Ahhhh – good old chicken salad, a true comfort food. Whenever I can’t decide what to order for lunch, it is one of my go-to meals. I see chicken salad falling into two categories: chunky and creamy. I love both of them. I prefer chunky chicken salad on a bed of fresh salad greens, with crackers or even on its own, although I occasionally will have it on bread. On the other hand, creamy chicken salad belongs on some sort of good, artisan bread or else maybe as a dip for celery and carrot sticks.
The first time I ever tried curried chicken salad was back in the mid-1980s when I was in graduate school at UNC. I had an assistantship at the U.S. EPA’s library, which at the time was in Research Triangle Park, about 20-25 minutes from campus. At least once a week I gave a ride to Hester (I can’t remember her last name), who also had a graduate assistantship at the EPA. Since I wouldn’t take any gas money from her (I was going there anyway) she made lunch for me sometimes, and her chunky, curried chicken salad was definitely my favorite. It was so different from the chicken salad I usually made (I’ll share that recipe in a separate post) and I loved the sweetness of the raisins and grapes, the crunchiness of the nuts and the spiciness of the curry. I’m not sure of her exact recipe, but after practicing these many years, this comes mighty close.
2 cooked chicken breasts, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 stalks celery, diced small (about ¾ cup)
½ cup red onion, diced small
1 cup seedless red grapes, sliced in half
¾ cup walnut pieces
½ cup raisins (I used golden raisins this time, but any type will work)
½ cup light mayonnaise (you may want to add more depending on taste)
½ teaspoon sweet curry powder (I usually double this because I like it spicy)
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and fresh ground white pepper to taste
Place chicken, celery, onion, grapes, raisins and walnuts in a large bowl and gently mix together.
Add curry powder and cayenne pepper to the mayo and stir. Mix this into the chicken salad.
Check for spiciness and heat – you may want to add more curry powder and cayenne pepper, depending on taste.
I like to serve this on mixed greens with sliced tomato and avocado, but you could easily make a tasty sub or sandwich instead.