If there’s one dish I associate with summer dining more than any other, it’s my Mom’s Chicken Salad! It’s easy to make, lends itself to a whole slew of presentations and is a great way to employ leftovers. And I love how it can be adapted to complement any menu theme or flavour profile!
Whether you serve it on a bed of pretty Lettuce Leaves as a light lunch, or in Finger Sandwiches at Tea Time, or in Pita Wraps anytime, Chicken Salad is a healthy, light and quick dish.
You can use any sort of cooked Chicken you have. I’ve used leftover Rotisserie Chicken from the Supermarket, pickings from a regular Sunday Dinner Roast Chicken carcass, even de-breaded Fried Chicken parts. But you’ll always get the best results if you roast fresh Chicken parts or simmer them in plain water or – better yet – Chicken Stock. Season the Chicken well with Salt and Pepper before cooking. Save the Stock to make Gravy or Soup later.
Remove the meat from the bones, then shred or cube the Chicken into bite-sized pieces. Add to other dry ingredients which you have previously prepared, while the Chicken was cooking.
For each 500 g of Chicken, allow one large stock of celery, diced into 1/4 in. / 1 cm pieces and two or three Scallions (Green Onions) sliced into similar-sized rounds. Use both the white and green parts of the Scallions. Throw out only the root ends.
For the wet Ingredients, start with 4 Tbsp. / 60 ml of the mayonnaise of your choice. Add a tsp. of Dijon or regular Yellow Mustard, a couple of healthy pinches of ground Cumin and a similar amount of ground Coriander. If you are going Italian/Mediterranean in your overall menu, you can also add just a pinch of Fennel to the foregoing, as well.
Why not substitute Sour Cream or Yoghurt for the Mayo? It’s entirely up to you!
A world of flavours at your fingertips!
If you want to go Spanish, hold the Fennel and add a few pinches of Paprika. If you want to go North African, use a little Ras al Hanout (a traditional Moroccan spice blend). For Caribbean or Mexican, try a little fresh Jalapeño and a squeeze of lime. Go with a dollop of your favourite Curry Paste or Curry Powder for Asian variations. Get the picture? Just don’t go overboard with the Spices and Herbs! You’ll smother the chicken flavour, itself.
Add the chicken and ‘dry’ ingredients to the dressing and mix thoroughly with a fork or a large spoon, until all dry ingredients are covered with the Mayo sauce. If you use commercially-made Mayo, the Salad will keep for a couple of days. If you make your own mayo, make only as much salad as you need for the imminent meal and consume it all at the one sitting. Keep refrigerated until it’s time to eat.
I’ll be sharing some secrets of Mom’s other summer standbys in coming posts. Stay tuned!
~ Maggie J.