What could be simpler to make for a picnic or potluck than chicken salad? Or is it really that simple? A quick look in your favorite church cookbook and you’ll probably find at least three or four different variations on chicken salad. Head to the world wide web and you’ll find even more unique and different ways to make this classic dish.
Now around these parts most of us are probably used to preparing this dish using finely chopped chicken, mayonnaise, a little celery and onion, some pickle relish and maybe some pecans. Chicken salad is one of those foods, however, that cooks can argue until the cows come home about the proper way to do it. The type of mayonnaise used and how much to chop up the chicken are probably two of the most common arguments regarding chicken salad.
I grew up eating chicken salad made with very finely chopped chicken and plenty of Hellman’s mayonnaise. I have to confess, I think it’s one of those things I would eat because that is what Mamma was serving, but truthfully, it’s never been one of my favorites.
Having experienced some other ways to prepare chicken salad though, I have now come to appreciate the dish. I think the texture of the smaller chopped chicken is what used to turn me off about it. I prefer a chunkier chicken salad with grapes and apple chunks in the mix. The crisp fruit is a nice contrast to the mushier texture of the chicken and mayonnaise.
My sorority sister Ahdia said she likes to choose between cranberries, raisins or dried cherries to give a little sweetness to the dish. She said she also enjoys the crunch of the celery and nuts like pecans, walnuts or almonds. Ahdia also suggests letting the dish sit overnight for the flavors to meld before serving.
Jynell, another friend who weighed in on the great chicken salad debate, suggests adding dried currants and tarragon.
“My mother-in-law used to add chopped water chestnuts and curry powder — very good!” said my friend Leigh.
Dill is what my sister Allycia likes to use in her chicken salad. She also said she has started using avocado in place of mayonnaise.
How to make chicken salad, might be an even bigger debate than why the chicken crossed the road. The bottom line is, it’s another one of those dishes that is best when shared with dear friends and family.
Do you have a special chicken salad recipe? I’d love to try it, email me the recipe at email@example.com. I found the recipe below online and thought it sounded like a great summer way to add some pizzazz to chicken salad.
Pineapple Chicken Salad (recipe from TogetherAsFamily.com)
• 1 (8 ounces) package cream cheese
• 1 cup mayonnaise
• 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
• 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
• 1/2 teaspoons salt
• 1/4 teaspoons pepper
• 4 chicken breasts, or 1 whole rotisserie chicken, shredded [about 4 cups]
• 1 cup celery, finely chopped
• 1 1/2 cups red grapes, sliced lengthwise in half
• 1 cup sliced or slivered almonds
• 1 bunch green onions, chopped
• 1 (20 oz) crushed pineapple, drained well
• croissants or rolls
Instructions: Put cream cheese in a small bowl and microwave for 15-20 seconds to get soft. Add in mayo, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Mix. In large bowl, stir together the shredded chicken, celery, red grapes, almonds, green onions, and crushed pineapple. Pour dressing mix over and combine. Store in the fridge for at least 3 hours, the longer the better. Serve on croissants or rolls.
Kitsey E. Burns is a reporter for The Yadkin Ripple, here she shares her musings on food, life and love. She can be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.