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Before we went camping up near Rocky Mountain National Park last week–a post on that coming up — 

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Berthoud Pass, Colorado (11, 300 feet)

our house was yet again under construction. Two new baths were recently completed.  Are we gluttons for punishment? This time, a living room wall came down and the other old fabric wallpaper walls were covered with new wallboard and painted.  Easier than stripping that ancient stuff.

Living Room—Before wall down

   Before (above) and After (below)

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Our wonderful contractor, Ed Shipp, of Integrity Home Repair.

For as long as we’ve lived in our house, we’ve wanted that wall down. It blocked access to the only bathroom on the main level of our house.  To get to the toilet, we — and guests — had to go through what had been the master bedroom. Too weird.  In fact, the wall was not original to the house, but was added later to create a nursery off that bedroom for the last owner’s daughter.  The living room, as in many ’70s houses, had a den, you see.  Complete with paneled walls (in this case cedar that we kept for texture, but painted) and a sliding glass door, which we recently replaced because the old one froze me out. I’m guessing the black and white tv lived back there. Maybe a vinyl accordion door, too.  We truly wanted to bring the floor plan back to the architect’s first idea, to say nothing of keeping guests out of what has become a combination guest room/Alyce’s messy office space. Anxious to open up our living room, we longed for light and space.

Because it was time to take out the 20+-year-old carpet and finally install wooden floors, the time was also right to remove that nursery partition. There was no way to do it without redoing all the flooring, so it was now or never. We bit the costly bullet and did it all together.  When Ed broke through the wall with his trusty sledge hammer, I nearly cried with relief. Dreams do come true.

When we returned from camping, this was the vision greeting us:

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                          Did I say it stank?  Open windows, please!

But while this was all going on on the home front, I dreamt about a barbecue chicken caesar salad in the campground. True.  I’m out in the boonies cooking over a fire and thinking about salads made in the kitchen at home. A salad that could be enjoyed any day and even over the Labor Day holiday. 

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I didn’t have an actual dream, mind you, but rather a flitting recipe daydream that popped up in my head in the morning and later again as I shopped for the week on the following Monday.

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Morning off my deck in Colorado

Next morning after a stellar sunrise (good pun) home came some organic chicken thighs–skin on, bone in– along with a couple of heads of fresh and rather dirty Romaine. (Dirty is good.) A bunch of cilantro and another of scallions joined the fray. Later, a peek into the fridge to see if there was still a container of homemade barbecue sauce (there was–recipe below) and I was off to toasting pecans and chopping veggies.  Dave lit the charcoal grill for this bit of cooking..while I opened Louise Penny’s new book….which is being saved for an October vacation. This is a hard thing to do. But I’m strong. Well, kind of.

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Below: In Colorado, we tend to keep charcoal grills on the rocks or in the dirt, not on the wooden deck.  Our fire danger is often so high that we’re incredibly careful. This old Weber, in a stand Dave’s dad made for us, is outside our walk-out basement
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This recipe could be a work in progress, but we had no trouble eating every morsel  of our–could we call it?– fusion dish.  Well, you might call it a bastardization, too, I guess, because it combines such disparate elements such as Caesar dressing, cilantro, and toasted pecans, but that’s ok; try this anyway:

IMG_2869BARBECUE CHICKEN CAESAR SALAD WITH TOASTED PECANS   4 small servings or enough for 2 hungry people

 Please cook the bone-in chicken with its skin on for maximum flavor and juiciness.  If you’re slimming, remove the skin at the table and add more bbq sauce.  Note that some of the toasted pecans listed in the ingredient deck for the salad are also used to make the dressing.  To toast pecans, place in a skillet over low flame–stirring often–for 10 minutes or until barely browned. They burn quickly; be careful! The extras are wonderful snacks or good on your oatmeal.

  • Canola oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 4-5 chicken thighs, skin-on and bone-in
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce — your choice or make mine (recipe below)
  • 1 cup whole toasted pecans (you’ll use some in the dressing and some on the salad with a few leftover for snacking)
  • 5 cups chopped or torn Romaine lettuce
  • 3 red radishes, trimmed and sliced very thinly
  • 2 minced scallions (white and green parts)–save a bit for garnish
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro–save a bit for garnish
  • 1/4 cup EACH:  grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese and very sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 4 small ripe tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 cup croutons, optional
  • 3 tablespoons Toasted Pecan Caesar Dressing (recipe below) or purchased Caesar or Ranch dressing to which you’ve stirred in minced toasted pecans
  1.  PREP AND GRILL CHICKEN THIGHS:  Brush with oil and season liberally with salt and pepper.  Dave just about follows this method of cooking from Kingsford. Brown the chicken over direct, medium high heat on both sides.   Move to the center of the grill to indirect heat and cook covered, turning regularly, until chicken is nearly done.  Baste with barbecue sauce several times, turning again every few minutes, until chicken is glazed.  FDA recommends 165 degrees F for chicken.  If you take it off a few degrees early, it will probably come up to temperature while it rests.  This will be a good 30-40 minute process. Don’t rush.
  2. PREPARE SALAD: In a large bowl, place Romaine and season with salt and pepper.  Toss with scallions radishes, cilantro, and cheeses.  Refrigerate while chicken cooks.
  3. MAKE SALAD DRESSING–Recipe below
  4. PLATE AND SERVE: Toss the salad very well with the dressing just before serving. Divide dressed salad between 2 or 4 large shallow bowls or plates and garnish with whole pecans, tomatoes, croutons (if using) and reserved scallions and cilantro.  Add a chicken thigh (or two) to the center.  Sprinkle all with a little more black pepper.  Serve immediately.

TOASTED PECAN CAESAR DRESSING

Directions are for food processor, but this dressing can be made in a small, deep bowl using a whisk or a fork.

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon each kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 3 anchovy fillets, optional, but critical to my taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce  (use less if needed)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon Mustard
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt
  • 6-8 toasted pecans (minced if you’re making this dressing by hand)

Place first 8 ingredients, garlic – white wine vinegar, in a food processor and pulse until well-blended. Drizzle in olive oil while running and process until emulsified.  Pulse in yogurt and pecans briefly until pecans are finely chopped.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  This should be quite piquant and somewhat spicy-hot; it will be toned down when added to the salad.

BARBECUE SAUCE

2 cups each ketchup and chili sauce
1/4 cup each lemon juice and red wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons each yellow mustard, Worcestershire, A-1 Sauce
1 tablespoon Soy Sauce
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
4-5 Shakes of Tabasco or other hot sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons celery seed

Whisk together all ingredients in a medium pot and bring to a boil, stirring, over medium flame. Taste and adjust seasonings.  Lower heat to simmer and let cook 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings again.  Store leftovers in a tightly sealed jar for up to two weeks in the refrigerator. (This recipe is a riff on a great bbq sauce from the wonderful, but out-of-date Colorado cookbook BYTES–Colorado’s Family Friendly Cookbook. Sometimes there’s a used copy available; check used book sites or amazon.)

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PRINTABLE RECIPE HERE:  BARBECUE CHICKEN CAESAR SALAD  

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Sing a new song; enjoy the end of summer,

Alyce

all photos copyright alycemorgan, 2016 moretimeatthetable.com