Monday, January 27, 2014

Super Shrink Me and a Lighter Super Bowl Snack: Spicy Chicken Salad Banh Mi

It is no secret that I'm not a football fan, but for just a moment I'm going to jump on the Super Bowl bandwagon with everyone else for this post. Since I'd rather take a stick in the eye than watch the game, I will be at a movie when the game is going on, but that doesn't mean that I won't be making some great snacks for my guys that will be home in front of the TV loving every minute.

Even though I don't get the love of the game, I do get the importance of snacks for the game. The goodies that I leave behind will give my super fans the strength that they will need for all the yelling and clapping that will not only terrorize my dog, but will surely help the Broncos beat the Seahawks.

Inspired by a movie premier that I attended a few days ago, this year I've decided to fly some healthier snacks under the cholesterol radar for the big game. "Super Shrink Me" (click here to watch), is the brainchild of registered dietitian, Boulder native, and super fit, Ande Anderson. It follows her and her partner Ike Allen on his quest to lose 16 pounds in 30 days while eating at fast food and casual dining restaurants. Through Ande's guidance and a little bit of humor, she and Ike show their audience how with a little advanced planning and exercise, anyone can do the same.

After watching this movie and seeing how some simple swap outs or minor omissions (if you call leaving off the cheese and bacon minor), can make a big difference, I am now inspired me to start making some small changes in the foods I cook. I mean if you can find healthier choices at McDonald's then I should be able to do that around here too.

So, I've decided to start lightening up beginning with one of the main attractions of our Super Bowl buffet table, the foot long sandwich station. Usually a bacchanalian feast of meats, cheeses and creamy dressings, I've decided to give this year's sandwich a makeover and serve a version of one of my favorites, the Vietnamese banh mi. For those of you who have never had a banh mi, in a nutshell this sandwich is a combination of pickled vegetables, roasted meat, fresh cilantro, and lots of mayo (at least on mine) piled inside a French baguette.

Wanting to throw my guys off the track of my "evil" lighten up scheme, I still plan on throwing in a creamy component in the form of a chicken salad mixture to keep them guessing. I considered making my sandwich even healthier by putting it on a multi grain baguette and using yogurt instead of mayo, but we're taking baby steps here and I don't want to completely blow their minds.

As you can tell from the photos shown here, I recently made a dry run of this recipe for this post. I have to say that this is better than I hoped it would be. Spicy, sweet, sour, cruncy and creamy, this sandwich is da bomb! And the best thing about it is that I didn't miss bacon and the cheese not one little bit. Oh yeah, Go Broncos!

Spicy Chicken Salad Banh Mi

1 pound boneless chicken breasts
3 cups chicken broth
1 star anise
1 - 2" piece cinnamon stick
2 cloves
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1 large carrot
5 large radishes (I used regular old red radishes)
1/4 of a small onion (red or yellow)
1 large cucumber, peeled with seeds scooped out of the middle with a teaspoon, then sliced in 1/4" slices across
2 heallthy dollops (about 1/3 cup) mayonnaise (reduced fat mayo or plain yogurt can be used as a substitute)
1 - 2 teaspoons sriracha
1 small clove garlic, crushed
1/4 teaspoon fresh gingerroot, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
1 French baguette
1 small bunch fresh cilantro, with leaves removed and stems discarded
Lime wedges

Place chicken breasts in a medium size sauce pan. Add the chicken broth, anise, cinnamon stick and cloves. Place the pan over medium high heat and bring to a boil; cover and reduce heat to low.  Simmer breasts until cooked through, approximately 15 - 20 minutes, depending of the size of the chicken breasts. Transfer the cooked chicken to a cutting board and let cool, discarding both the broth and the spices. Cut the chicken into small cubes and chill until ready to use.

In a small sauce pan bring the rice vinegar, sugar and water to a simmer.  Stirring occasionally, cook until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and cool completely.

While the pickling solution is cooling, either chop the carrot into small matchstick size pieces or shave 1 - 2" pieces with a potato peeler.  Next slice each radish into about 6 thin slices before stacking the slices and julienne slicing those. Repeat with the remaining radishes. Thinly slice the onion into julienne slices from pole to pole. Place all the vegetables in a bowl and cover with the cooled vinegar mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes but preferably 1 hour.

In a medium size bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sriracha, garlic, gingerroot and salt and pepper. Add the chilled chopped chicken to the mixture and gently fold together to completely coat the chicken; set aside.

Cut the baguette down the middle lengthwise.  Scoop out a channel in the bread on the top and the bottom. Discard the extra bread or save to use for breadcrumbs.  Spoon the chicken mixture into the channel on the bottom. Top with cucumber slices. Spoon the pickled vegetables over the cucumbers, draining as you do with a slotted spoon. Top the vegetables with the fresh cilantro. Close the sandwich by gently pressing the top half of the bread over the filling. Serve with lime wedges to squeeze over the vegetables if desired.

My long and skinny baguette was about 18" long which accommodated my filling amount perfectly. Your sandwich may be thicker or thinner depending on the size of your bread.

As is, this my sandwich served 4 adults. If using as part of a snack table, place on a cutting board with a sharp knife and let your adult guests cut off their desired size piece, or precut into 2 - 3" snack size pieces for easy serving.

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