In early February, the members of Groton’s Board of Education met for its retreat. Since I am a new member, I was truly excited to sit with my fellow members along with the superintendent and assistant superintendent. I didn’t actually realize that many of us are new members, since some are two-year members and some four-year members. Each is elected and, in many cases (including mine), the roles changed from Democrats to Republicans.
I thought there might be some partisan bickering (see Trump and all the Republican skirmishes and Clinton-Sanders disagreements), but in Groton it was non-partisan before the election and after. I liked the concept of a retreat, off the record and into a new venue, this year at the Submarine Museum. For four hours we newbies asked questions for which the superintendents and the veteran members had answers.
Best of all was the food. I agreed to make the desserts, which everybody enjoyed. (Restaurant owners know that if the meal is mediocre, delicious desserts can save the day.) But Andrea Ackerman, former Groton teacher and principal, handled the savories. I think it is fun to make pastries and sweet stuff, but when I smell cabbages and quiches, I begin to salivate. I especially like standby dishes that include twists and turns that I never thought would work.
Andrea’s chicken salad was my favorite. For me, chicken salad (and I do love chicken salad) is always the last thing I make with the roasted chicken that goes from Sunday dinner, to a chicken and gravy sandwich, to an omelet with vegetables and chicken, and, three days later, chicken salad. For Andrea, it is the first meal, which begins with poached chicken tenders. And she says it is even better the next day.
From Andrea Ackerman, Ed.D., Nonaka resident and assistant chair of the Groton School Board
As with most savory dishes, this is approximately how Andrea makes it. If you like more of one thing or less of another, taste as you go.
Yield: serves 2 (for dinner) or 4 (for lunch)
1 pound chicken tenders
Sprinkle with garlic salt, steam and let cool. Cut into ½-inch cubes.
1 cup mayonnaise (she likes Cain’s but I’m sure Hellman’s would be fine)
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Garlic salt/garlic powder/pepper
1 full teaspoon celery seed
1 small onion, diced
1 or 2 celery stalks, diced
¼ cup dried cranberries (or Craisins)
¼ cup chopped pecans
¼ cup chopped walnuts
Season to taste with garlic salt/garlic powder/pepper
Fold in dressing. Add more mayonnaise if it seems dry.
Again, these measurements are good guesses, and everything tastes better the next day.
Nibbles: New (to me) Restaurants
I don’t write restaurant reviews anymore. Mostly I cook, write about cooking and eat my own food. I do go out to eat, but often only to restaurants I love. But in a one-week span, I ate at two new restaurants and one I reviewed almost 25 years ago.
The nearly-three-decades-old restaurant is the Willimantic Brewing Company in Willimantic. It is bigger, as is the menu. We shared barbecued pork sliders and chicken pesto sliders. Both were luscious.
At a new place in Norwich, These Guys, I had a superb Caesar salad, a roast vegetable grilled cheese sandwich and, instead of fries, I had a side of Brussels sprouts. All terrific.
At Smokash, in Uncasville, I had pierogis, kielbasa and sauerkraut. Two days later I ordered it again and took it to a Polish friend who was in the hospital.
Restaurants are alive and well, even north and west of the shoreline.
About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day.