Summer Eats: Everything Chicken Salad

Growing up in Arkansas, there was a definite drive, especially once July rolled around, to make meals that were eaten chilled. My mother’s so-called “Summer Salad” was one; the ubiquitous canned tuna / pasta combination that was rolled out probably once a week.

One slightly more rare treat was chicken salad. Basically my mother made it the same way as the pasta stuff: a mayonnaise (well, Miracle Whip, actually) base with pickle juice or relish, with some sort of chopped veggies thrown in, usually celery and cucumber, and maybe a little something sweet-ish, like apple, raisins or grape halves.

When given the excuse to stew a whole chicken this week, I was determined to make it stretch into at least three separate dishes*. The first night Joel made chicken pesto pasta with some of the meat, and the rest was removed from the carcass and kept in the fridge until I mustered up the will to do something with it. It was a pretty typical me-version of things: dig around in the refrigerator until I found enough extras to throw in. What I found was a little more than normal: celery was there, but no cucumber; eggs, bacon and some Australian sharp Cheddar were on hand, however, so I went for more savory than sweet, as Joel isn’t the sweet fan I am. You could add chopped onion of any kind if you like, or bell pepper, or just about any kind of vegetable you’d eat raw.

Here’s the version I made a few days ago, and finished just before writing this post.

Everything Chicken Salad, on wheat crackers

These are actually what little remained of the batch for my lunch today.

“Everything” Chicken Salad

The Basics:
Chicken, chopped into bite-sized pieces
Mayonnaise (or Miracle Whip), to taste and desired consistency
Sweet pickle relish (or juice, or chopped sweet pickles), to taste

The Add-Ins:
celery, chopped
grape tomatoes, sliced
egg, hard-boiled and chopped
bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
sharp Cheddar cheese, cut into 1/4″ pieces

Combine basic ingredients until the chicken+dressing tastes like you want it to. Stir in add-ins as desired. Chill and eat.

*The third, incidentally, will be dumplings. Not chicken and dumplings, just dumplings, cooked in the broth. Comfort food extraordinaire.


6 thoughts on “Summer Eats: Everything Chicken Salad

  1. I love your food blogging.
    I used to be very skeptical of all salads of the mayonnaise variety, in part because I did not eat them growing up and did not understand why anyone would. But last summer I worked at a gourmet food store that sold a lot of cold dishes – pasta salads, chicken or tuna salads, the occasional turkey or salmon salad if they had some flesh left over from something else. We weren’t allowed to eat the food except for taste-sized spoonfuls of spoonable things, so I learned to like mayonnaise salad out of necessity. And… it’s pretty good stuff!

    Although occasionally when I make it myself, I substitute a little oil, lemon juice, and vinager for mayonnaise. Just something flavorful to moisten it up and hold it together.

  2. Marilyn got me into the food blogging — or at least inspired me to do more of it.

    I’ve never tried the oil + lemon juice + vinegar salad dressing combo on anything but vegetables, however. I bet that could be done up very nicely with chicken, though; I’m thinking a summery version of Chicken Oregano (baked in olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and, well, oregano).

    (As to a gourmet food store that doesn’t allow the employees to eat, or at least try, all the food, I really don’t understand that. How can you recommend things to customers if you don’t know how it is yourself! But maybe I’m just spoiled.)

  3. Well that was just it. We were encouraged to try the spoonable things and we could talk about those (and, for example, explain the benefits of using caravalli pasta or how sumac tastes), but just a spoonful. And the entree-type things (meat filets, or baked pasta, or whathaveyou) were pretty pricey, so our boss wouldn’t allow us to eat a whole one without paying, you couldn’t very well take a taste without ruining the presentation.
    I know. Stingy. Every now and then we’d get leftovers from a catering event and could be considered knowledge about the seared ahi tuna, but those times were like Christmas. ; )

    Regardless, I did learn a lot from them, and chicken is particularly nice to use the vinaigrette type dressing on because it does soak up those flavors so well.

  4. And the entree-type things (meat filets, or baked pasta, or whathaveyou) were pretty pricey, so our boss wouldn’t allow us to eat a whole one without paying, you couldn’t very well take a taste without ruining the presentation.

    Yeah, I get that, in theory. Still, one piece could give everyone on shift a taste, etc., as far as I’m concerned. But then, I work with people who believe that you have to know a product to sell it, and consider employees tasting stuff to be a part of basic customer service, so to speak.

    But I’m glad you got to have Christmas occasionally. 😉

  5. Mm – delish looking chicken salad! (chix salad, if you’ve ever worked in a restaurant) How could I have missed your chicken reverie? It’s my favorite summer food.

  6. It was quite tasty. ^_^

    I think maybe making chicken salad was partially inspired by your blogging about chix salad. My cooking has been sporadic lately (can’t imagine why), but at least it’s still up to par!

    My blender skillz are getting a little exercise, though. It’s what happens when you’re pregnant and need potassium/calcium in the middle of the night, and all you’ve got is frozen bananas, a little ice cream and a dribble of milk left in the carton. (Note: thinning a milkshake out with water does work OK, when you have to. Just downed one that probably was made with equal parts milk and water.)

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