Sunday, 20 October 2013

For Ray Bradbury (1920 - 2012),

“He stood for a few moments, looking about. Behind him the rain whirled at the door. Ahead of him on a low table, stood a silver pot of hot chocolate, steaming, and a cup, full, with a marshmallow in it. And beside that, on another tray, stood thick sandwiches of rich chicken meat and fresh cut tomatoes and green onions.”
-  The Long Rain

The characters in The Long Rain are stuck on the planet Venus in a ceaseless, driving rain. There are supposedly Sun Domes on the planet which will offer respite from the rain, but they are impossible to get into.

Aucklanders are uniquely qualified to understand Bradbury's short story. As we emerge from yet another drizzly winter, we anticipate the moments of spring sunshine that might poke out from between the rain clouds – but somehow they never seem to arrive. Does that make us quasi-residents of the planet Venus? The rest of New Zealand might see some merit in that theory.

The other group uniquely qualified to relate to endless downpours is academics. Perhaps I'm only saying this because it's late October, and the semester is ending, and an unstoppable deluge of assignments and exam scripts are flooding in. But the sunny domes of research time are harder and harder to break into, and the fat droplets of student writing are hitting me in the face. 

What will become of those of us who fit into the double-category of Aucklander and academic? I anticipate drowning. (Though the liquid of choice for academics at the end of the semester is wine, so it might be OK.) I also anticipate having no time to do anything more complex in the kitchen than slap ingredients onto other ingredients. Which is why I can totally relate to the desire of Bradbury's characters to find something simple and warming so that at least the inside of their bodies are a bit warmer than the outside.

I’ve already settled on the perfect hot chocolate, but the perfect chicken sandwich is something I’ve been labouring over for many a delicious lunchtime. The essentials are: 1) ultra-fresh bread; 2) hot chicken, straight from the oven (or rotisserie bag); 3) some kind of toasted seed or nut; and 4) double spreads – one for each half of the bread.

This particular sandwich uses drumstick meat, baby spinach, fresh tomatoes, hummus, guacamole, and toasted sunflower seeds on a warm baguette. I've had similar success with breast meat, salads, aioli, sundried tomato spread, and toasted pinenuts. It's a permissive formula. 

It's also about as much cooking as I want to do in late October. You hear me, fellow academics? I'm already planning my next meal. Let me hear ya say taaaaake-ouuuut!

Restorative Chicken Baguette

Makes 2 hefty-sized sandwiches


1 baguette (I used a soft Italian-style one)
4 chicken drumsticks, roasted or rotisserie
1/2C guacamole (this is my favourite quick recipe)
1/2C hummus
1C baby spinach leaves
2 tomatoes, sliced
2 tbsp sunflower seeds


With the oven at around 180C, warm the bread and toast the sunflower seeds together for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, strip the meat off the drumsticks and set aside. 
To assemble the sandwiches, cut the baguette into halves and split each half. Spread a thick layer of hummus on one side of the bread, and an equally thick layer of guacamole on the other. Stuff in the spinach, tomato and chicken meat, and sprinkle over the sunflower seeds.

Eat over a plate or a napkin - these are messy!

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