Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tomatoes Stuffed with Chicken Salad

Serve with saltines.  What else?

This is an old-fashioned lunch counter meal.  You know the kind of place I mean; they still exist in some places.  If you're lucky enough to have a drugstore nearby with a counter (as am I), you might still order this blue plate special once in a while.   Living in Colorado this summer, I've missed my Minnesota haunts.  (State Fair starts Thursday; you can finally get your cheese curds on a stick fix.)

Just down the street from me (best pic I could find) where coffee is 5 cents and ice cream is cheap.
 The counter at St. Paul Corner Drug, just down the street from our St. Paul house, is these days devoted solely to coffee, donuts, and ice cream anyone can afford.  If I have a prescription to fill, I walk down to do it in person just so I can sit and have a cup of coffee in the old, heavy tan mugs for five, yes, five cents.  Is this great coffee?  No, but it's good coffee.  I must admit that while I'm not there often, the exact same people (in the same clothes?) seem to each time be standing at one end of the counter or sitting reading the paper.  I think they want to be where everybody knows their name.

While we don't have a dime store nearby in St. Paul, there's one up north in Grand Marais that's a combination Ben Franklin and department store called Joyne's.    When we make the trip up to the north shore (it's often 30 degrees cooler up there) to rent a cabin or house for a few days, we drive into Grand Marais once or twice to go out to eat and to shop.  I buy beautiful Scandinavian wool sweaters for gifts, my favorite sandals and shoes (they have a great shoe selection), and all kinds of things from tasty local jams to that little weird thing you need to close up the vent on the porch before snow flies.  Joyne's, more's the pity, does not have a lunch counter. Huh?  We run down to the Pie Place Cafe if it's breakfast or snacktime.  The Angry Trout  or Chez Jude if it's evening.

Pie Place Cafe, Grand Marais, MN

The more I think about it, the more I'm sure you'll just have to come to my house for this meal.  Or make it yourself at your own counter.   My very own mother was fond of stuffed tomatoes for lunch or even for supper on a hot summer's night when the tomatoes were warm out of the garden and calling me to put my nose right into their fragrant flesh.  (She would have done tuna, egg, or ham salad if she had no chicken.)  I'll admit she might have snuck some pickles in here somewhere and also have stuck with salt, pepper, and only maybe some poultry seasoning.  But if she were here today, I think she'd make it just about like the recipe below.  Thanks, Mom.

Is there anything like a tomato you've grown yourself?
  An aside... My favorite summer snack as a child (yours, too?) required a quick run to the garden out back, salt shaker in hand.  One big bite, a shake of salt...another big bite...a second shake.  No worries about high blood pressure in those days.  

 In the meantime, you'd like to know how to make chicken salad taste like something, wouldn't you?

tomatoes stuffed with chicken salad like alyce's mom used to make
                                                                                              serves 1
  • 1/2 cup each fresh spinach leaves and sliced cucumbers
  • 1 whole, ripe tomato sliced not-quite-all-the-way-through into eighths
  • 1 cup chopped or pulled chicken meat
  • 2 teaspoons minced red onion
  • 1/4 cup minced celery
  • generous pinch kosher salt
  • pinch each: fresh ground pepper, ground cayenne, ground sage, and dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard, optional
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice 
  • saltine crackers 
  • small piece cheddar cheese, extra sharp
Place spinach and sliced cucumbers around the edge of your plate and put the tomato in the center.  In a medium bowl, mix together well the chicken, onion, celery, spices, mayonnaise, and mustard, if using. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding a little more mayonnaise if your salad is too dry.  Spoon the chicken mixture into the tomato.  Drizzle the entire salad with lemon juice and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Eat immediately with saltine crackers, a small wedge of cheddar,  and  a big glass of iced tea.  (Sweet tea if you were my mom.)

Have fun cooking and taking care of yourself,


  1. I love the elegant way this looks on your plate…since I have a bunch of tomatoes ready to be picked…I will have to try it! Thanks for the inspiration!


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