Simple exotic appetizers: Curried chicken

Curried Chicken in Radicchio Cups

When making hors d'oeuvres, chefs will sometimes use good quality store-bought products for quick flavor. I love to spice things up with exotic combinations like hot Indian curry and sweet mango chutney. Here, they combine in an alluring sweet heat that delivers a delicious adventure in every bite. Almonds add crunch and a nutty flavor.

Chicory balances the sweetness in the filling with a bitter bite. Some varieties of radicchio grow in a ball-shaped head that makes round lettuce cups, while the elongated Treviso variety, which looks like a red Belgian endive, creates boat-shaped cups. You could use green or red endive, as well. If bitter flavors aren't your thing, use smaller leaves of red leaf or butter lettuce.

Makes about 48 lettuce cups, or enough for 24 servings as a party hors d'oeuvre, 12 appetizer servings, or 6 to 8 entrée salads

  • 2/3 cup slivered almonds
  • One 3-pound roasted chicken, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise, plus more to taste
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup mango chutney, such as Major Grey's, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons), plus more to taste
  • 3 tablespoons Indian curry paste, as hot as you like
  • Dried cranberries, halved grapes, or chopped apples (optional)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium heads of round or elongated Treviso radicchio
  • 1 bunch cilantro, picked apart into small sprigs
  • Small bunches grapes, for garnish (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast for about 8 minutes, until fragrant and golden. Set aside to cool.

2. Shred the chicken meat using two forks. Use a knife to cut pieces that don't shred easily. (Snack on or discard the skin and discard the bones.) Place the chicken into a large mixing bowl.

3. To make the dressing, pulse the mayonnaise, yogurt, chutney, lemon juice, curry paste, and almonds to a chunky texture in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. (Alternatively, you can mix this by hand, cutting up any large pieces of chutney, if needed.) Stir in the cranberries, if using.

4. Mix the dressing with the chicken, adding mayonnaise or yogurt if needed to generously coat the chicken. Season to taste with salt and pepper and additional chutney or lemon juice, if desired. (To make ahead, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 hours.)

5. Cut the core from the radicchio and carefully pull apart the leaves. For the first few, you will need to roll back the edges to peel them off the head without tearing them. If you are using Treviso, cut off the bottom inch and the leaves should easily fall apart. The larger leaves are best for plated presentations, while the smaller ones work well as finger food for hors d'oeuvres. Trim the largest leaves if needed to make them more manageable. (To make ahead, place in a resealable container with a damp paper towel over the radicchio, cover tightly, and refrigerate for up to 3 hours.)

6. To serve, spoon the chicken mixture into the radicchio cups and garnish each with a sprig of cilantro. After you have filled the leaves, stack any remaining ones, roll them up into a tight cigar shape, and cut cross-wise into thin chiffonade to use as a bed for your platter or entrée-sized salad. Arrange the cups on a platter and garnish with additional ribbons of radicchio, cilantro sprigs, and small bunches of grapes, if you used them.

What to Drink: Choose a wine with plenty of body and a little sweetness, such as a Viognier or a good rosé.

Chef's Tip: Skip a step and pick up a roasted chicken at your local market or poultry shop.

Emerald Sauce

This Asian-inspired pesto is just the kind of back-pocket sauce a chef loves to have on hand to perk up a variety of dishes. I toss it with capellini and top with Thai Grilled Prawns, but you could just as easily use it to top grilled chicken or fish, or toss it with any type of Asian or Italian noodle as a cold or hot lunch.

The recipe makes enough sauce for a pound of cooked pasta, with enough remaining sauce to toss with grilled seafood or chicken to serve on top. Garnish with strips of red bell pepper and sprinkle with additional chopped peanuts and cilantro.

Makes about 3 cups

  • 1/2 cup peanut or vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh ginger
  • 6 small to medium cloves garlic
  • 3 jalapeño peppers, stemmed and seeded
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup packed cilantro, stems included (about 1/2 bunch)
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh mint, tough stems removed
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts

1. Put the ingredients into a blender jar in the order listed-first the oils, lime juice, vinegar, then the aromatics (ginger, garlic, jalapeños), the sugar and salt, and finally the herbs (cilantro, mint, basil) and 1/4 cup of the peanuts. Blend, stopping occasionally to scrape down the jar with a spatula, until the mixture is quite smooth. Taste and adjust salt to your liking. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of peanuts and pulse a few times to roughly chop them for a bit of crunch in the sauce.

2. Use immediately, or cover tightly and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

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