Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It ain't pretty, but it be good!

I had a friend in college who, when we decided to splurge (read: cut philosophy class...shhhh) and eat lunch at a nearby deli, always ordered the chicken or tuna salad. Which made me shiver and struggle with my gag reflex.

Allow me to explain. I spent several summers in high school working for a catering company. This was just one in an entire litany of shitty summer jobs I had growing up.

This catering company was owned by a Joan Rivers lookalike who shrieked at the help and cared about one thing: Money. Bottom Line? The Shrieker's frugality led to some rather dodgy business practices.

Working there, I learned a lot about just how long a mayonnaise-based salad can sit in a restaurant refrigerator and still be deemed "Okay to serve." You don't wanna know. Trust me.

Since then, I have been very, very careful to never eat anyone else's chicken or tuna salad. I have acute meat/mayo paranoia. When it comes to chicken or tuna salad, I adopt the creed: Trust No One.

The only bummer about this? Chicken salad done right is delicious! Like any mayonnaise-based salad, it isn't pretty to look at, but boy, if it's fresh and good ingredients are involved, it's hard to want anything else for lunch.

The other day I succumbed to my pesky Cookbook Addiction and added another one to the canon. I purchased Gourmet's new Cookbook, Gourmet Today.

That thing is so big that it's a freaking weapon. But it has some truly delicious-sounding recipes in it, and it made me upset all over again that Conde Nast is shutting the door on Gourmet Magazine.

But at least I have several Gourmet cookbooks, and I decided to attempt their Chicken Salad recipe as my maiden voyage into this new tome.

Chicken Salad with Grapes and Walnuts

serves 4
from the Gourmet Today Cookbook

1 1/2 pounds chicken tenders
1 3/4 cup chicken stock (homemade or store bought reduced-sodium broth)
1/3 cup plain yogurt (I used Greek-style)
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 cup seedless grapes, halved crosswise
1 cup (about 3 1/2 ounces) coarsely chopped walnuts (I toasted mine, first)
3 tablespoons drained capers, chopped*
Freshly ground black pepper

Toss chicken with 2 teaspoons salt.

Bring stock and 5 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add chicken and cook, uncovered, at a bare simmer; stirring occasionally, until just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Drain and cool, then tear into 1 inch chunks.

Stir together yogurt, mayonnaise, and mustard in a large bowl.

Stir chicken, grapes, walnuts and capers into the dressing, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

* You ever tried to chop capers? It's freaking impossible! How do you chop small, round-shaped little pebbles of brine? I did my best--as should you. Just giggle at the futility of it all and proceed.

Verdict: Delicious! This is a very retro-style chicken salad, but boy, it's good. I served it to Mama for lunch. She left my house with the recipe and made it the next day for her friend Janet. And Janet demanded the recipe.

Two days, two different lunch guests, two demands for the recipe. It's that good. Invite your Mama to lunch. And serve her this. You won't be sorry.


  1. Yeah how do you chop capers? I think most of the time they just end up mushed! This looks like a delicious lunch. I've got to put that cookbook on my x-mas list!

  2. It's a lesson in futility! Half of those buggers ended up on my floor and I was cursing and laughing at the same time. I felt ridiculous.

    Glad to have you home again, friend. xoxo

  3. Conde Nast stopped publication of a subscription my husband was taking and is sending us the ickiest magazine in its place. I can't imagine how it could possibly have survived the chopping block.

    Speaking of being chopped, if the grapes get by with only being halved, I may live on the edge and leave the capers whole.

  4. Oh, I am not alone. So where is the meeting this week? You know, for the Cookbook Addiction.

    I've been into chicken salad lately. I love buying up the chicken when it's on sale and do dinner then chicken salad for lunch. Sounds good.

    I always have trouble chopping cilantro, that's because I always wash it first, and it's still wet so when I chop it it always sticks to my knife.

  5. HAHAHAHA cut philosophy classes! Any reason is good for that I believe... even though I should not complain. My philosophy teachers were quite interesting and I got pretty good grades (except in one final though).

    I heart grapes and it must be amazing with chicken :)

  6. ooo this sounds lush -I'm bookmarking it for something to try soon!

    I'm a bit like you with packaged sandwiches...just how long have they been sitting there?! Not knowing scares me... xxx

  7. Yeah, I never really order this type of salad when I'm out...especially because they might slip miracle whip into it and my money will be wasted and i'll do more than just gag (yes, it's happened...but just once). This one sounds good...and seriously, when something says chop capers, I just give 'em a good whack with the side of my knife and consider them chopped. And I've subscribed to that creed ever since I fell in love with Fox Mulder ;)

  8. I love good chicken salad. I tried Ina's from the Back to Basics cookbook (if you click on the Exit 51 link on the blogroll, it's over there for now). It was ok but I'm still trying to find the ultimate recipe. I'm going to give this one a try and see if it wows me in ways that Ina didn't.

  9. I for one am leaving the capers whole.
    (Your experiences are making me rethink ordering chicken salad at my fave restaurant. God know what goes on in kitchens. I read a book about it once and it scared me to death.)

  10. My issue with tuna and chicken salads is the gloopiness factor. I can only tolerate a little mayo, so I usually make it at home to avoid eating more than I'd like.

  11. This sounds great.

    As for chopping the capers: what about one of those fancy mezzalunas and a nice concave cutting board?

    Alternately, that chop-chop thing the guy that sells the Sham-WOW might work.

    On second thought...do you deliver??

  12. This looks amazing. I'm like you--I love chicken salad but I never eat it out, because I Trust No One and their salad practices. But this, I shall try and adore, I'm sure.

  13. Hey TKW-- I've been out of the loop of late and have missed some wonderful recipes and writing, clearly. (I do love your writing.)

    I am an almost vegetarian (I eat fish) but find that, more and more, all meat grosses me out horribly while causing me tremendous guilt (yes, I wear leather shoes--MP in Plastic Shoes brings up a visual I'd rather not go near in print). However, this chicken salad sounds delicious!

  14. Thanks MP: the visual of you in plastic high heels is cracking me up!

    evenshine: I'm laughing at the SHAM-WOW remark...I'm afraid to buy anything from an infomercial, lest I become addicted.

    girlichef: I heart Fox Mulder! Did you know that Scully has the same birthday as me? Coincidence? I think not!

  15. I've watched "caught in the act" enough to realize eating at restraunts is as risky as sky diving!
    I never touch a buffet! I love sushi, but fret for hours after indulging about whether I will survive the night!
    I'll eat my own chicken salad (which I rarely make). But,.....have a snobbish attitude towards that of others!
    Did I mention the horrors of salad bars?

    Great blog..glad I found ya!

  16. The addition of the capers sounds great. I'll have to give it a try. I am also crying in my soup over the loss of Gourmet! I'll have to cling onto my Bon Appetite instead.

  17. You know, Gourmet will still publish cookbooks. Just not the mag. I know, I know, small consolation. But still. Cookbooks are forthcoming.

    For the record, mashed chickpeas make any chicken salad recipe an awesome awesome awesome vegetarian sandwich or stuffed tomato. Love plain yogurt in my savory-salad-sandwiches. So this should be lovely.

    How do I chop capers? Ha. Nope. Fork mash.

  18. This sounds so yummy! And I love your response to chopping capers - just giggle at the futility of it all! Why I love you!

  19. Yum, that looks good.

    I wouldn't know how to chop capers either. No clue at all.

  20. Evenshine is right! It's officially called the Slap Chop. Great name, no? (The tagline is "Chop nuts in one slap"...um...tee hee.)


  21. ps: I just figured out that Phoo-D is "foodie"! Took me long enough, sheesh.

  22. Chop nuts in one slap? That's too good!

    I know, isn't "Phoo-D" cool? The person is just as cool as the name, luckily enough! :)

  23. A fabulous idea! Sounds exactly like something my mama would love!

  24. It figures that the shamblow phucknut would be marketing the slapshit.

  25. Isn't it the Deceased shamblow phucknut?

  26. deceased???????? off to googly....

  27. he's alive. he was ARRESTED for punching a woman, but charges were dropped.

  28. Chicken + grapes + walnuts = love. Got any remedies for egg salad (or how bad it makes the house smell when it's cooking)?

  29. I did have my mom over for chicken salad once. I put apple and celery and almonds in mine. It was nice. I really like this recipe. Capers are so yummy! No, I've never tried chopping them. I think I'd lose my patience and end up throwing the knife at my wall! :D

  30. I have been actually thinking about chicken salad-No reason. Now, that you have shared a Gourmet ( I am bummed too-it was my favorite magazine!) recipe for chicken salad, I am really craving it. However, I have made note that if I should have an event catered or go to a catered event...I will pass on the mayonnaise based dishes.

  31. jc: I obviously don't know my infomercials. I thought Billy Mays did ShamWow...who is this other idiot you are referring to?

    Contemporary: There is NO remedy for egg salad. Egg salad is wrong-ass food.

  32. I'm so glad I'm not the only one who feels this way about egg salad. In certain company, I'd get strange, hurt looks if I were to express my true feelings on pulverized hard-boiled glop.

  33. kitch, I ain't buying ANYTHING he's selling:



  34. HAHAHA, I actually just started writing a monthly column for the newspaper I work for, all about my cookbook addiction. You'd be surprised to know how many people wrote me and told me that they are glad they are not alone! If you want to take a look at it, here's the link:

  35. I love mayo/meat combos if I make them!! I'm going to try this one...yum!!