Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Chicken Almond Rounds

center, Lisa Dolan, founder Hudson Reads, & Children's Book Festival

One of the best ways to raise funds is to offer people tasty food, free-flowing drinks, and an opportunity to engage in conversation with other people. 
Last Saturday, my friend Chris  & I did exactly as described.  Chris, & her husband, Bert are the proprietors of The Red Barn, and they kindly donated their restaurant space so we could host a cocktail party to raise money to benefit the Hudson Children's Book Festival .  The money that we raised is targeted for children who might not have the opportunity to shop, and buy a book directly from one of their favorite authors and illustrators who participate at the festival.  Now, at least 200 kids will have that opportunity.
While Chris & I put in some extra hours planning and making the event happen - it was kind of a no- brainer for us.  Before Chris became a restaurateur (and baker - see her at the Hudson Farmers' Market) she produced commercials in NYC, and I had a catering business there for 26 years.  We know how to put an event together.

Bard College classmates at the fundraiser

For my contribution to the food, I went straight to my catering menu and chose two appetizers that were unfailingly popular, and the most requested items on my list. No matter how I tried to introduce new tidbits to my cocktail menu everyone always asked for Chicken Almond Rounds and Smoked Salmon Focaccia.

Bert works his magic in the Red Barn kitchen

Chicken Almond Rounds are labor intensive.  You can make them a two, or even three day project in order to ease the work load. 
Here's what I wrote about them in my  book, "The Nantucket Table" (Chronicle Books, 1998)
"Before coming to Nantucket in 1953, the pioneering and entrepreneurial James Beard had a business in New York City called Hors d'Oeuvre, Inc. opened in January 1939.  The shop offered New Yorkers who were entertaining - giddy with the end of prohibition - a great variety of cooked cocktail-party food.  One of the most requested items on this way-before-its-time take-out menu was an onion sandwich on brioche bread.  This was snack dear to Beard's heart as it was one made for him as a child by his mother.   Two slices of brioche were slathered with mayonnaise, then sliced onions were placed on one slice, and the other was placed on top to make a sandwich.  Three rounds were cut from the sandwich and were squeezed a bit to let some mayonnaise ooze out, then were rolled in chopped parsley.   These little onion rounds gained ingredients as time passed.   I learned about the Chicken almond rounds about fifteen years ago, far into their evolution."
btw - James Beard's Nantucket hamburger joint was called, ahem, Lucky Pierre.

Makes 4 dozen one-bite sandwiches  (are you reading this, Ned?)

4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3/4 cup good-quality commercial mayonnaise, plus more as needed
2 celery ribs, peeled and finely diced
1 small red onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons dried tarragon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2  teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
24 very thin slices white bread
1 1/2 cups roasted salted almonds, chopped in a food processor to the consistency of fine gravel

1.  Place the chicken breasts in a large skillet with water to cover.  Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, with the cover askew.  Lower the heat a notch and simmer gently until the chicken is opaque throughout.  Remove the chicken from the liquid and let cool.
2.   Place the 3/4 cup mayonnaise in a bowl, and add the celery, onion, tarragon, salt , and pepper.  Stir to mix well.  Break the chicken into large pieces.  Working in 2 batches, use a food processor to chop the breasts until they resemble oatmeal.   Add the ground chicken to the celery mixture.   Carefully combine with a rubber spatula.
3.   Line up 4 bread slices at a time.  Spread each slice with some of the chicken mixture, forming a layer 1/4 inch thick.  Cover each slice with a second slice.  Repeat until you have 12 sandwiches.   Using a 1 1/2-inch-diameter biscuit cutter, cut out 4 rounds from every sandwich, gently pushing them free from the cutter after every two cuts.  Keep the pairs of rounds stacked together and cover with damp paper towels until all of the sandwiches are cut.

4.  Pour the chopped almonds into a baking dish or onto a dinner plate.  Holding a stack of sandwich rounds between thumb and forefinger, spread a film of mayonnaise around the cut edges.   Roll the stack through the chopped almonds until the edges are completely coated with the nuts.  Re-cover the stacks with the damp paper towels until all are coated.

5.   To serve, separate each stack back into two sandwiches.

Day one:     make chicken mixture and refrigerate.
Day two:     make the sandwiches and cut into rounds.
Day three:   roll the sandwiches in the nuts.

SUSANSIMONSAYS:    While the cocktail party has passed you can still make a donation.  Here's the info.   Every penny that you contribute will go directly towards a gift card that will allow a child to shop at the May 4th book festival:

Make your tax deductible check to:   HUDSON CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT ENDOWMENT FUND
 and mail to:       Lisa Dolan
                           Hudson Reads
                           102 Harry Howard Avenue
                           Hudson, NY 12534

crudités & pita chips with butternut squash-tahini

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