It ain’t pretty, but it be good!

November 10, 2009

I had a friend in college who, when we decided to splurge (read: cut philosophy class…shhhh) and eat lunch at a nearby deli, always ordered the chicken or tuna salad. Which made me shiver and stifle my gag reflex.

Allow me to explain. I spent several summers in high school working for a catering company. This was just one in an entire litany of shitty summer jobs I had growing up.

This catering company was owned by a Joan Rivers lookalike who shrieked at the help and cared about one thing: Money. Bottom Line? The Shrieker’s frugality led to some rather dodgy business practices.

Working there, I learned a lot about just how long a mayonnaise-based salad can sit in a restaurant refrigerator and still be deemed “Okay to serve.” You don’t wanna know. Trust me.

Since then, I have been very, very careful to never eat anyone else’s chicken or tuna salad. I have acute meat/mayo paranoia. When it comes to chicken or tuna salad, I adopt the creed: Trust No One.

The only bummer about this? Chicken salad done right is delicious! Like any mayonnaise-based salad, it isn’t pretty to look at, but boy, if it’s fresh and good ingredients are involved, it’s hard to want anything else for lunch.

The other day I succumbed to my pesky Cookbook Addiction and added another one to the canon. I purchased Gourmet’s new Cookbook, Gourmet Today.

That thing is so big that it’s a freaking weapon. But it has some truly delicious-sounding recipes in it, and it made me upset all over again that Conde Nast is shutting the door on Gourmet Magazine.

But at least I have several Gourmet cookbooks, and I decided to attempt their Chicken Salad recipe as my maiden voyage into this new tome.

Chicken Salad with Grapes and Walnuts

serves 4
from the Gourmet Today Cookbook

1 1/2 pounds chicken tenders
1 3/4 cup chicken stock (homemade or store bought reduced-sodium broth)
1/3 cup plain yogurt (I used Greek-style)
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 cup seedless grapes, halved crosswise
1 cup (about 3 1/2 ounces) coarsely chopped walnuts (I toasted mine, first)
3 tablespoons drained capers, chopped*
Freshly ground black pepper

Toss chicken with 2 teaspoons salt.

Bring stock and 5 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add chicken and cook, uncovered, at a bare simmer; stirring occasionally, until just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Drain and cool, then tear into 1 inch chunks.

Stir together yogurt, mayonnaise, and mustard in a large bowl.

Stir chicken, grapes, walnuts and capers into the dressing, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

* You ever tried to chop capers? It’s freaking impossible! How do you chop small, round-shaped little pebbles of brine? I did my best–as should you. Just giggle at the futility of it all and proceed.

Verdict: Delicious! This is a very retro-style chicken salad, but boy, it’s good. I served it to Mama for lunch. She left my house with the recipe and made it the next day for her friend Janet. And Janet demanded the recipe.

Two days, two different lunch guests, two demands for the recipe. It’s that good. Invite your Mama to lunch. And serve her this. You won’t be sorry.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

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