by Eric Wharton
My Recipe Book, constantly being added to
Nine balls of julienned vegetables sit above a dense chicken vinaigrette. The plate looks like a game of noughts and crosses (tic-tac-toe). The table is bathed in a cloud of chicken vapour with a few sprays of eau-de-cologne of roasted chicken. In this way the chicken is everywhere and nowhere all at once.
― Massimo Bottura, "Never Trust A Skinny Italian Chef"
There's no one person that a salad made with poultry can be traced to, particularly in the form we know today. It seems that the Chinese were at least among the first to serve a variation of chicken salad, though they were probably far from what we eat today. Then again, how far off could they have been when these salads can be describe simply as pieces of poultry mixed with spice and oil with a binding substance.
It's the kind of spices and oils, and additions to that, which add up to very different recipes. Many of these differences are geographical in nature. I discovered this over the years as I travelled around and found the basic ingredients were mostly the same. So, I came up with a basic recipe with no frills, and then added some variations from five specific geographic regions.
However, that's far from all the variations that can be made, many of which have been found to include, among other things, hard-boiled eggs, onions, and peppers. In fact, the first American version, served in Wakefield, Rhode island, mixed leftover chicken with mayonnaise, tarragon, and grapes.
I guess it's the kind of food that can include just about anything suited to individual taste buds. If, however, those ingredients don't clash or overpower the poultry. Kitchen-sink kind of cooking is never a good idea. That said, here are five of my favorite additions to the basic recipe.
2 cups cooked poultry, diced
4 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup cranberry relish
1/2 stalk celery, diced
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup cubed pickle relish
1/4 cup Vidalia onion, diced
1 red apple, chopped
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1 naval orange, peeled and diced
2 whole scallions, diced
1 tsp grated orange peel
Add vinegar and oil together first, then pour over poultry. Add other ingredients and toss with mayonnaise. Makes 4 servings.
To serve only as a lettuce salad, skip the mayonnaise. Instead, mix ingredients other than chicken, vinegar, and oil. Toss mix with lettuce in a salad bowl. Place chicken on top and pour vinegar and oil over or serve separately as a vinaigrette. Use larger serving of vinegar and oil in the same proportion.
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