Chicken Salad is a personal thing. I think there are as many recipes for chicken salad as there are personalities. They range from savory, to nutty and fruity, to pickle-y, to curried, to sweet, to smooth, to chunky… you get my point. My favorite bought Chicken Salad is from Bread and Company. They actually have 3 types: Curried, Honey Walnut and Almond Tarragon. I like them all, but Honey Walnut is my favorite! They have this amazing artisan cranberry walnut bread. Their chicken salad sandwich, made with that bread is called the “Iroquois”. It’s super special. In fact, during my third child’s labor and delivery, when I was trying to find a “focal point” to help me deal with my pain, I thought of an Iroquois Sandwich and Fruit Tea
from Bread and Company. I know, kind of ridiculous. My focal point was not Hawaii, or some beautiful beach, or a sunset, or the sight of my sweet baby on her way, but a chicken salad sandwich. Call me a realist. I think I was focusing on the immediate reward that I imagined could actually be at the end of this anguish. And it worked. And she popped out, and my in-laws went promptly to Bread and Company and fulfilled my dreams with my focal point-lunch!
So, I guess you could say I have a strong connection with Chicken Salad. The good news with making it, is that you can’t go wrong and you really don’t need a recipe. You just need some good ingredients and some test-drives to find the way you like it.
For me, the key ingredients are: Mayonnaise, Chicken (of course), grapes (or other fruits are good too), honey, nuts, a little lemon juice, salt and pepper.
I sometimes add chopped celery, and onion – depending on who my eaters are.
I like a thick, smooth chicken salad. Some people prefer cubed or chunked chicken.
If you like a smoother, creamy chicken salad, then I have a trick for you that I just learned this past year – use a stand mixer to tear/smooth the chicken! In a matter of seconds, the chicken goes from hunks, to pulled, creamy chicken! (Thank you, Casey, for this great tip!)
This recipe really isn’t a recipe. To those who love a recipe with exact measurements, this might drive you a little crazy.
1. Cook your chicken.
You can roast it: brush with olive oil, sprinkle with coarse salt and ground pepper, place on a baking sheet and roast it in a 400˚ oven until done.
You can boil it: place your chicken in a pot of boiling water with some large chunks of onions (and celery and carrots if you want).
You can crock pot cook it: A great tip that came from Connie via her mother-in-law is to place your frozen chicken breasts, and chunks of onion (and carrots and celery if you want) in a crock pot and cook on low until the chicken cooks to pulling-apart tenderness. It is moist and tender.
Or…you can start with a rotisserie chicken
. Just tear off the meat you want to use and you are set.
Cook your chicken, by the method of your choosing, then chop or dice if that’s your desired outcome, or put in the mixer for a creamed effect.
2. Then, add Mayo. People are crazy-devoted to their mayo. Have you experienced this? Some are Hellman’s-purists, some are Miracle Whip people, some are low-fat, some see that as an abomination. And then there are Duke’s fans. Regardless, mayo is key in Chicken Salad.
I add some lemon juice (start with about a teaspoon) to the mayonnaise and then I add it by the large spoonfuls and mix between additions to ensure that it is creamy enough but not gloppy with mayonnaise.
3. Salt and Pepper to taste. Obviously.
4. The personality: And here is where the road diverges and you must make your decision about spices
: tarragon, honey, onion, curry. You have to choose.
And “mix ins”: Raisins, grapes, sliced almonds, toasted pecans, walnuts, pickles, chopped celery, chopped onion. And those of you who love measurements in recipes, I am sorry, there really can’t be, since you don’t know exactly how much meat you will have, or how creamy, nutty, flavored you’ll need it.
Keep refrigerated after preparation.
I have wondered when to post about chicken salad, pondering which season is the most chicken salad-ish. I think it is a good summer meal, cold and yet hearty. Lovely on a bed of lettuce, or with a tomato, or scooped on a pineapple boat. It is a great spring picnic item. But it’s on my mind because I have eaten it twice in the past few weeks. Nashville weather last week was warm and springy and this week it was blistery and flurrying. So, really this can be an anytime dish.
This is the pineapple trick that my mom taught me. She has served this at ladies lunches before. It is delicious and lovely . Chop the top off of the pineapple. Quarter it. Shimmy a sharp, long knife between the outside skin and the fruit to separate it from the skin, starting on one end and working all the way around the piece. Slice the long hard core piece away from the top, making it flat instead of pointed. Slice in thin slices. For the fancy zig zag effect, just gently push the pieces with your pointer fingers.
Then plop a big scoop of chicken salad on top and you are ready to have a luncheon.
I’d love to hear your favorite methods, ingredients, ideas for Chicken Salad YOUR Way!