Accidentally Cooking

Documenting my mistakes in the garden, kitchen and pantry

Chicken Salad

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There are two recipes I make regularly that I think are strong enough to form the foundation of a menu if I ever wanted to start my own restaurant. Sometimes I think about doing exactly that, but then I remember that the restaurant business involves hard work, long hours, and no software. Full Stop. Instead, I think I’ll just keep making these favorites for family and friends.

The first is my French Onion Soup. It doesn’t always turn out, but when it does the results are phenomenal. The second is my Chicken Salad recipe. Actually, it’s not my recipe originally. I learned it from my mother, who learned it from her mother. I’m not sure if that’s the end of the chain, either. Regardless, the recipe is fantastic and people always love it every time I make it.

This chicken salad recipe is unique, I’ve never known another person to make it the same way (besides my family, of course). Other people have stumbled onto the same general idea: add a little sweetness to the chicken salad. I’ve seen other people instead add sliced grapes, diced apples, orange marmalade, or some other fruit products. All valiant efforts, but this version is, I think, superior to all the rest.

In addition to the Macaroni and Cheese recipe we also made another big batch of chicken salad for Easter, and everybody loved it like usual. Without further adieu, here is my chicken salad recipe:

Nana’s Chicken Salad

  1. Boneless, skinless chicken breast
  2. Celery (approx. 1 stalk for every 2-3 breasts)
  3. Celery Seed
  4. Carrots (approx. 1 carrot for every 2-3 breasts)
  5. Black Peppercorns
  6. Bay Leaves (approx. 1 bay leaf for every 4-6 breasts)
  7. Salt
  8. Mayonnaise
  9. Major Grey’s Chutney

Put the chicken in a large pot and cover with cold water. Add roughly broken stalks of celery and peeled, roughly broken carrots to pot. Add a handful of pepper corns, a generous sprinkle of celery seed, a sprinkle of salt, and bay leaves. Bring the pot to a boil on high heat, then turn it down to about 75% or less so it keeps boiling but doesn’t go all crazy. Give it a quick stir after it gets going to make sure the chicken on the bottom isn’t getting burned. Continue boiling, covered and undisturbed, for about 1 hour or more.

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Remove chicken from pot. Remove stuck-on peppercorns and allow to cool. Once cool, pat off any extra water and chop your chicken into bite-sized cubes. The meat should be falling apart and stringy, and the cubes will further fall apart once you start mixing so you don’t need to be too precise. Put the chicken into a large mixing bowl. Discard the broth and the vegetables.

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Add a generous sprinkle of salt and fresh cracked black pepper to the chicken. Add mayonnaise and chutney to the chicken in about a one-to-one ratio. Start small, mixing and testing for flavor and consistency. Remember that you can always add more of the dressing, but you can’t take it away. The mayo adds creaminess and richness. It also helps to cut some of the sweetness and tartness from the chutney. The chutney, of course, adds the characteristic “OMG What is that!?!” flavor that people love so much. Salt, as I mentioned, is going to be very important to add because the chicken will be so absorbent of flavors. If you’re at a good consistency but the flavor isn’t bright enough, try adding a bit more salt.

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Dana likes the chicken salad with mustard. I like it plain. It goes great on almost any type of bread or croissants. Sometimes we’ll eat it with lettuce and a big fresh slice of tomato or avocato (or both!).  Most of the time it’s perfect all by itself.

Variations

  1. Add finely diced celery to the mixture, for a little extra crunch and flavor.
  2. Add finely diced raisins, craisins or dried tart cherries. Add a mixture of all three. The extra sweetness and tartness from these fruits makes the salad even more bright and luxurious.
  3. Diced sundried tomatoes bring a slightly more mature, though more subtle, flavor.
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Author: Andrew Whitworth

I'm a software engineer from Philadelphia PA. Sometimes I like to go out to my garden, or step into my kitchen and make a really big mess of things.

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