With the weather hovering between spring and summer, I’m already cooking as if it’s summer.
Last week I was casting around for an idea for what to serve to a group of 14 for lunch.
I’m a chicken salad fan from way back, and there are lots of ways to make it.
Since for this occasion I was unable to choose just one rendition, I decided to create different combinations: classic, curry, and grapes with pecans.
This trio of chicken salad offered a wonderful variety of flavors and textures. Because it can be made a day or two ahead, chicken salad is a favorite for weddings, showers, luncheons, or graduation parties, or just about any kind of gathering.
Curried chicken salad, one of my favorites, also travels very well, making it a great summer potluck dish and a terrific filling for sandwiches for a day at the beach.
I served my trio with a mixed green salad and a basket filled with rolls and croissants. Guests could choose to make a sandwich or put the chicken salad over the greens.
The surprise hit of the chicken threesome was the curried.
The one tricky part of making curried chicken salad is the curry. Most curry blends include ground cumin, coriander, cardamom, cayenne, dry mustard and turmeric, which imparts its characteristic yellow color. The spice blend, a staple of Indian cuisine, comes in countless varieties.
Madras curry powder, which is much hotter, contains chilies and fragrant curry leaves. It should be used very sparingly.
Yes, you can poach fresh chicken breasts for this recipe, but on a 90-degree day, why would you? There’s nothing wrong with zipping out to the grocery store and buying rotisserie chickens.
I find even though there is some dark meat, a roasted breast is more moist flavorful than a poached breast. Not only that, it shaves about a half hour off your cooking time.
The remaining ingredients in the salad can be adapted to suit individual tastes. A bit of crunch can be added with a handful of peanuts, almonds, cashews or diced celery.
To reduce the amount of mayonnaise, substitute yogurt. In addition to the currants or raisins, add dried apricots for more sweetness. Try it my way, and then play around to create your own equally delicious variation. Enjoy!
Lynn Kessel is a freelance food columnist. For more of her recipes, click this link.
Curried Chicken Salad
3 1/2 cups cooked chicken, shredded or cut into 1/4-inch cubes
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup mango chutney (I used Major Grey’s)
2 tablespoons hot curry powder (Madras if you can find it)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 cup dried currants or raisins
1/4 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts
Put the chicken aside in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, chutney, curry powder, cumin and turmeric, and then toss the chicken with the mayonnaise-chutney mixture. Fold in the currants or raisins and scallions. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.