A Very Good Chicken Salad

Spicy, Sweet and Delicious Chicken Salad
Growing up, I always associated chicken salad with ladies who took tea. My mother had a fondness for egg salad and tuna salad and when there was enough leftover ham, she would make a devilishly delicious spread, but she never made chicken salad. In 4th grade, I came across a cookbook that had a menu for a ladies' luncheon and there it was--chicken salad served with toast points.

I can recall reading over the recipe and thinking it exotic and foreign in the way that young children perceive anything different from what they know. As I read through the recipe, I gasped at the idea that along with the chicken there were grapes and apples and nuts mixed in; this was certainly unlike anything that I had ever eaten. And, while it was a stretch to imagine such a mix of ingredients, I couldn't even begin to imagine a world where ladies attended teas and luncheons and then proceeded to wile away the better part of an afternoon over gossip and cards.

When I first began making chicken salad, I followed whatever recipe I happened to come across, never varying a single ingredient, and while I made many very good chicken salads, nothing lived up to the one I had remembered reading about from long ago. I wanted to experience, in eating chicken salad, that same sense of astonishment and awe that had struck me as a young girl; I wanted to imagine, at least via the sense of taste, what it was like to be the sort of lady who attended a luncheon as if it were the most normal of activities.

Quite innocently, I came to realize that chicken salad is meant to be created and tailored to our individual senses; it is the culinary equivalent of a blank canvas. This recipe that I'm sharing here, is the result of many years of tinkering, of adding and subtracting. For me, it is the perfect chicken salad and when I eat it, I am transported back in time to that 4th grade girl who couldn't even imagine something so exotic. For me, this is the best chicken salad in the world; but, for you, it may only be a very good chicken salad.

The Perfect Chicken Salad

2 Bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, poached
1 cup red grapes, halved (or quartered if large)
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup of golden raisins
1/3 cup of cilantro, finely minced
1/4 cup mango, finely diced
3 green onions, green part only, finely minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely minced
1 tablespoon red onion, finely minced
Mrs. Balls™Chutney
Garam masala
Cayenne pepper
Blanched almonds, chopped

1. Pull cooked chicken off the bone and coarsely chop; put into a large bowl.
2. Add grapes, celery, raisins, cilantro, mango, green onion, jalapeno and red onion.
3. Add enough mayo to lightly dress.
4. Add chutney until salad is creamy and the mix is well saturated.
5. Add garam masala and cayenne pepper to taste; add salt to taste.
6. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours allowing flavors to develop.
7. Taste; adjust seasonings if necessary.
8. Mound salad onto radicchio leaves.
9. Sprinkle with chopped, blanched almonds.
10. Serve.

*Garam masala is a mix of white and black peppers, cloves, cinnamon, cumin and cardamon.
*Mrs. Ball's™ chutney is a made with peaches and apricots. It's manufactured in South Africa and began in a little town just outside of Johannesburg. I love it in this recipe because the stone fruits are a perfect compliment for the garam masala.


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