Tuesday, May 26, 2020
May 26, 2020

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Canned chicken for the win

3 ways to use this pantry staple as you shelter in place, making do with what’s available to you

By , Columbian News Assistant
2 Photos
Tired of tuna? Canned chicken is the main ingredient in these refreshing Rosemary Parmesan Chicken sandwiches. For a citrusy zing, try adding a little lemon zest.
Tired of tuna? Canned chicken is the main ingredient in these refreshing Rosemary Parmesan Chicken sandwiches. For a citrusy zing, try adding a little lemon zest. (MONIKA SPYKERman/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Canned chicken might not be on the top of your get-in-my-belly list, but it is a versatile pantry staple that plays well with a vast array of ingredients in recipes ranging from entrees to sandwiches to party dips. Here are three ways to use this meat that’s neat to eat while we stay off the street.

Rosemary-Parmesan Chicken Salad

When you get tired of tuna, this refreshing sandwich filling is ready to step in and give your taste buds a little variety.

Start with one 10-ounce can of chicken, drained. (Pro tip: give the chicken juice to your cat if you want to hear some happy purrs.)

Next, add — in whatever proportions you find pleasing — a hefty dollop of spreadable or whipped cream cheese, 1/4 to 1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese, a little mayo for extra creaminess, and a generous teaspoon of finely chopped fresh rosemary. Dried rosemary will yield a less piquant flavor, but sheltering in place sometimes forces us to make these tough choices.

Experiment with novel combinations: use tarragon or dill instead of rosemary. As summery temperatures arrive, mix it up with chopped fresh basil. Add texture with diced celery or diced tomatoes (though be careful of excess liquid, especially if using canned tomatoes, which should be drained thoroughly so as not to make a tragically soggy sandwich). A small jar of drained pimientos will add a bit of zing, as will chopped sun-dried tomatoes.

For a sweeter, Indian-inspired mix, replace rosemary with aromatic spices such as cumin, coriander, turmeric, curry or cinnamon, then add a teaspoon of brown sugar and raisins or halved cashews. Draw on your family’s cultural heritage for new ideas, or just rely on the serendipitous combinations that arise from a thorough exploration of your spice drawer, which you’ve been meaning to clean out for years but now have ample time to do so.

Easy Chicken Enchiladas

Canned chicken is also the star of this simple meal, a cinch to throw together after the exhausting commute from your office, aka laptop on the kitchen table. (This recipe, along with thousands of others, is available at campbells.com, a resource for home cooks exasperated by an excess of condensed soup.)

Mix one 12.5-ounce can of chicken with 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, one can of drained green chiles and one finely chopped small onion (I prefer to sautee my onion so it’s nice and soft). Then, spread half a can of enchilada sauce over the bottom of a baking pan. Use salsa or picante sauce if you don’t have enchilada sauce.

The next important step is to warm your corn tortillas so they’ll be flexible when you fold them around the filling — either toast them one by one by giving them a brief turn in a skillet, or put a stack of tortillas in the microwave and heat them on high for 30 seconds. Don’t have corn tortillas? No worries — use flour instead, which don’t need to be warmed.

Spread about 1/3 cup of the chicken mixture down the center of a tortilla, then roll the tortilla up and place it in the pan, seam side down. Do that until you run out of chicken mixture, or tortillas, or until you decide not to make dinner at all and just eat spoonfuls of the chicken mixture while wondering what you haven’t yet watched on your streaming service.

Pour the remaining enchilada sauce over everything, then sprinkle with cheese. This is the crucial stage where you wonder if you’ve used enough cheese. Skip this step and add more cheese. Bake in a 350-degree oven until the cheese has melted and the filling is bubbling. Serve with sour cream, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, jalapenos, black olives — whatever makes your socks go up and down, enchilada-wise.

Baked Buffalo Chicken Dip

This final recipe comes to us courtesy of Camas resident Angela Heaston, who serves this slow-cooker dip at parties and is reliably left with an empty pot after everyone’s gone home. You know, back in the day when we had parties.

Mix two 10-ounce cans of chicken with a 12-ounce bottle of hot sauce. Angela likes Frank’s, but use what you’ve got: Tabasco, Sriracha or whatever that stuff is waaaaay in the back of the fridge, left over from Super Bowl 2003. Stir in 12 ounces of ranch dressing (a regular bottle has 16 ounces) and 2 to 3 cups shredded cheddar. (Go ahead, we know you’re going to add three.) Mash in a whole 8-ounce block of cream cheese. Bake in a 375-degree oven until everything is melted together.

To serve, pour into a wineglass, garnish with a sprig of cilantro, and drink. (Ha ha, just testing you — a wineglass won’t be big enough to hold it all.) Make a gesture toward healthy eating by pairing the dip with a plate of celery, carrots, cucumbers, radishes, jicama, broccoli, bell pepper or other crunchy veggies. Chips and crackers are, of course, de rigueur. Crack open a beer and call it dinner. Or breakfast. Whatever.