With the end of All My Children last week and the impending death of One Life to Live in January, my junior high school heart started tugging for the good old days of soap operas. Luckily for me, I can relive the glory with this treasure from 1997: Cooking with Days of Our Lives, by Paulette Cohn and Dotty Griffith. That’s right! There is an actual cookbook dedicated to the romantic entanglements and diabolic schemes of the denizens of Salem—the Bradys and the Hortons. (Of course, I own it.) It contains wonderful pictures of late 1990s hair and mini-bios of the major and some minor characters. (And, the mystery of Dean Winchester’s familiarity came rushing back—the actor who plays him on Supernatural had previously played Sami’s twin, Eric Brady. I know, I could have just Googled Jensen Ackles, but what’s the fun in that?)
Back to the cookbook: The chapters are very telling and include “Cooking for Romance,” “Hot Spots of Salem,” (you remember the Brady Pub and the old Cheatin’ Heart biker bar, right?), and “Weddings.” I really wanted to re-create the menu from Bo and Hope’s English wedding tea, but alas making two cakes and a dozen cookies seemed a bit much for a Monday night dinner.
Instead, I flipped to the “Fast and Fabulous” chapter (sadly bypassing the bitchy-ssoise soup) and decided on Uncle Chin’s Chicken Salad. Now, I wasn’t an insane fan of Days, but I am familiar enough with the characters to know that there was no Uncle Chin in Salem. But there should have been. His salad is hysterically fabulous.
Uncle Chin’s Chicken Salad
Serves 3 (yup, that’s right three… good thing my sister dropped by for dinner)
- 1 C cooked chicken breast, cut in bite-size pieces
- Asian marinade (recipe follows) or use a bottled marinade such as teriyaki and add 1-2 T cider vinegar ro rice wine vinegar (I made the recipe below.)
- 3 C cooked spaghetti
- 2 T thinly sliced green onions, including green part
- 1 or 2 ribs celery, thinly sliced
- 3 C shredded iceberg lettuce
Place the chicken in a small bowl and add the Asian marinade (or ¾ to 1 C bottled sauce plus 2-3 T vinegar to taste). Stir to coat the chicken evenly and set aside.
Add the pasta, green onions, and celery to the chicken mixture and toss to combine and coat with dressing. Spoon the chicken and pasta mixture onto a bed of lettuce. Lightly drizzle any dressing remaining in the bowl over the lettuce.
- 2 T vegetable oil
- 1 T Asian sesame oil (um, you can use any sesame oil)
- 2 T soy sauce
- ¼ C cider vinegar or rice wine vinegar
- 2 t grated fresh ginger
- 2 t sugar
- ½ t red pepper flakes
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 T fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the ingredients. Stir to blend.
I didn’t use pre-cooked chicken, although you could. I just cooked two chicken breasts and cut them up. If you’re going to go this route, I’d suggest actually making a double batch of marinade—one for actually marinating the raw chicken, and then one for dressing later. The marinade/dressing is really good, and you’re going to wish you had more of it.
Once the chicken was cooked, I placed it in the marinade. By then, the water for the pasta was boiling. When it reached al dente doneness, I drained and added the chicken and most of the marinade so that the noodles soaked up a bit of the sauce. Then, I added in the green onions and celery.
Also, I didn’t use iceberg lettuce (just because I’m not a big fan). I went with a greener leaf lettuce. My sister suggested using cabbage next time. I also think that the texture could be enhanced with a bit of roughly chopped peanuts on top.
But, the flavors are all there. And, it’s seriously an easy recipe to make. I think I might have to explore this odd little cookbook a bit more. The recipes from Chez Vous (you remember Salem’s French bistro, right?) look pretty good as does A Woman Sconed (sour cream scones).