While it may not feel like it in many parts of the country, it’s the middle of March and spring is here. That means it’s time for chicken salad. No, not lettuce with grilled chicken on top. In the South, it’s all about chicken, celery — and maybe nuts and fruit — all wrapped up in a blanket of mayo. That’s chicken salad.
Give me a second to toot my own horn. I’m known for my chicken salad. When the kids were in high school, I made it once for Teacher Appreciation Day and for years afterward, was asked to make it time and again. The same thing happened when I took a bowl of it to a potluck lunch one day at work, That became my signature dish. I couldn’t figure out why no one else could make it, but I was told by several people that they tried and just couldn’t get it right. They either used too much mayonnaise, too much salt, not enough chicken — or used white meat only. White meat’s good, but it’s also dry. If you add a cupful of chopped dark meat, the chicken salad becomes more flavorful and definitely more moist. That may be the key.
During this crazy pandemic year, I’ve had a chance to make some dishes I’ve never had recipes for — those kind of recipes you know by heart that need no written instructions. In doing so, I’ve taken notes when I add an ingredient, actually using a measuring cup or spoons rather than eyeballing it. My chicken salad was one.
For goodness sake, don’t use canned chicken. Boil your own chicken or use a rotisserie chicken. If you boil your own bird, season the water with garlic powder, onion powder, celery salt and a stalk or two of celery and some chopped onion. You’ll thank yourself when you taste the delicious broth resulting from simmering the chicken for an hour or two. The broth makes amazing chicken and dumplings or chicken soup. Rotisserie chicken adds a lot of flavor, too.
So here’s my recipe for chicken salad. You can substitute chopped grapes or apples for the cherries. but why would you want to?
Cherry Chicken Salad
4-5 cups chopped cooked chicken (white and dark meat)
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 (5-ounce) package dried cherries
1- 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1/2-1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients, adding more mayonnaise as needed to bind it all together. Taste and add more salt, if needed. Makes 6-8 servings.