Fruitifying one’s chicken

March 2, 2018

There’s chicken underneath all that. I promise.

I have made a quite fine fruit salad. That has chicken in it.

I’d been contemplating chicken salad for a couple of weeks, during much of which time I did not have the leisure time in the kitchen to do much more than make coffee in the morning and grab a sandwich or something for lunch or dinner. The craving was kicked off by a quite excellent chicken salad I had in a restaurant/catering joint a month or so back.

I am picky about chicken salad. I don’t want celery in it, because I don’t like celery. I don’t want bell peppers in it, because I don’t like bell peppers. I don’t want onion in it, because in most cases, I don’t care for raw onion. I want fruit in it. I’m good with nuts in it. And I want the dressing to have a slight sweet-sour taste to it.

Yesterday, I hit the jackpot.

I had roasted the chicken a couple of days ago, and stuck it in the fridge until I decided what I wanted to do with it. Half of it, along with the picked carcass from the other half, is still in there. I’ll deal with that tomorrow (because after all, tomorrow is another day, right?). So today I pulled all the breast, thigh, leg and wing meat off one half, shredded/chopped it up real fine, and set about adding things to it.

As an aside, it helps if you start with really, really good chicken. This was a farm-raised chicken. I brined him for 12 hours before I roasted him. He was a lovely moist thing. I did the quality control sampling myownself, and consulted with Lucy-the-pug to be sure she agreed. (She did.)

Grapes. I halved a cup of mixed red and white grapes. (The rest of the grapes went into a grape salad, another favorite). Mandarin orange segments, being that I had a bag of mandarins on the counter. Tiny little mandarins they are, so the single segments were just exactly the right size to go in the salad. A peeled and chopped up Granny Smith apple. And, because I saw them in the fridge when I went to get the mayonnaise for the dressing, and thought, “Why not?” a couple of big handsful of blueberries. Finished it off with a half-cup or so of sliced almonds.

Then I needed a dressing. The chicken salad I’d had a few weeks back had a fairly sweet dressing; if I don’t miss my guess, they put pineapple juice in the mayo. I wanted something a little more complex than that, sweet but with a little tang to it as well.

So I contemplated, scooped out half a cup of mayonnaise, and added a tablespoon of Dijon mustard. Added about a tablespoon of golden balsamic vinegar. Thought about spicing for a moment, and contented myself with just a good sprinkle of sea salt and a healthy dose of freshly ground pepper. Tasted. Wanted a touch more sweet. I added about a teaspoon of honey. Perfect.

Stirred it all up. Tasted. And I am here to tell you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em, this is the best chicken salad, or fruit salad with chicken in it, that I ever made in my life. I can only imagine how much better it’ll be when it has a chance to mellow in the fridge.

The rest of the grapes, and about 1/4 cup of pecan pieces and 1/4 cup of walnut pieces (because I didn’t have any more pecans I could find in the freezer inside and I couldn’t be arsed to walk outside and get another bag) went into another bowl for grape salad. This stuff is simplicity itself; one takes an 8-oz block of cream cheese, softens it, and beats it with a couple of tablespoons of lime juice and a half-cup of confectioner’s sugar. Then one thins it with cream (or half and half, in my case, because that’s what I had) to the dressing consistency one prefers.

This is enough dressing to deal with about two quarts of salad. It’s good for most any other fruit salad; you can play with it, add sour cream if you want for a different flavor profile, leave it thick and use it for a dip on a fruit tray. You can blend some fruit up in the unthinned version, and use it for a spread on banana bread or bran muffins. If you don’t want it that sweet (this is moderate, not toothachingly sweet), just cut back the sugar. I like a lot of lime juice in mine, and I’ve found a half-cup of sugar is about right to meld with that.

It’s one of the several reasons I keep a half-dozen blocks of cream cheese on hand at almost all times; stuff lasts forever, and I use a ton of it.

I’ll pull the rest of the meat off the chicken tomorrow, and thaw out a container of dressing frozen from Thanksgiving and heat that up. That’ll take care of about half of it. The rest can go in a curry sometime over the weekend. And I can replenish my stash of chicken stock. There’s plenty of chicken salad for two or three meals for two of us, meat for two more meals, and enough chicken stock for several dinners going forward.

You ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em get you a whole chicken. (You can buy the rotissiere version at WalMart if you want to, but here’s a hint, the ones at Sams are bigger and cheaper.) It’s a useful creature, and will cut down on your cooking load for several days to come.

 

 

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