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!
loaded chicken salad
- 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.