loaded chicken salad is just that… loaded!
There is something decidedly Southern and old-fashioned about chicken salad. Picture a group of ladies lunching while playing bridge. Or an afternoon bridal or baby shower, where the chicken salad main course is served in a pineapple boat. If you’re of a certain age, you know what I’m talking about.
Even so, there’s nothing better for lunch than a scoop of good chicken salad nestled on freshly dressed greens, or piled high on a soft kaiser roll with a pickle on the side.
Let’s qualify what “good” chicken salad is, because there have been so many times I’ve been disappointed by an average, ho-hum effort. You know what I mean, a little diced chicken, a spoonful of mayo and some chopped onion or celery if you’re lucky. Really? I think we can do better.
To me, good chicken salad starts with the mayonnaise — I’m not going to insist that you make it yourself — but you’d definitely score bonus points if you did. Duke’s or Hellman’s works fine here, but I like to jazz it up with fresh lemon juice, some whole grain Dijon mustard and plenty of freshly chopped tarragon.
Then we get to the add-ins. (Think of it like ice cream at Stone Cold Creamery — what mix-ins do you want?) Finely diced red onion and celery are a must. But I also like a sweet component.
Dried fruit would work, but there’s something about crispy sweet-tart apples and seedless grapes that makes this chicken salad sing. That, along with a healthy dose of chopped, toasted pecans. I am from the South, after all!
If you’re packing this as a brown-bag option for lunch, put the chicken salad in a Tupperware container and pack the bread/greens separately. It’s better when it’s assembled just before eating!
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 1/4 cup minced red onion (about 1/4 of a whole onion)
- 2 1/2 cups diced cooked chicken breast
- 1 cup seedless grapes, halved lengthwise
- 1 small apple, peeled, seeded, chopped
- 1/2 cup pecans
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon whole grain dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup freshly chopped tarragon
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
- Lay pecans on a baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly toasted and fragrant. Set aside to cool.
- Add celery, onion, chicken, grapes and apple to a large bowl and toss to combine.
- In a small bowl stir together lemon juice, mayonnaise and whole grain mustard. Stir in chopped tarragon and taste for seasoning -- adding salt and pepper as needed
- Add mayonnaise mixture to chicken. Using a large spoon or spatula, fold the mayonnaise into the chicken until well coated.
- Roughly chop the pecans, add them to the salad and stir to combine.
- Great served with toasted bread or on a bed of greens.