Friday, October 10, 2014

Which Comes First? The Chicken or the Salad?

Which came first? The chicken or the chicken salad? Well, this one is definitely more obvious than the classic chicken vs. egg battle.

If this Kansas farm wife is contemplating chicken salad, it must mean it's a ladies' luncheon. Of course, we Kansas ladies like beef just as much as our red-blooded men, but chicken salad is the quintessential offering at such events.

I was in charge of a PEO luncheon this week. (For the record, I was in charge of the same luncheon a year ago, and I didn't choose to serve chicken salad.) But the committee chose a picnic theme, and chicken salad seemed to be the obvious option.

Then came my internal debate over the recipe. Look it up: There are dozens (hundreds?) of variations of chicken salad out there. I turned to my culinary consultant (AKA my daughter, Jill). She had made The Pioneer Woman's chicken salad recipe for an event, and she recommended it.

I know some people think the sun rises and falls with The Pioneer Woman. I am much more likely to take a recommendation from Jill than I am Ree, despite her popularity in the blogosphere and the Food Network and her soon-to-be-produced line of cooking utensils. (My 2 1/2-year-old granddaughter may choose to watch Ree instead of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse these days. Sigh...)

But I like recommendations from real people in my life, (she said with only a touch of jealousy about those millions of blog hits).

Anyway, I must admit it was a hit with the ladies. Randy? Well, he will eat some chicken salad, but it's definitely not his preference. Since I made WAY too much, I have shared the leftovers with a couple of friends.

Also for the record, it's not easy to take good photos of "white" food. It's better than it appears in the photos.

I made one big variation to the original recipe:  I used frozen chicken breasts for the meat instead of stewing a whole cut-up fryer. As Ree would say, "Choose whatever makes your skirt fly up." Really?)

I served it with mini croissants (and a whole lot of other salads, but those recipes can wait until another day).

Which came first? The chicken salad or the full tummies? The answer is obvious.

Now, why did the chicken cross the road?
To avoid being made into chicken salad.

The Pioneer Woman's Chicken Salad
1 whole cut-up fryer chicken OR 1 3-pound package of frozen chicken breasts
2-3 stalks celery, chopped finely
4 whole green onions, chopped (white and green parts)
2-3 cups grapes (halved or quartered, depending on size)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
1/2 cup half and half
Fresh dill or dried dill, to taste
1 tbsp. brown sugar
3 tbsp. lemon juice
Salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted in oven

For whole fryer:  Rinse chicken thoroughly and place in a large pot of water. Turn on the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until chicken is done (about 45 minutes to 1 hour). Remove chicken from the pot and place on a plate. With your fingers or a fork, pull all the meat off the bones. Chop into bite-sized pieces and set aside.

For chicken breasts:  Put chicken breasts in a single layer in a large glass baking dish. Sprinkle with chicken bouillon and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Cook in microwave until the juices run clear. (Take care not to burn yourself when you remove the plastic wrap to check the chicken). I put the hot chicken on a plate in the refrigerator and waited until it was cold to cut it up. It made prettier chunks that way and I didn't burn my fingers. Bonus!)

For salad: Combine chunked chicken with chopped fruits and vegetables.  (The original recipe said to halve the grapes. However, the grapes I had were huge, so I quartered them. Use your own judgement.)

In another bowl, mix mayonnaise, yogurt or sour cream (I used sour cream), half and half, lemon juice, brown sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Add dill. The Pioneer Woman recommends "a handful of fresh dill." I didn't have fresh dill available, so I used 2-3 teaspoons of dried dill weed. I would suggest about 3 to 4 tablespoons of fresh dill, finely minced.  You can always add more, if you'd like. Stir again and taste again, adding more salt and pepper, if desired. Pour the dressing over the chicken mixture.

Allow the salad to chill for several hours or overnight. Add toasted, slivered almonds to mixture just before serving and toss. Serve on a bed of lettuce or in a sandwich. I served it in mini croissants.

The recipe says it serves 6, so I doubled it for my luncheon. It serves way more than 6 for a ladies' luncheon, if you're offering plenty of other options.

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