April 24, 2009

favorite lunch: chicken salad

Long ago, my mother made something that was every bit as good as tuna salad, but without the fishy smell. And ever since then, I've loved chicken salad.

In college I made my own version a few times, but the recipe wasn't consistent. In fact, I remember once when I made it with grape halves and rosemary--it was incredible--but recreating that particular version never brought the same results. A couple of months ago, though, when I bought a rotisserie chicken for soup night and saved one breast for chicken salad, things have become...different. Now I have a "recipe" (I use quotes because, let's face it, I don't really measure anything for my recipes, but I've heard that when you decide to write a cookbook you have to know how much of what goes in when--who's counting, I always say, but I would like to publish a cookbook someday), and it makes me happy every time I bring it to work for lunch.

Wednesday night I also got ambitious and made naan--more about that soon--and between the leftover chicken from soup night at a friend's house on Tuesday, the about-to-go-limp celery in the crisper, the remnants of Nan's famous sweet pickles in a jar, and what resulted in a wonderful first-time naan making experience, I had the makings for one of my best lunches to date.

Of course, I feel that way every time I bring chicken salad to work. But enough about that: you want the recipe, don't you!?

Chicken Salad, a la Amber

1 cooked chicken breast, cubed (I find that rotisserie is the easiest way to go here; save the carcass for stock!)
3 stalks minced celery
2 tablespoons sweet relish (since not many of you have access to what I use: Nan's Sweet Pickles, which I WILL learn to make this summer)
2-3 tablespoons slivered almonds
1 1/2 teaspoons mayo (or to taste)
1 1/2 teaspoons dijon mustard (or to taste)
salt and pepper to taste

Chop up the chicken and celery, and toss in a bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to mix. Add more mayo, mustard, or pickle brine (the liquid from the relish/pickle jar) to alter consistency. Serve cold with crackers or bread.

This is good for a couple of days; in fact, after the flavors settle in together it's even better!

If you're up for something different, omit the relish/pickles and add halved grapes, chopped apples, rosemary, or tarragon and see what you get!