Much ado about lunch

22 Apr

IN A PAST LIFE, we’re sure we were among the ladies-who-lunch set. A crisply set table with flowers, linen and crystal with dainty plates of loveliness — we’re home.

Among the most adorable retro lunches is the famous mandarin orange souffle at Neiman Marcus.

The luncheon plate, shown here, is an unmitigated plating disaster circa 1980s. It is a matchy-matchy cylindrical composition including a mound of almond-studded chicken salad, fruit salad, poppy seed dressing, and a small muffin (we like banana bread with walnuts).

POPPY SEED DRESSING FOR FRUIT SALAD
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard, such as Colman’s
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon grated onion, plus the juice released by grating
1 cup safflower or canola oil
1-1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds

NEIMAN MARCUS CHICKEN SALAD
1 lb. cooked chicken breasts, cut into ½″ cubes
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1 cup halved purple grapes
½ cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
½ cup whipped cream
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine chicken, mayonnaise, celery, grapes, almonds, parsley, and salt in a bowl.
Add whipped cream and pepper; fold to combine.

Not to be neglected: The glistening molded souffle is topped with two mandarin orange segments placed back to back in the shape of a butterfly. Or is that repairing an unmolding disaster?
Who cares? Following are two recipes: one for individual molds, the other for a larger ring mold from our beloved Best of Bridge. We’re thinking the ring mold version will be a tad easier.

NEIMAN MARCUS ORANGE SOUFFLE WITH CHICKEN SALAD
1-1/4 cups orange juice (preferably from concentrate, thawed and diluted)
1 tablespoon (1 envelope) unflavored gelatin
1 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
1-1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup canned mandarin orange sections (4-ounce can)

1. Pour 1/4 cup of the orange juice into a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over, and stir to dissolve. Seat aside to let the gelatin soften. Prepare and ice bath in a large bowl.
2. Pour the remaining orange juice into a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan and stir in the sugar and egg yolks. Over medium heat, gradually bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring constantly until the mixture begins to steam and is slightly thickened. do not allow the mixture to boil. Add the softened gelatin mixture (which will have a rubbery texture) and the lemon juice. Stir until incorporated and then transfer the “custard” to a clean mixing bowl; sit the bowl in the ice bath to cool. While the custard is cooking, stir it occasionally.
3. Using a wire whisk or an electric whisk, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form. With a spatula, gently fold some of the whipped cream into the cooled custard mixture to “loosen” it, then add the rest of the cream mixture and fold in until fully incorporated.
4. Place three or four of the mandarin orange sections in the bottom of six individual 5-ounce fluted plastic dessert molds and then fill the molds with the orange souffle mixture. Place the molds on a cookie sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill for at least 4
hours, and preferably overnight, until firm. Carefully unmold.
Serves 6.

_______________________________________________

CHICKEN ATLANTA
Source: “The Best of Bridge” 1984
This recipe appeared word for word in the LA Times, but our BoB ladies renamed it.

ORANGE SOUFFLE

2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
2 cups sugar
Dash salt
4 egg yolks
2 1/2 cups orange juice (about 10 oranges)
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup orange sections, cut in halves
2 cups whipping cream, whipped

CHICKEN SALAD
1 cup mayonnaise
Dash wine vinegar
1/2 cup whipping cream
3 cups diced cooked chicken
1/2 cup diced celery
Salt, pepper
Toasted sliced almonds

ORANGE SOUFFLE
Combine gelatin, sugar and salt in saucepan. Set aside.
Beat egg yolks with 1 cup orange juice. Stir into gelatin mixture. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, just until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat. Stir in remaining orange juice, orange and lemon zest. Chill, stirring occasionally, until mixture mounds when dropped from a spoon.
Stir in orange sections. Fold in whipped cream. Pour into 2-quart ring mold. Chill until set.

CHICKEN SALAD
Mix together mayonnaise, vinegar and whipping cream. Add chicken and celery and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Unmold Orange Souffle onto serving plate. Fill center of mold with Chicken Salad. Garnish with sliced almonds.
6 to 8 servings. Each of 8 servings: 748 calories; 363 mg sodium; 293 mg cholesterol; 44 grams fat; 70 grams carbohydrates; 21 grams protein; 0.21 gram fiber.

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