Exploring the Everlasting Charm of Chicken Salad

by Trans Chef

During summer in the South, there are a few things that you can always count on, as if handed down from on high. One is the inevitable experience of almost swallowing at least two love bugs each season, and the other is mayonnaise suddenly becoming the unofficial fifth food group through its usage in various cold ‘salads.’ Among all these salads, chicken salad reigns as the undisputed king of the cold summer salad game, closely followed by tuna fish salad. Whether it’s a family reunion, a church picnic, or a ladies’ lunch, and even moms trying to stretch their food budget during the summer break, you can bet that chicken salad will grace the menus of countless homes and restaurants throughout the South, except for fast-food establishments.

What may come as a surprise is that the recipe for chicken salad is older than most would think. In my own family, we always believed that chicken salad emerged as a way to make food stretch during the Depression. While the recipe’s simplicity and versatility certainly contribute to its widespread popularity in the South today, chicken salad actually dates back to the mid-19th century. The earliest known printed recipe for chicken salad can be found in ‘The Lady’s Receipt-Book’ written by Eliza Leslie and published in 1847. It’s safe to assume that chicken salad had been making its rounds for at least 5-10 years before ever being documented.

One of the great things about chicken salad is its super easy to make and tailor it to your personal taste. Leftover rotisserie chicken from dinner? Poached chicken leftover from sandwiches? Use them both! Like things sweet and spicy? Add a touch of curry powder along with green grapes and diced red apple for a ‘coronation chicken’ vibe. Dried fruit and nuts leftover from lunch? Chop them up and toss them in! The possibilities are truly endless!

The recipe below is my go-to basic chicken salad recipe that will work perfectly as a springboard to a truly wonderful summer dish!

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