You could say that chicken salad is the proverbial “little black dress” of the luncheon menu. It is always appropriate, never out of place, and it can be dressed up or down, depending on the occasion. One reason chicken salad is so popular is because you can make it with leftovers; if you have a little bit of roasted chicken from Sunday dinner, or some chicken thighs from last night’s barbecue, you can shred it up, bulk it up, and serve it up. Just adding some mayonnaise, salt, pepper, and chopped celery may create a chicken salad that will satisfy your hunger pangs, but you will still be left with wanting more taste and texture. Add some sweet, juicy red grapes to take your chicken salad, tuna salad, or pasta salad from ho-hum to extraordinary.
Another reason chicken salad is so popular is because it is a simple, user-friendly recipe – you can usually add whatever you want to it and it will still be good. There really isn’t much that would taste BAD stirred into chicken salad, and, for the most part, you can quickly scan your pantry or fridge and find a few extra items to add to your leftover chicken for a last minute salad. Whether you toss in some farro and olives or Thai basil and sesame seeds, your stir-ins will very likely change the flavor profile of the chicken salad. A lot of chicken salad recipes will call for crunchy ingredients, such as toasted nuts, pickles, and the aforementioned celery. A hard and crunchy texture is a nice contrast to the soft chewy texture of the chicken.
This Mixed Fruit Chicken Salad is an example of how fresh fruit is used to add bulk and flavor to a chicken salad. Dried cranberries and raisins may add taste, but some people are put off by their chewy texture: it feels too much like the chicken. For a pleasing taste and textural distinction, add favorites such as diced peaches, apples, and strawberries. For a real unexpected burst of coolness and juiciness, stir in chilled, halved grapes. Available in the grocery stores year round, these sweet jewels will add an element of crunchy freshness to your chicken salad whether you make it in the summer or winter months.
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Served as an entrée on a bed of lettuce or sandwiched between two thick slices of bread, a chicken salad with grapes will soon be your “little black dress” of your party menus.