When most people hear the words “chicken salad” what immediately comes to mind is chicken slathered in mayo with a little salt & pepper, and maybe a bit of celery thrown in for crunch. While the simplicity of a basic chicken salad can be satisfying it can also be awfully boring.
The foundation for this chicken salad came about in the fall of 1997 in my friend Dara’s kitchen. Much of that previous summer was spent hanging out in her basement with a revolving door of friends: watching Comedy Central (and the genius first season of South Park), doing crafts and art projects, listening to Wilco, and engaging in activities that leave one prone to a serious case of “the munchies”. We fondly dubbed it the “Summer of Slack”. A last hurrah of our twenties before we all began to succumb to full-fledged adulthood and the responsibilities that go with it.
The need for snacks at any given hour were often satisfied by Dara’s boyfriend, Scott. He was a master in the kitchen. One evening our desire for something tasty led to him whipping up a batch of his Curry Chicken Salad.
It has the two staples of any chicken salad: chicken and mayo. But from that point it gets so much more interesting. The warm spices of curry paired with the sweetness and subtle acidity of balsamic vinegar take this chicken salad to a whole new level. Another genius addition, that at first might sound a little strange, is red grapes. They perfectly echo the sweetness of the balsamic and give it a nice textural counterpoint to the chicken.
Where this Curry Chicken Salad diverges from the original is my addition of another textural element – pecans. They add a nice crunch along with a nutty sweetness that compliments all the other flavors in this chicken salad.
Curry Chicken Salad is wonderfully flexible. It can be enjoyed in so many ways: served on a nice bed of crisp lettuce, as a sandwich, or even on its own. It’s never boring and is fancy enough to serve to guests, while easy enough to make any time for yourself.
Whenever I make this dish I’m reminded of the glorious Summer of Slack and all the dear friends I shared it with. I hope you make this dish and create some fond memories with friends of your own.
Curry Chicken Salad
- 2 pounds roasted chicken, shredded and diced
- 1 C. mayonnaise
- 3 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
- 2 tsp. curry powder
- 1/2 C. chopped pecans
- 1 C. seedless red grapes, cut in half
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- Shred and dice the roasted chicken. Don’t cut them too small, as they will shred a little more as you mix the salad.
- Coarsely chop the pecans.
- Cut the grapes in half until you have a cups worth.
- Put the chicken in a large bowl with the mayo, balsamic vinegar, curry powder, and salt. Stir well to fully incorporate all the ingredients. The chicken should break down a bit and naturally shred into the wet ingredients.
- Add the chopped pecans and grapes and gently stir them in.
- Give the mixture a taste to make sure it’s seasoned to your liking. Adjust to taste.
- Also, make sure it isn’t too dry. If it is, slowly add a little more mayo, vinegar and curry powder, one at a time, tasting as you go to make sure the flavors are still balanced to your liking.
- Once the chicken salad has a nice consistency – wet enough that it all binds together, but dry enough that it isn’t gloopy – it’s ready.
- Serve on a nice bed of lettuce, or as a sandwich on a croissant or french bread.
This Curry Chicken Salad is perfect on my French Bread. Check it out and give it a try, too!