Paean to Chicken Salad

Dear Lisa,

You wanted the recipe for the chicken salad I made last weekend. I’m sorry that I hesitated to write it down. Really, there is nothing to it. Let’s not even say it’s a recipe. It’s more like a foundation on which you can experiment with your own personal understanding of chicken salad.

Ceci n'est pas une salad de poulet

Ceci n'est pas une salad de poulet

This version spoke to me because I had a pile of grapes in the fridge.

Clean and chop a rotisserie chicken, piling it in a bowl nice and neat. Grab a handful of red grapes and a small knife. Slice the grapes in quarters, the long way, so they lay elegantly against the rascally shape of the coarse chicken.

Grab your chef’s knife and go to town with a few green onions and garlic, chopping finely to distribute their bite. Throw in herbs of most any fresh kind, mixing it all up with salt, pepper, and a little cayenne. Mayonnaise is what pulls it all together, and of course you must add the tart of choice: lemon, lime, vinegar, or even a splash of orange juice.

That’s all. If it’s fall and you crave it, take out the grapes and add cranberries and walnuts. If you have extra celery, throw it in. If you are feeling exotic and want to flirt with your husband and warm up your new house, use curry powder, sliced dried apricots, and slivered almonds. If you like bread and butter pickles as much as I do, you could try that, too. And if you’d like to hang out lower on the food chain, skip the chicken altogether, in its place adding boiled tofu and crushed pineapple.

I also would love to see some sprouts in here somewhere, especially those big ones whose name I can’t remember. And we haven’t even discussed the peas!

What about you? Because really, Lisa, it’s not about the chicken salad. It’s all about you. You know what Magritte said about the pipe. I might say this is not a chicken salad. It’s just a loose collection of whatever you feel like eating at the time. A variation on a theme.

Thank you for the wonderful weekend,


4 thoughts on “Paean to Chicken Salad

  1. Stefanie

    Hey Carrie. Know what’s really annoying to people for whom whipping together something delicious does NOT just come naturally? When the people for whom it IS second nature say “There’s nothing to it! It’s barely a recipe!”

    I kid, I kid, but seriously: not all of us know how to do this! And frankly, we still don’t know how, because I need to know how MUCH green onions and garlic, how MUCH cayenne, how much of my tart of choice!

    I could play around with it to figure it out myself… Or I could just keep going to picnics and weekends away with you, knowing you will always bring something lovely and delicious. 🙂 Deal?

  2. Carrie Post author

    Stef – I understand that, of course, but I also suppose that we all can find a measured-out chicken salad recipe in 1,001 places in books or online. It’s harder to find someone discussing their interaction with the food or the creative frame of mind they are in while preparing something. I can always approximate my measurements and share them with you at any one of those picnics or weekends.

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