29 January 2008
Amazing Chicken Salad
Last night I cooked an Herb-Roasted Chicken for the three of us. Spellbound by the warmth of the oven, the aroma of the chicken and the wonders of the French lifestyle described in “Joie de Vivre,” I forgot that one of us had other plans.
Now there are leftovers. Not that that is a bad thing, especially with this recipe I’ve been wanting to try. I got it from one of the great grandmothers at the Tuesday morning Bible study I often attend. This Bible study hosts a potluck sandwich lunch once a month, following the usual meeting.
I am not very good at making sandwiches. Since I was a child I have mostly avoided them. Not that I don’t like the idea of a sandwich well enough, but experience has taught me they are unpredictable and so I always approach them with caution.
Growing up I liked to eat peanut butter sandwiches that consisted of peanut butter and bread, nothing more. After Thanksgiving I liked to eat leftover turkey sandwiches that consisted of leftover turkey and soft white bread, and that’s it. I would even eat a liverwurst sandwich, provided it consisted of only liverwurst and white bread.
Dads and Moms
My Dad was fine with that and made my lunches that way. He was a practical man and, as a single father, he could see the virtue of simple routines. Try to get that past most of my friend’s moms though and you had a challenge on your hands.
It seemed that my friend's mothers could scarcely conceive of a sandwich that simple. At anyone else’s house, or at a restaurant, even when the sandwich was ordered 'plain', I would very carefully look at and sample any sandwich before eating it because it would almost inevitably have something wet on it, whether it was mayonnaise, mustard or jelly and then I would have to choke the sandwich down or rudely refuse to eat it. A peanut butter sandwich could no longer be trusted as almost everyone added a layer of jelly to it. Even a plain cheese sandwich often hid at least a thin layer of mayonnaise, and more often a thick one.
As a result I have a lingering fear of sandwiches. That made attending the Tuesday sandwich lunches a bit of a challenge for me. I admit that I have eaten good sandwiches since my childhood but I would rather claim that I am on a diet and forgo the sandwiches than take a sandwich someone has lovingly prepared and not be able to eat it with a smile on my face. (The problem there is that you give yourself away if you, later, eagerly dig into dessert!)
The first time I stayed after Bible study for the sandwich lunch I forgot to bring anything at all. When lunch time came there was plenty of food but my fears made me somewhat apprehensive. Enter D. She offered me a sandwich of chicken salad on a croissant. Not wanting to seem ungrateful, but expecting the worst, I gingerly bit into it and chewed slowly. As I chewed I found that it was moist, not wet. I could taste the tang of oranges and the crunch of almonds, instead of slimey mayonnaise or sharp mustard. I was both surprised and delighted at how good it was! It was mixed and moist enough to stay in place and still contained a pleasing balance of tastes and textures that made it worthy to be called a salad. I actually found that I enjoyed it!
Since then I have often raved about D’s Amazing Chicken Salad sandwiches, and she kindly continues to bring me one almost every month. She has also taught me the secret of sandwiches. The amount of mayonnaise used in many sandwich fillings is way more than is needed. It turns out that there are other ways to hold a sandwich filling together than to load it up with mayonnaise. I have asked her how she does this and though she shakes her head and says she never uses a recipe she did give some directions I will share with you here:
Amazing Chicken Salad
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup orange juice
1/3 cup light mayonnaise
1/3 cup sliced almonds
2 cups shredded chicken breast
Place the dried cranberries in a microwave safe bowl. Cover with the orange juice and microwave for a minute or so, until the cranberries soften slightly and plump up. Add the mayonnaise and stir until combined. Add shredded chicken and sliced almonds, stirring until well mixed.
D serves her chicken salad on small croissants or on sliced bread to which she adds another motherly touch…she removes the crust.
Note: For another great chicken salad recipe that uses no mayonnaise try Blueberry Chicken Salad with hints of ginger and basil.