A super sale on boneless, skinless chicken breasts and a creative chicken salad recipe from reader, Valerie Best, of Bluffton, put me on a chicken salad-making frenzy that lasted pretty much throughout last weekend.
Besides Best's recipe for Caribbean Chicken Salad, brimming with the tropical flavors of pineapple, coconut, macadamia nuts and Caribbean Jerk seasoning, I also decided to make curried chicken salad with pecans and a chicken-pasta salad with hard-boiled eggs and lots of crunchy fresh vegetables.
When it comes to chicken salad, many people are purists, favoring it plain with just mayonnaise and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Some want their salad with a little minced celery and onion mixed in and others enjoy it fully loaded with nuts and fruits and a wide array of herbs and spices. To some folks, the way cooked chicken is cut for the salad is important, too, with many preferring chicken cubed or chopped, as opposed to shredded or torn.
All of the salads here were made from poached chicken breasts made at home, but if you are short on time, you can make tasty salads from rotisserie chickens purchased at the supermarket -- ready made for mixing into a salad or simply placed on top of a bed of greens and drizzled with dressing. Whether it's chicken made into a salad, or a salad made with chicken, chicken can feed a family on a budget. If you can pick up chicken on sale, purchase several packages for using now or freezing for use later. But, even if chicken is not on sale where you shop, but it anyway. The price is always reasonable and the season continuously good.
Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This recipe, shared by Ellie Bollin, of Hilton Head Island, continues to be one of the most popular recipes ever to appear in this column.
2 pounds boneless, skinless, trimmed chicken breasts
3/4 cup diced celery
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons golden raisins
1 1/2 tablespoons dried apricots, diced
1cup Hellman's mayonnaise
3/4 cup Major Grey's chutney*
2 teaspoons curry powder
Sliced almonds, toasted
Fruit salad, for garnishing
Place chicken in a large skillet in a single layer with water to cover. Heat to a simmer and poach very gently until done, about 6 minutes, depending on thickness of chicken. Remove chicken to cool. When cool, cut into large dice. Place chicken in a large bowl with celery, parsley, raisins and apricots; mix to combine. For dressing, pure chutney with curry powder in a food processor or blender. Add mayonnaise and pulse until blended. Mix dressing into chicken mixture by large spoonfuls until desired consistency is achieved.
Serve on lettuce leaves, garnished with fruit and almonds.
*Kitchen Ade Note: I found the chutney in the pickle/olive aisle of the supermarket.
1 pound pasta, shells or elbow macaroni
3 cups diced cooked chicken
3 stalks celery, diced
1/2 small Vidalia onion, minced
1 small carrot, minced
1/2 medium green bell pepper, chopped
2 cups Hellman's mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream, regular or light
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
4 hard-boiled eggs, sliced, for garnish
2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley, for garnish
Cook pasta until tender (al dente), then drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Place thoroughly drained pasta in a large mixing bowl and chill. (Do not skip this step -- the chilling will keep your pasta from falling apart when mixing the salad.) In a separate bowl, mix the mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Stir in the vegetables and chicken.
Gently fold the chicken mixture into the chilled pasta. Cover and chill for several hours or overnight to blend flavors. Before serving, stir pasta mixture gently, garnishing with hard boiled eggs and parsley.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Bluffton's Valerie Best is a good cook and an accomplished baker. If Best's name looks familiar, it's for good reason. Best took first place honors in the Bluffton Today Holiday Cookie Contest for the past two years in a row.
3 1/2 cups finely diced cooked chicken
2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Kosher salt, or to taste*
3/4 teaspoon Caribbean Jerk seasoning
1/2 cup toasted coconut flakes
1/2 cup pineapple tidbits, quartered
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts
In a small bowl, combine the lime juice, mayonnaise, salt* and Caribbean Jerk seasoning. Toss with chicken, coconut, pineapple and nuts. Serve warm or chilled. Makes about 4 servings.
*Kitchen Ade Note: I used Sauer brand Jamaican Jerk seasoning. It already contained salt, so I did not have to add any salt to the recipe. Check your brand of jerk seasoning for salt and consider it when preparing this dish.
4 cups cooked and cubed chicken
1/2 cup toasted pecan pieces, plus whole pecans for garnishing
1 cup Hellman's mayonnaise
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
3/4 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
Dash cayenne pepper
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together all the ingredients, except for the chicken and nuts, blending well. Place chicken and pecan pieces in a large mixing bowl. Fold in dressing, using just enough dressing to coat chicken. Add more dressing, as needed.
Serve on a bed of lettuce, garnished with whole pecan pieces.
Makes 4 servings.
One pound of raw boneless, skinless chicken breasts will yield approximately three cups, or 12-ounces, of diced cooked chicken, with no waste. For the purposes of comparison, three pounds of cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts (upper left) yielded the same amount of meat as five pounds of chicken purchased with its skin and ribs left on, so calculate waste when purchasing chicken for making salad. The price of chicken breasts, depending on how they are offered, varies widely, so check to see what you are buying. Chicken tenderloins and thin-sliced chicken cutlets are pricey and not the best choice for making salad, unless you plan to cook them in the microwave oven where uniform size and thickness is important.
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