Thursday, October 25, 2012

Gourmet Chicken Salad for the Soul!

Starting last fall, my family and I started using our smokehouse again.  This cinder-block and cement structure was originally built about 45 years ago by my father, now an angel and ethereal guardian, Douglas Smith.  Decades ago, our family would raise, slaughter, smoke,can, and freeze much of our family's diet, which  made perfect sense, considering our brood's size.  Our family numbers also included some of my parents siblings' children as well.
My siblings and I have been blessed with parents any person would be honored to have, and even though we have never been what one would call wealthy or rich by monetary standards, our parents managed to provide, nurture and bring whole-hearted help, comfort,  spiritual guidance, divine love and encouragement for many, and are respected pillars in our small, lake locked community to this day!   Our diet included a large garden, where corn, green beans, potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage and a host of other veggies grew.
 I remember as a young girl the 'canning days', which consisted of early rising and gathering of the crops to be preserved respectively, digging, picking, shucking, snapping, par-boiling, canning and freezing which usually ran into the late evening hours of that particular Saturday, as that was one of the only two days our working parents were permitted to conduct the chores at home.  We generally kept two hogs at a time and would slaughter either just before Thanksgiving or Christmas.  The hogs were fattened throughout the year with store bought feed, as well as corn and apples from our own garden and apple trees.
 One of  my most favorite and memorable recollections is of the hogs and the way they consumed fresh apples.   The sound of the crunching apples bespoke  juiciness and obvious satisfaction.  After tending to and feeding them all year, not to mention giving the hogs names, this time of year, though necessary, became a tearful farewell.  I knew "Suzy" would be no more, the romping, carefree, apple snacking behemoth I had  help her become.  Alas, I digress!

It was important that the temperature be cool enough to facilitate the smoking and curing process of the hams, shoulders and side meat.  The day of slaughter started as did the garden harvesting, EARLY!, but also with a blooming fire underneath the scalding tub.  The animal, once killed, is submerged in the water to aid in the sloughing off of it's hair and initial sterilization.  The carcass would  then be hung, gutted and bled.  After the carcass is broken down, the process of smoking and preparation of the home-made and manually ground sausage would ensue.  This has always been one of the best sausages  I have ever tasted.  The small brown bags of country sausage seasonings would be purchased from the local hardware and farm supplies store, Rountrey's.  The rewards of this toiling day would  consist of fresh, hot 'hoe cakes',  harnessing the end product of  sausage blended just right, with a perfect fat/lean ratio.   A portion of the batches would be hot, the others mild, with a sumptuous fried egg in tow, absolute bliss!  We savoured the harmonious balance of the sausage and it's complementary seasonings; sage heavy, paprika, red and black pepper.  We were tasting the hard work, long grueling  hours and sacrifice; Also, we  secured sustenance for the long hard winter yet to come.
Wintertime country breakfasts could often manifest themselves in the form of fried apples (fresh frozen from summer), steamed or fried potatoes, from the cool, dark storage bin in our "Corner House", homemade biscuits, hot from the oven, fresh, aromatic coffee and hearty cakes of organic and wholesome sausage, locally owned, grown and operated!!
I love the beautiful country-ness of my existence, growing up in rural Leesville, 10 miles from the nearest town, lots of trees and a winding river to cross, a nightmarish and slippery upgrade in the then treacherous winter weather ... These recollections echo throughout my mind and time, forever embossed and illuminated as some of the best times of my life, which had not occurred to me until I was blessed enough to live to adulthood. Thanks Dad and Mom!
Are you smiling as I am as I write this?  Good, now back to the recipe.
Today's recipe is a delicious creation containing chicken, smoked to mahogany, hickory infused perfection in our adorable little smokehouse, retrofitted with a grilling/smoking grate, cooled, shredded and tossed with a gaggle of sultry veggies, fresh herb and spices.  This chicken salad is one I would consider "gourmet", in appearance and in the deviation of ingredients normally found in a sometimes one dimensional, store purchased variety.  Housed in a wonderful whole wheat pita, and bedazzled with fresh kale, this recipe screams EAT ME! and HAVE SECONDS!
 I hope you enjoyed this walk down an aromatic and sensory response filled  memory lane and may your mind be catapulted back, in the future, to this stroll you just took with me, holding hands, swinging back and forth, meandering down a crisp late fall lane, laden with leaves of oranges, reds, yellows and browns, smiling, happy!
2 cups smoked, cooked shredded chicken
1 lime
1/ 4 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. celery seeds
2 tbsp. small dice mini yellow peppers
2 tbsp. thinly sliced red onion, halved, then quartered
1 tbsp. sun-dried tomatoes with herbs, small diced
2 tbsp. mayonnaise or avocado
1 tbsp. julienne of fresh mint
small pinch red pepper flakes
2 whole wheat pitas, halved
1 1/3 c. fresh chopped kale
In a medium bowl, add chicken,  juice of lime, cumin and celery seed and toss to evenly coated.
Add  ingredients down to the pepper flakes, and fold together until well and evenly incorporated.  SPST.
Line pita pockets with equal amounts of kale.  Use a fork to stuff chicken filling into place.  Serves 4.

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