I am going to try and make this into a succinct essay, (probably won’t happen, but let’s give it a go) and talking about what having a quarter life crisis has to do with chicken strips. I will start by saying that I have made countless versions of this salad for probably a decade of my life. Nearly ten of my working years on and off were at the City Club in Ogden, Utah. My mother started there as a cook in the mid nineties, after closing our restaurant, and subsequently my sisters and myself worked with her or at Brewskis or at the other bars within the City Club family.
I started at 15, working night shifts making pizza with my sister Georgia at Brewskis….I loved it, back in those days the kitchen was right next to the stage and I remember loving to listen to the Kapp Brothers, or whatever local, or national act was there for the weekend. I never really was offended by the drunkenness of others and loved getting to at least be a spectator in the action. In high school I had a stint at a bagel shop, and then by 18 I was back being a prep cook at City club during the lunch shift, when I wasn’t half assing my way through general ed at Weber state University. From the best of my recollection this salad came on the menu in the late 90’s and was always a hit. It’s perfect in composition, and I always enjoyed assembling them and watching the patrons enjoy what I had assembled.
I moved to Salt Lake when I was 19 to go to University and didn’t go back to work(I did hang out there though) at the City Club until I was 27. By this point I was married to a successful computer whiz with his own business,had my culinary education, my first child, I was living in my newly built “dream home”, and was driving an only slightly used BMW, I had even done a cooking segment for PBS making Greek potato salad and won the Utah State fair beef cook off. From the outside looking in I seemed to have it all, I had done my best to achieve what a consumer culture deems “The American Dream”. But in all actuality the stuff didn’t make me happy, it made me feel caged and insecure of losing it. It was right about the same time as the housing crisis and our timing on our home purchase wasn’t optimal, my husband was in construction so he was stressed, miserable, and working constantly to pay for all of the stuff.
I started working to make money of course but to also remember who I was, I felt hugely guilty that “stuff” didn’t make me happy and that I was still the same flawed, unacceptable, weirdo I had always been, and that driving a BMW made you a target for road rage and speeding tickets! Cooking helped with the anxiety, following in my Mom’s footsteps I served Greek food as she had for specials, and loved reinventing Taco Thursdays. But within myself I was having an existential crisis, I was struggling to maintain an image that was never really who I was, but was what I was told to be, I started to drink a lot of vodka after my shifts, and escape my stress with karaoke and hanging out with some of the best and worst characters Ogden had to offer. I ended up quitting, I shouldn’t have, but it did drive me in the direction to being a truer version of myself, we got rid of the house, the car, moved to a new city, and got new jobs. Six years in and I have more than ever, in different ways, and I feel like I am living my own version of the “American Dream”, there is always room for improvement which is what I strive for. But, I would lying if I said I never miss making chicken strip salads for my favorite patrons, and drinking with the people who saved me from myself in a somewhat dark era. In the words of the star of maybe the best reality show ever, “Rock of Love” Bret Michaels “Every rose has its thorn”. If you are in Ogden you really need to go have the real deal, but if you can’t get there I will give you a guideline to make your own.
Green peas (thaw frozen ones)
Chicken strips, like 2-3 per portion you are making.
Thin chow mein noodles
Sesame ginger dressing
Assemble in shallow, scalloped glass bowl for maximum authenticity.
I bought a 20 pound turkey, and cooked it recently just to explore ways to utilize holiday leftovers without getting bored. I remember as a kid getting so burnt out on the microwave heated plates of Thanksgiving spread we would eat for the week after. The stuffing was half cold and mushy, the gravy congealed, the green bean casserole a hot mess, the clumpy taters had seen better days and all of it topped off with a helping of chalky leftover turkey meat. My mother never let us waste an ounce of the meal she would prepare, and I love her for it, but I do recall wishing for another way to eat the turkey…of course there is Turkey soup which I discuss at the bottom of that post about the turkey my mother always made, which is the recipe I used, but I wanted to explore other ways. Continue reading “Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey recipes that are anything but boring!”