foam from the top, and reduce heat to low. Partially cover the pot and simmer until the chicken is very tender, about 40 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate, let it cool, then cut it into about 1-inch cubes.
In a medium bowl, place the nuts, 2 stalks of sliced celery, raisins, shallot, and the cubes of chicken. Add 1/2 cup mayonnaise, curry powder, honey, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and several cranks of freshly ground pepper and stir until the sauce is blended and the vegetables and chicken are incorporated. You can make this salad up to 3 days in advance; assemble each wrap on the day you’re going to eat it.
Wrap the tortillas in a clean dishtowel and place in the microwave. Nuke for about 30 seconds, until the tortillas are steamed and quite pliable.
Place one wrap on a cutting board. Scoop about 1/3 of the chicken salad onto the center of the tortilla, then top with a handful of arugula. Wrap, folding the ends in and leaving the seam on the bottom. If desired, slice the wrap in half. Pack for lunch with a handful of baby carrots!