For the Love of Cooking- Chicken Naanwich with Saffron, Capers and Raisins

I have a quick and easy idea for you. Chicken Naanwich with Saffron, Capers & Raisins. Get it? It’s a sandwich made with naan and it’s the perfect solution for “one of those days”.

I think you know what kind of day I’m talking about. The kind of day when you wake up in the morning and rather than bound out of bed you lay there a bit longer than you know you should. After all, there’s a dog to walk and he’s already clicking around on the hardwood making his needs known– besides there is bread to “win” and bacon to “bring home”. Why does a big city life require so much bread and bacon?

So you drag yourself out of bed, aware of a building mantra in the back of your head. It starts out as a whisper. But you can hear it “I don’t wanna cook today.” You try to ignore it as you pop a bagel in the toaster, but the voice gets louder and more persistent “I don’t wanna cook today!”

You push the voice back and quickly decide against packing a lunch. Even the idea of chopping carrots and celery for a quickie bag lunch starts to feel a lot like cooking. “How about lunch out today?”

“Lunch on the run” (you convince yourself) means you’ll have a lot more time for those errands that don’t run themselves. See how smart you are?

naan bread in a sandwichSo between working and schlepping and that delicious lunch at Hungry Cat you manage to “not cook today”. And though that was your secret plan all along, you don’t really feel that good about yourself do you?

So you say, out loud– ‘cuz you’re in the car and no one is listening, “I’ll cook a simple dinner and call it penitence”. Penitence cooking is a lot like humble pie. Without the pastry– because pastry is too much work. But it eases the conscience just the same.

In my house penitence cooking usually requires pasta or poultry. Alliterations just taste better, especially when you “don’t wanna cook”. But you made default pasta last night when you didn’t feel like cooking. That leaves poultry. But the idea of going home and thawing out a whole chicken is just too overwhelming. Besides you agreed to yourself that cooking was fine, but thawing and roasting a chicken might make a mess. You’ll cook, you decide. But you won’t clean.

Well the solution in that case is a stop at the market for one of those whole pre-cooked rotisserie chickens. They can be surprisingly good and quite moist. In fact one of those and a green salad could be dinner. Hmmm, that’s tempting… but you decided to stand up to the “I don’t wanna cook” demons and prepare something for dinner with a bit more love attached.

So you finally get home and in a burst of energy you shred every bit of the meat off that rotisserie chicken. You put the carcass in the freezer (for a day when you really wanna cook) and pull out the big sauté pan. One-pan meals mean WAY less clean up.

Olive oil, celery and pine nuts. Now that’s a comforting bit of love you decide as you look around the kitchen proud of the fact that the only mess is: one cutting board, one bowl, one sauté pan and your favorite wooden spoon.

Don’t you like the way that wooden spoon feels in your hand? Was it born there? You break out a glass of wine. You’ll need a splash for the chicken. So why not? By the time you add the saffron you have noticed that the whole kitchen smells great, and the stress of the day has melted away. And that’s when you remember. You love to cook. It’s an important part of the life you want to live. There may be voices in your head telling you otherwise sometimes, but in your heart you know they are wrong. Suddenly life makes sense after all. Maybe God does have a plan.

Naanwich a sandwich with naan and chickenChicken Naanwich with Saffron, Capers & Raisins

serves 4 CLICK here for a printable recipe

  • 6 stalks celery
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed but whole
  • 1/4 c pine nuts, roughly broken
  • 1 c raisins or dried currants, soaked in 1/2 cup white wine
  • 4 c roast chicken, shredded
  • 1/4 c capers, plus 2 tbsp of their brine
  • 10 large green olives pitted and cut into 1/4‑inch dice
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 good pinch saffron, mixed with 1 tbsp hot water
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 pieces Naan bread (about 9x7 inches each)
  • Grated Parmesan (optional)

Trim any leaves from the celery (save them for later) and cut the stalks into 1/4‑inch dice. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan set over medium-high heat, add the smashed garlic and cook until fragrant. Remove garlic and add the diced celery and pine nuts. Cook, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes until the nuts begin to brown. Pour in the raisins or currants with their wine, cook a moment more, letting the liquid bubble; stir in the chicken, capers with its brine, the olives, lemon zest and saffron with its water, mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Heat a large dry skillet over medium-high heat. Working one at a time warm each naan until soft and pliable but not yet toasted. Lay the 4 naan bread pieces out on 4 separate serving plates. Sprinkle a generous amount of celery leaves onto each one. Top each with some of the chicken mixture. Give each a good grinding of black pepper and finish with a little Parmesan cheese, if you like. Fold the naan over “sandwich style”. Cut in half. Serve warm.


Greg Henry

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