Like that of many other time-strapped folks, my current weeknight dinner strategy is to cook just a few times a week and repurpose the leftovers in between. I was on Day 3 of my five pounds of Chicken Marbella (which is amazing, by the way – I highly recommend Elise’s recipe!) today when I decided it was time to turn this one into chicken salad and call it a day. I remembered receiving an On Your Grill submission for “chicken salad melt” type panini, and when I looked back in my e-mail, sure enough, there was the idea from Arlene of The Food of Love. Arlene described a sweet and savory chicken salad with dried cranberries and sliced almonds, grilled with cheddar and bacon. “This one is addictive!” she wrote, and I can understand why!
While I didn’t have all of Arlene’s exact ingredients on hand, I loved the idea of grilling up a chicken salad panino. I still have her recipe flagged to try soon, but on this hectic day I worked with what was in my refrigerator and pantry: leftover Chicken Marbella thighs, grapes, mayonnaise, chopped walnuts, Gruyère cheese from the block I bought for last weekend’s panini and dark rye bread. I loved it! The warm chicken salad, with its bursts of sweetness from the grapes (I got the grapes idea from Sharon at Culinary Adventures of a New Wife!) and subtle crunch from the walnuts, was so good under the melted cheese. Move over tuna melts – chicken melts are here to stay!
As for passing along an appreciation of chicken to my baby daughter – well, it’s off to a bit of a slow start. She likes the jarred organic “chicken dinner” combinations that contain sweet stuff like apricots and pears and just enough chicken purée to get the requisite 2g of protein on the nutrition label. But I read somewhere that I should give her straight chicken so she’ll get more protein, ounce for ounce. So I poached some chicken in the microwave (no seasoning – eek!), puréed it in the food processor and gave it a try. Yeah, it was as nasty as you think – not unlike wood pulp.
So I mixed in some sweet potatoes in hopes that would help the situation. It was a little better. Not great, but baby food is usually at least a little bit gross, right? So I fed it to the baby. Heh heh. The expression on my normally sweet, happy, smiley little girl’s face quickly turned puzzled…and then disturbed. She uttered something like a growl!! Then her mouth opened and her little tongue pushed out the offending yellow mushy stuff.
So we’re back on the jarred, organic chicken-tinged apricots for now!
Chicken-Grape Salad & Gruyère Panini
(Note: The quantity of each ingredient in the chicken salad is completely up to your personal taste.)
Chicken, cooked and shredded
Salt and pepper
Gruyère cheese, shaved or sliced
Dark rye bread
Preheat the panini grill to medium-high heat (375 degrees).
In a small bowl, combine chicken, grapes, walnuts, mayonnaise, salt and pepper.
For each sandwich: Spread about 1 cup of chicken salad onto a slice of bread. Add cheese and top with another slice of bread. Grill about 5 minutes until cheese is melted and bread is crispy, with grill marks. Serve immediately and enjoy!