Mayo Hater Chicken Salad
This is going to be the final splurge recipe for a while. The next couple of blogs will be about something other than food. I know. Food is our favorite. But there are other things in life and the free-for-all-bingefest ends …well as soon as the holiday weekend ends. I mean, the New Year really doesn’t “start” until Monday….right? I’d actually planned on posting this before the end of the year, but because of the wonderful response to The Skirt Girl , the site was up and down for a few days. I didn’t want to post this and the subscription notice go to your email inbox and you not be able to get on the site. Frustrating!
In the coming blogs, we’ll be talking about some of my recent favorite products, tricks, tips, doodads, fitness, music and travel. And okay, we’ll throw in a recipe or two. But today…let’s talk chicken salad, shall we?
The first thing you should know about me and chicken salad is that I’m a recent convert. I have been a mayo hater for my whole life. And yes, as far as I’m concerned, Miracle Whip is mayo. As I’ve matured, I don’t get quite as freaked out over mayo as I used to. There was a time when the very sight would make me gag. The smell was overwhelming. And lord, if a restaurant, accidentally, put some on my sandwich it was promptly returned to the kitchen. Now, I can be a bit more polite about it. I can use my napkin to scrape off as much of the white goo as possible and still, perhaps, salvage the sandwich. That’s growth, isn’t it? With that being said, I never would eat anything that ended with “salad sandwich” because of the mayo factor. I went to a party…some sort of ladies party. You know it had to be ladies because…have you ever been to a dude party where they served any kind of “salad sandwich?” No. Everyone was raving about these little sandwiches so I decided to give them a try. I thought, “This doesn’t taste mayonnaisey at all. This is good!” It had curry in it, which I don’t have an aversion to, but it’s not my favorite flavor either. It also had grapes that gave it a wonderful, sweet burst and nuts for crunch. I was trying to figure out how I was enjoying this, seemingly mayo-laden, dish so much. I, finally, had to ask about the recipe. The hostess told me that this chicken salad had very little mayo. Just a tiny bit but was mostly made of heavy cream. Heavy cream! Of course! Heavy cream! Is there anything better??? She gave me the recipe and I decided to follow it to the letter. I went to the store and I bought mayo. My refrigerator had never seen mayo before! I also used the curry. The recipe turned out yummy, just like the one at the party. But, I decided, I could probably tweak it a little and make it a bit more to my taste. First, I ditched the curry and added more spices. I decided to keep the mayo, but I reduced the amount. I gagged a little but I kept it. The recipe was perfectly to my liking. It was creamy and rich and flavorful. The burst of the sweet grapes gave me the most pleasure. I also added some almond slivers for some extra crunch. So good! When I started to ponder this recipe for The Skirt Girl, I knew there were other Mayo Haters out there. In order to sell this to my people, I needed to ditch the mayo altogether. So, I tried it mayo-less. It pains me to say this, it really does. But it was not as good. It just wasn’t. It was edible but the flavor had no depth. I was so disappointed. I wanted to be able to tell you “It’s just as good without the mayo! You’ll never miss it!” But it’s just not true. So for my mayo hating brothers and sisters, there is a very small amount of mayo. You add it into the cream and whisk it around until it just looks like cream. I even tasted of JUST the cream mixture, after the mayo was added, and it was ….delicious. Seriously. Do NOT be put off by the mayo factor. Okay?
The first thing that you are going to need is a whole rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. I have used natural roasted. I have used garlic and pepper roasted. This happens to be lemon pepper. You can use whatever you like or whatever is available.
Beware. If you have a dog, like I do, when you come in the door with that chicken, this is going to be the face you are going to get the whole time you are removing the chicken skin and bones:
Once you have the chicken deboned and have given the dog the skin, you will want to shred it or cube it or chop it. Whatever your personal preference is. I like it cubed…and it starts out that way, and then it sorta turns to chunks and by the time I’m finished it’s kinda in shreds and it looks like this:
Set your chicken aside and lets talk about the rest of these ingredients:
I said this in my Hurts So Good Crackers blog, I am aware that fresh herbs are better. But dried herbs are handier and more practical. If you work, have a family, a life, children, a career, a husband, wife, significant other or hobbies…dried herbs are the way to go. Don’t let the Food Network guilt you. Here, we have dried celery flakes, dried parsley flakes, dried chopped onions and garlic powder. You could substitute the dried onions for onion powder. You could add the curry powder that was in the recipe that inspired this one. Feel free to throw in any fresh or dried herbs or flavors you want. You could use fresh onion and celery. I’ve used grapes here, but apples provide a wonderful sweetness and crunch also. I’ve used almonds in this but pecans would be delicious. I didn’t toast the nuts but if you wanted to and have time, it does bring out the flavor of whatever nut you are using.
Now, for a word about cream. The original recipe called for “heavy cream.” I got to the grocery store and they had NO heavy cream but they did have “whipping cream.” I had never really thought about these two things. What is the difference? Is there a difference? Can one be substituted for the other? The name “whipping cream” kinda lends itself to the idea that it is for desserts. And “heavy cream” would seem more appropriate for savory dishes. So, as I stood in the refrigerator section looking at that “whipping cream”…willing it to turn to “heavy cream” before my eyes, what did I do? I did what every red-blooded American girl does when she is faced with such a decision. No. I didn’t google it. I called my mom. Why would I google when I have the best cook in the whole wide world at my fingertips. “Mom, what is the difference between heavy cream and whipping cream?” There was dead silence on the line. “Hello?” Then she said…”Uumm I’m not really sure. Fat content, maybe?” “Well, can I use whipping cream instead of heavy cream in a savory recipe?” She assured me that, although she didn’t know the exact difference between the two, she was sure that I could, in fact, use either in the recipe. So. I got the whipping cream and when I got to my car, I googled. Mom was right. It is about fat content. All cream contains at least 18 percent milk fat. Whipping cream is made up of 30 percent, while heavy cream must contain 36 percent or more. In a savory recipe, like this one, they are totally interchangeable. In fact, they are both acceptable for recipes that incorporate whisked air, even. But the more fat a cream contains the more stable it’s likely to be in a whipped state. That being said, half and half is a totally different deal and really should not be substituted for either. It only has 10.5 percent to 18 percent milk fat. That is fine for your coffee but it won’t really work for recipes that call for heavy cream or whipping cream. So…now we know!!
Regarding the brand of mayo, I have no expertise in this area. I cannot direct you. I stood, awkwardly, in the mayo aisle at the grocery store and pondered. Do I pick the cheapest? Do I pick the smallest? This will, literally, be the only time I use this stuff. I opted for the most recognizable brand.
Put one cup of cream (heavy or whipping) into a small bowl. Then, you are going to add…gulp…2 tablespoons of mayo. As I stated above, you can skip it altogether, but I urge you to control your gag reflex and put it in the cream. Even if you reduce the amount some, it’s okay. Baby steps. Whisk that around in the bowl until you have forgotten that there is any mayo in it at all. Then, block that from your memory. To that, add 1/4 teaspoon salt, a couple of grinds of fresh pepper to taste, 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder, 2 teaspoons of dried onion, 1/4 teaspoon celery flakes, 1/8 teaspoon dried parsley. Whisk those ingredients around until they are incorporated. Taste it. If it needs anything, add it. The recipe isn’t rocket science. It’s chicken salad. It’s not baking so you aren’t going to mess anything up. Then, add the nuts. I used about 1/4 cup of slivered almonds. Stir them around. It’s going to look like this:
Pour this creamy concoction over your chicken. At first, it’s going to look too runny. But the chicken will soak up the cream, and it will be fine. When it’s completely incorporated, add your grapes. I used a cup. I like red grapes better. The color is so pretty and they just taste sweeter to me…but that could be just in my head because they are pretty. I like to cut them in half. Make sure you get the seedless. Seeds would kill this recipe.
Last but not least, the bread. The options are endless. I have used croissants and I have used hoagie buns. I have also made this as a wrap and put it in a flour tortilla. I’ve also eaten it with no bread at all. For that matter, you could slap it between two pieces of Wonder Bread. But for the purpose of this blog I used this beautiful bread from the deli:
I pile it on the bread. I mean, really, I had to practically eat this thing with a fork.
So, there you have it. The Mayo Hater Chicken Salad Sandwich. I’m sorry I couldn’t call it Mayo-less. But it’s more about flavor than principle. Thank you for letting me share all these full-fat, full calorie foods with you for the last month or so. It has been so much fun. Now, we will start fresh in 2015 knowing that we have enjoyed life, our families, our food and our holidays, to the fullest extent, with no guilt.
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