Sunday, March 25, 2012

Curried Chicken Salad

This is a combo of lots of different recipes I've tried for this -- some that I've made in restaurants, some at home, my mom's recipe growing up.... Curried Chicken Salad seems to be gaining in popularity, and the best thing about chicken salads in general are that they can be made with basically any combination of different materials you have in your cupboard. Of course, traditional chicken salad includes grapes, celery, chicken, mayonnaise, and spices to taste (usually plain old pepper for mine, I like it to taste really simple, clean, and fresh.) I started using a rotisserie chicken for my chicken salad a few years ago - it makes a large amount of chicken salad and if you want to have chicken for dinner the same night, you can use it in pasta or just eat some of the chicken for lunch. Plus the fact that the chicken has been slow cooked with sauces keeps your salad from getting dried out or tasting bland. If you can find it, a rosemary enhanced bird is my absolute favorite.

First, determine your ingredients. I prefer all chicken salads to have at least 2 types of fresh fruit, a few different kinds of nuts, a dried fruit (cranberries or raisins are spectacular here), mayonnaise for the base, and then spices. For this one we'll obviously be using curry, but I decided to use all of the following ingredients:

1 Rotisserie chicken (a small chicken makes for enough chicken salad for a few people for 2 days, or one person to have for lunch for about a week.) 
Mayonnaise (your preference, I'm a blue-ribbon girl all the way, personally)
Granny Smith Apple
Grapes (halved)
Dried Cranberries
Sunflower Seeds
(I cheat a bit here and use a fruit-and-nut trail mix that includes sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts and cashews. I like a lot of crunch in my salad!)
Yellow Curry
Chili Powder (a little goes a long way but can add some spicy sweetness with the cinnamon)
Lemon Juice

I don't really cook anything to specific ratios, so the best I can tell you is to do what feels right. Mix the drier ingredients (like the chicken, fruits, nuts, seeds) together. Mix the mayonnaise with the spices to taste in another bowl -- this will help you get the sauce ratio right for you without it being oddly distributed in the final batch. Add a teensy dash of lemon juice if you are putting apples in your salad - this will keep them from turning brown on you. Also, if you have a more delicate fruit like a blueberry, this will keep it from being totally crushed when you mix the batch up, since you only have to mix it once! After it's done, I like to pile it on a bed of lettuce and top it with some cucumber, with hummus on the side. It makes great lunches and snacks!

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