Cluck, Cluck ~ A Chick Dish?

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 Chicken Salad ~ 1 foundation, 2 recipes

Chicken salad might be the foundation to every ladies’ luncheon and yet, often, it is a soup of mayonnaise lacking any noticeable amount of its namesake ~ chicken!

When I was at the WSFA-12’s studio waiting to do my segment, a PR person noticed the “beauties” [the camera ready finished dishes] I had done and said, “Oh the ladies luncheon clubs will love this!”

“Oh yes, they will,” I said, affecting the slightest of Southern accents, hidden in the back of my enthusiastic reply. But … Inside, I was thinking, “Why is chicken salad automatically a ‘women’s dish’—is it too precious for a man to eat?”

I’m here to say that I don’t think it is. In fact, after the segment, the camera guys were all, “I usually don’t like chicken salad, BUT this is great. And it looks really easy to make!”

The success of chicken salad is based on two things:

1. Poaching the chicken—keeping it moist, while flavoring it with onions, carrots, celery, peppercorns and bay leaf. PLUS—in the process, you make chicken stock and nothing beats that for future-use flavor in soups and sauces.

2. Mayonnaise restraint—adding only enough the bind the salad together. Remember, it is not a “Mayonnaise Salad with Chicken!”

Here are 2 chicken salads built on the same poaching foundation.

Dempsey Chicken Salad is named after my friend Cindy, who first prepared it for me. I liked the crunch of the celery, the background hint of onion without having to bite into raw minced pieces, and the toasted almonds really had their nutty flavor up front.

Okay, I will admit that she is a member of the Junior League, so this chicken salad does have a ladies’ luncheon history; however, toast some thick-sliced artisan bread, spread with LITTLE mayo, a heaping serving of the chicken salad, a few extra fresh cracks of black pepper, and finished with some peppery arugula or crunchy Romaine lettuce and this is a sandwich that would survive any beer gathering of guys.

I developed the Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad recipe after speaking with a friend of mine who said she used yogurt to cut the amount of mayo in her chicken salad. I thought lemon Greek yogurt would add additional protein to the dish (Greek yogurt has twice the amount of protein than regular non-fat yogurt) ~ something that makes this a healthy salad to dive into after a workout, when your body is craving protein and something of substance. Red grapes are in keeping with the “Greek” theme and instead of using toasted almonds, which would be Greek, I thought I would use toasted pecans. They are Southern and bring a smoky, hearty crunch to this salad—again, pushing beyond the notion that chicken salad is a “chick dish”—if you’ll pardon the pun.

Below are the recipes and I hope you’ll take the extra time to poach the chicken and reserve the stock for future use (it can be kept in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for up to 6 months).

Whether you are having the ladies over for your next function or you are looking for some good protein after a workout, these recipes are sure to please whoever gathers around your table!

Buon Appetito~

Mark

 

Dempsey Chicken Salad

To poach the chicken:

4 large (3 3/4 to 4 1/4 pounds) chicken breasts with ribs

1 large yellow onion, quartered with skin left on

2 stalks celery, roughly chopped

2 carrots, roughly chopped

1 teaspoon black peppercorns, whole

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

2 bay leaves

To assemble the salad:

1/2 to 3/4 cup mayonnaise

4 teaspoons grated fresh yellow onion, more to taste

2 stalks celery, cut in half lengthwise, then cut into ¼-inch-thick slices

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, more to taste

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, more to taste

1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted

In a large soup pot, place the chicken, onion (include the onion skins for color), celery, carrots, peppercorns and bay leaves. Cover with water to 1-inch above the chicken (approximately 8 cups). Turn the heat on high and bring the pot to a full boil. Once boiling, cover the pot, leaving the lid slightly ajar, turn heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, cover and let the chicken cool in the pot for 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken to a cutting board to cool. Meanwhile, strain and discard the vegetables, peppercorns and bay leaves from the cooking liquid—broth. Reserve the broth in an airtight container for future use—will last up to a week in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and remove the meat from the bones, discarding the bones.

Cut the de-boned chicken into 1/2-inch cubes and place into a large bowl. Add a 1/2 cup mayonnaise, grated onion, celery, salt and pepper, mixing together with a large spoon until combined. If necessary, add additional mayonnaise, a tablespoon at a time, until the mixture holds together—be careful not to add too much mayonnaise. You only want to use enough mayonnaise to bring the salad together. Stir in the almonds. Taste and adjust the seasoning with additional grated onion, salt and pepper. [NOTE: I really like mine on the peppery-side, so I always add additional grinds of black pepper!]

Makes 5 to 5 1/2 cups. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad

To poach the chicken:

4 large (3 3/4 to 4 1/4 pounds) chicken breasts with ribs

1 large yellow onion, quartered with skin left on

2 stalks celery, roughly chopped

2 carrots, roughly chopped

1 teaspoon black peppercorns, whole

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

2 bay leaves

To assemble:

1/4 to 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, lemon, non-fat  (regular yogurt, lemon, non-fat may be substituted)

1/4 to 1/2 cup mayonnaise

4 teaspoons grated fresh yellow onion, more to taste

2 stalks celery, cut in half lengthwise, then cut into ¼-inch-thick slices

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro (optional) (freshly chopped mint may be substituted)

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, more to taste

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup seedless red grapes, halved

1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted and then chopped (toasted slivered almonds may be substituted)

*To serve in orange cups:

4 oranges

Fresh cilantro sprigs to garnish

In a large soup pot, place the chicken, onion (include the onion skins for color), celery, carrots, peppercorns and bay leaves. Cover with water to 1-inch above the chicken (approximately 8 cups). Turn the heat on high and bring the pot to a full boil. Once boiling, cover the pot, leaving the lid slightly ajar, turn heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, cover and let the chicken cool in the pot for 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken to a cutting board to cool. Meanwhile, strain and discard the vegetables, peppercorns and bay leaves from the cooking liquid—broth. Reserve the broth in an airtight container for future use—will last up to a week in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and remove the meat from the bones, discarding the bones.

Cut the de-boned chicken into 1/2-inch cubes and place into a large bowl. Add a 1/4 cup yogurt, 1/4 cup mayonnaise, grated onion, celery, ginger, cilantro, salt and pepper. Add additional yogurt and mayonnaise, alternating a tablespoon each at a time, until the mixture holds together—be careful not to add too much yogurt and mayonnaise. You only want to use enough to bring the salad together. Gently stir in the grapes and pecans. Taste and adjust the seasoning with additional grated onion, salt and pepper. [NOTE: I really like mine on the peppery-side, so I always add additional grinds of black pepper!]

Makes 5 to 5 1/2 cups. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

*To serve in orange cups:

Cut each orange in half crosswise, scoop out the flesh using a grapefruit knife or a juicer, being careful not to tear the outside skin of the orange. One orange will make two “cups.” Cut a small piece of skin off the bottom of each cup so it will sit flat without rolling. Fill each cup with a 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the chicken salad, garnish with a sprig of fresh cilantro.

About the Author

Mark LeslieMark Leslie, seen cooking on NBC’s "The Today Show" and Hallmark Channel's "Home & Family," loves to cook for anyone with an appetite, vacations in Italy every year, and lives to eat his way through every plate of pasta and cone of gelato placed before him. His first book, “Beyond the Pasta: Recipes, Language & Life with an Italian Family,” tells of his life in Italy while cooking with an Italian grandmother. He shares his food experiences on his blog at www.beyondthepasta.com and has taught cooking classes in California, Georgia, Minnesota, Texas, and across Alabama. While judging for high school culinary events, he was chosen by the US Department of Education to judge for their "National Education Startup Challenge." Mark can be regularly seen cooking on NBC-affiliate, WSFA-TV 12's "Alabama Live! each Friday, bringing easy, locally sourced recipes to central Alabama. His iTunes app “Beyond the Pasta” features helpful videos and more of Nonna’s family-style recipes that she shared with him, plus, upon its release, it was named “New & Noteworthy” by Apple. DaVinci Wines chose Mark as their "2012 Storyteller" in Language Arts—where they sent him to Vinci, Italy, to write about wine, food and life. Mark, his home and book have been featured in such national publications and blogs as House Beautiful, Paula Deen, Food Republic, The Kitchn, Apartment Therapy, Field & Stream, and The Daily Meal. A Chicago-area native and “Yankee” by birth, Mark has lived in Alabama for over 24 years, and celebrates the fact that he started life eating farina, progressed to grits, and finally arrived at polenta. Buonissimo!View all posts by Mark Leslie →

"Beyond the Pasta" is owned and operated by Mark Leslie. Unless otherwise specified all content, writing, recipes and photography is original and held in copyright through the Library of Congress. It may not be used without the express written consent of Mark Leslie.