About a year ago, I posted an entry about a green apple chicken salad. I am partial to chicken salad, and even more partial to apples in a chicken salad. With a bit of tart and a bite of sweet, a crunchy apple offers just the right complement to the celery and cranberries which accompany it.
Chicken salad was on my menu for an afternoon baby shower last December, but the green apple version had already made repeat appearances for the women invited. I was searching for something a little different.
A cookbook provided the germ of an idea – sesame oil and red bell peppers — and California did the rest. Apples were no longer in season, but piled high at the outdoor produce markets was the Asian apple-pear or Asian pear, also called nashpati in Bengali (নাশপাতি).
It hides underneath a modest ochre skin, but the Asian pear is part of the sisterhood of personality. It lacks no shortage of charisma or scrumptiousness. And it has long been a favorite of my mom’s, who introduced it to us when we were children, and to this day, she delights in the discovery of a perfectly crisp, perfectly juicy nashpati.
Now I must revise a bit. I am still partial to apples in my chicken salad. But perhaps I am just a teensy weensy bit more partial to the singular pear, quietly camouflaged as an apple.
This variation of chicken salad is less sweet and more savory than its green apple cousin, although the Asian pears I bought in California were intensely sweet. The crunch (and color) mimicked water chestnuts, but the flavor surprised people, which was a nice touch. For a sweeter chicken salad, omit the red bell pepper and substitute dried apricots cut into a small dice. Add a little honey to taste.
For everyone who has asked, I am very belatedly posting the recipe for the chicken salad I made at R’s baby shower.
Asian Pear Chicken Salad or Nashpati Chicken Salad
- 6 cups cooked and shredded chicken (roasting the chicken work best)
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 large fistful of pea pods, sliced into ¼-inch diagonals
- 1 ½-2 cups peeled and diced Asian pear, small 1/4 –inch cubes
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tsp sugar – more or less to balance
- Salt to taste
- white pepper to taste
- ½ cup plain yogurt
- ½ cup sour cream
- Sauté pea pods briefly, about 2 minutes, to remove any raw, grassy taste. Set aside and cool.
- In a large bowl, combine sesame oil, olive oil, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, yogurt, sour cream, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly to combine.
- Add chicken, Asian pear, bell pepper and pea pods to the dressing. Stir convincingly until everything is coated with everything else. Put into fridge and chill for at least an hour.
- Serve to guests with fruit and bread, or, sit in front of the television with a fork and a glass of white wine and do not share with anyone.