Inspired by the wildly popular chicken salad sandwiches served in the iconic Back Porch Tea Room.
In 1996 we moved our country gift shop, Betty Jane’s, from the mall to a wonderful building on our old downtown main street. It was built in 1906 and sat on the main corner in the heart of the original business district. It was right smack on the tree-lined brick street, Central Avenue.
I have boxes of old snapshots but sadly, they are not organized and none of them scanned so you’ll have to use your imagination and I’ll try to paint a picture in your mind.
The old brick structure had charming nooks and crannies, interesting ledges, a curved glass show case, high ceilings with art deco light fixtures, and the original cherry woodwork. It was my piece of heaven and our palette for designing inviting vignettes that displayed our products.
A hidden gem.
We rented a portion of the store that had once been a soda fountain to an insanely talented, creative woman who transformed it into a charming little eatery furnished with wonderful mismatched tables and chairs, old china and flatware and fantastic food. The plain door leading to the pint size kitchen was cleverly faux painted to look like a screen door. Carol also painted cheery flowering murals on each wall, making it look like a welcoming veranda.
Soon people were flocking in for lunch. The most popular item on the menu, the one locals still drool over when the talk about it, was the chicken salad sandwich.
Here’s a close copy of the original recipe.
Start with skinless boneless chicken breast. Cook it in broth to enhance the flavor.
Simmering the chicken in broth makes it tender and flavorful and do save the broth to use another time, it freezes well! But for heaven’s sake, please don’t miss out on this yummy sandwich if you don’t have the time or inclination to do it 100% from scratch. With GB there’s always a shortcut or a workaround! Honey, it’s totally okay to use rotisserie chicken if you want.
Chop up three ribs of celery pretty fine, you should have about a cup. Put the chicken, celery, and the rest in a bowl and add the mayonnaise and lemon juice. If it seems a bit dry, add a teeny bit of broth at a time until it’s just right. Or, if using rotisserie chicken, add mayo or a bit more lemon juice. If you want to add pecans, stir them in now.
Heap the chicken salad on a good quality bun like King’s Hawaiian. The tea room used to cut red grapes in half and stud the filling with 6 or 8 halves before adding the lettuce. The sweet, crisp grapes pair beautifully with the savory filling. We like grapes a lot so I usually serve them on the side, generously!
Add lettuce and the bun “hat.”
Now, get ready to enjoy the best chicken salad sandwich you ever had. This would also make a great wrap or stuffed in a nice big ripe tomato!
“Tea Room” Chicken Salad Sandwiches
Inspired by the wildly popular chicken salad served years ago in the charming Back Porch Tea Room.
- 1 Tbsp paste type chicken bouillon Better Than Bouillon preferred
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
- water enough to cover chicken breast
- 1 cup thinly sliced celery
- 2 tsp dried basil, or to taste
- 1 1/2 tsp seasoned salt, or to taste Lawry's preferred
- 1/2 tsp seasoned pepper, or to taste Lawry's preferred
- 1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste
- 2 Tbsp dried parsley largely for color
- juice from 1/2 medium lemon
- 1 cup real mayonnaise Hellman's preferred
- 3/4 cup toasted pecan pieces, optional
- red grapes optional, add to filling see note*
In small pan, dissolve bouillon in just enough water to cover the chicken and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes or until chicken is tender and easily pierced with a fork. Save the broth!
Chop chicken to desired chunkiness. We like ours fairly finely chopped.
If you add pecans, toast them by putting them in a single layer on a microwave-safe glass plate and microwave in one minute increments, stirring in between until desired toastiness is achieved. I can't tell you how just long because every microwave is different. My husband prefers it nut-less which is ok with me!
Add the rest of ingredients and stir well. If it seems a little dry, add a little broth at a time until right consistency. Please save the broth for soup or something. Freezes well!
Pile on a high quality bun like King's Hawaiian or similar. *The tea room used to cut 6 or 8 red grapes in half and press it right into the filling. You may love it! Add lettuce and enjoy!!
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P.S. This recipe is not in the Betty Jane’s cook book but if you’d like to read our story and get over 300 easy, family-friendly recipes, we still have a few collectible Betty Jane’s cookbooks left at $16. Same price as when it was first published in 1998! Comment if interested. $3 ships one anywhere in the US.