Everyone has their own favorite chicken salad recipe and I totally don’t want to muddy those waters. I just want to share two things I’ve applied that elevated my chicken salad, the proof being that even my toddler crushes it.
Traditionally chicken salad starts with poached boneless skinless chicken breast. Even America’s Test Kitchen, one of my FAVORITE sources, sticks to this tradition. Man, I don’t care how much brining, flavor-injecting or even if someone uses a sous vide, the end result is not something I’d want to serve to anyone I love. Chicken salad rises and falls with the chicken. So start with something awesome.
Marinate the chicken, skin on (trimming the fat, of course), keep it on the bone and roast that bird! Even if you just want to make chicken salad for a brunch or shower, take a little extra time on the chicken and you’ll be rewarded.
For one big family get-together, I roasted four birds on the grill with a curry rub, just for the chicken salad. Aaaaand it rocked.
My standby chicken salad starts with Pollo Asado, a traditional Latin roasted bird that’s been marinated in sherry, citrus juices and herbs for at least eight hours. The meat’s bursting with flavor and needs little else. For me I just cut the meat off the bone, combine with a dressing (mayo or Miracle Whip, your preference), stir in some chopped red apples — something tart like a Jonathan or McIntosh — and a dab of that recipe’s pan sauce, or a spritz of lemon.
Photograph: Daniel Pantoja