Monday, June 9, 2008

Chicken Salad

For lunch on Memorial Day, we didn't - for once - get near the grill. Instead, we had pasta salad, pimento cheese sandwiches, and chicken salad sandwiches. This is about the chicken salad.

Most everyone has their own recipe for chicken salad and most everyone thinks that theirs is the best. I’m no exception. I like this version because it is simple.

Cook 3 or 4 bone-in chicken breasts in a big pot of water. Cut up a nice-sized onion and toss it in there, too, along with some celery if you have it. Season well with salt and pepper. While the chicken is cooking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put about a cup or so – more if you really like pecans, like I do, or less if you don’t really care for them – on a baking sheet and pour a teaspoon or two of melted butter over them and shake them a little bit to ensure all the pecans have a coating of butter. Sprinkle with seasoned salt and sugar. Bake for about 8 to 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and coarsely chop. When the chicken is done, remove from water, let cool, and shred it.

Place the shredded chicken in a large bowl. Add about 4 chopped green onions (adjust that depending on how much green onion you like) and the chopped pecans.

Let me say this right now. I am not a mayonnaise fan. Like, at all. When I make Tillman a turkey sandwich, the child licks the mayonnaise off the knife, which, I swear, even typing that makes my stomach turn over. But one must have mayo for chicken salad so I just try to do this part quickly: get a big ole spoonful of mayonnaise (Duke’s or Hellman’s) and add to the chicken mixture. Stir it up good and add more mayo if you must. Try a little bite. You’ll need to salt and pepper it and perhaps add more chopped green onion.

That’s it. And I know many of you out there are shaking your heads and doubting me, wanting to add seedless grapes and who knows what else. Go ahead if you must. But seriously, just these few ingredients make a darn good chicken salad.

If you really want to blow people away, however, marinate the chicken overnight and then cook it on a smoker. People will almost get into fistfights trying to get to this stuff. Really.

Note: Sometimes I don't add the pecans until just before it's time to eat. Otherwise, they can get a bit soggy and lose their gorgeous crunch.

Recipe and babbling on and on about chicken salad excerpted from More Culinary Kudzu.

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