In reality, I am pretty fussy when it comes to my salads, not just chicken salad. I've also got a tendency to go on and on. But, today, I've got to stay short and focused.
So, in culinary school, I learned that there are categories of salads. Who knew? I sure didn't. There are:
1. Tossed: You know, where everything's just chucked together, dropped onto a plate or into a bowl right before service. Sometimes the dressing is on the side, sometimes it's been tossed with the salad components. This is probably the easiest salad to do and the one we see the most at potlucks and restaurants...because, yeah.
2. Composed: Components of the salad are arranged on a plate in a certain way. Examples include the Cobb or a Nicoise. These take more time to prepare, obviously, and aren't optimal for large-group gatherings.
3. Bound: Components (usually non-leafy ones) are tossed together before being mixed with some kind of binding mixture. Usually this binder is a mayo-based. Examples include potato salads, macaroni salads, etc. Fairly easy to do in big batches.
The best word to describe me when it comes to salads is: neurotic. Lots of idiosyncrasies.
I have long since stopped buying potato salad. I've never found a good one that I like as much as homemade. I do not like mayo-based macaroni salads. I don't know why this is. Maybe I've seen too many sweetened macaroni salads with cubed yellow cheese and peas in my day. I prefer my dressing on the side when it comes to a tossed salad, because I want my salad a little dry. I do hate when my greens are drowning in soybean oil-laden dressing.
I dunno. Maybe I'm not so weird. It's irrelevant. I'm here to talk about chicken salad.
Chicken salad is delicious. I would eat it with a mouse, I would eat it in a house. I would eat it in a bar, I would eat it in my car. Well, only if I were the passenger...too risky otherwise.
Typical chicken salad contains the meat, the binder (usually mayo), seasonings like salt and pepper, something crunchy like nuts or celery (or both), and something sweet (like fruit). It's a great way to do something with those chicken breasts you don't feel like grilling. I usually cook mine in the crockpot for a few hours before dicing it up. It's light (perfect for summer, unless you eat the whole damned bowl in one go), versatile (wrap it in lettuce, put it on bread or crackers, eat it plain), and gets better the longer it sits in the fridge.
So I have diced chicken and some diced celery leftover from the buffalo chicken grilled cheese sammies I did for the food truck this week past. And I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Then I found an opened jar of apple jelly in the fridge...and some dried cranberries in my pantry. And yeah. Time to tweak the classic.
3 cups diced chicken
1 cup mayo
1 1/2 cup apple jelly
1 1/2 cup diced celery
1 cup dried cranberries
1 medium onion, diced
Salt and pepper to taste
I actually processed the jelly and mayo together so I got that smooth smoothness. And I tasted it. Mayo-y...sweetish. Needed something else
1/2 Tbsp curry powder
Curry-Apple Chicken Salad.
And we will be eating it ALL WEEK LONG. Probably could have added a little turmeric to help the color along (for more of that yellowish look), but I forgot. So, huh.