Sunday, March 15, 2015

Awesome Chicken Salad

This chicken salad has many ingredients that make it tasty. 

How can you go wrong with green apples, capers, pecans and cranberries? 

I have been making this chicken salad for a few years now and have made adjustments throughout the years but it's always a hit. If I bring it for lunch to work, I have to bring a large bowl to share. It's often requested for potlucks as well.

The recipe originally started as a means to get rid of the chicken that was a byproduct of homemade chicken soup. I would have all of this chicken meat and it seemed to make sense to use it this way because boiled chicken on its own is not too appetizing. However, at some point, the roles were reversed. I started using a rotisserie chicken for the chicken soup and learned quickly that I could just take the good meat ahead of time and set it aside for the chicken salad, and then use the leftovers and carcass for the soup.

I buy a rotisserie chicken and carefully select the meat that I would like for the salad, pulling it apart by hand. The pieces that are not as "select" get placed in a freezer bag, along with the bones for another day when I plan on making soup. As you can see from this bowl of chicken, the majority of what I use is the breast meat but I do pick through the dark meat as well, looking for pieces without much fat or gristle.

I add about 1/2 to 2/3 of a cup of mayo to start. You can always add more mayo later when you start mixing the other ingredients so I would rather begin with too little than too much. To this I add a little bit of lemon juice which adds some acidic balance to the dish but also helps to preserve the apples that I am going to add. After I have given it a quick mix with a fork, I add dried cranberries, a cut up Granny Smith apple, pecans, capers and spices. If there is celery in the house, I add that too, but since I only use one or two ribs, I don't buy celery just for this recipe. Between the green apples and pecans, you will have plenty of crunch.

Spices, you ask? Well now that's when the secret ingredients come into play. . . Salt and pepper are standard and probably not a huge surprise here. Cayenne pepper adds a little heat. . . But most importantly is Garam Masala. It's an Indian spice with cardamon, cinnamon and cumin and it just adds a little something to this dish that I have grown to love. I will put estimates for all of these ingredients in the recipe below but please know that this is to taste. you may like it a little hotter or a little tarter. It's entirely up to you.

Once I have mixed everything together and tasted it, I often choose to add a bit more of a spice or a little more mayo. Mayo in chicken salad is all about balance and it will depend on how dry the chicken is, and how the ingredients are coming together, for you to get it just the way you like it.

Awesome Chicken Salad Recipe

1 rotisserie chicken, meat shredded and picked over (save other remnants and bones for soup)
1/2 - 2/3 cup mayo
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 medium size Granny Smith apple, cut into chunks
1/4 cup pecan pieces
3 Tablespoons capers
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/8 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper (Red Pepper)
1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala
Salt and Pepper to taste

Add mayo to chicken in a large bowl and toss. Add lemon juice and mix again.

Add apples, pecans, capers, cranberries and spices. Toss ingredients together. At this point you may want to add more mayo or spices. Adjust to taste.

Serve with crackers or on toasted bread.

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