Chicken salad and luncheons go together like spring and daffodils. This time around, spring seems to hold more promise than ever before as we stumble out of the pandemic's dark days and into the blue skies and sunshine.
Years ago, our family ran a gift shop on the old tree-lined brick main street in my hometown. The sturdy brick structure had charming nooks and crannies, interesting ledges, a curved glass showcase, 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. 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. The owner is an artist. She 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 was her chicken salad sandwich. The tea room closed almost 20 years ago, but the locals still drool about the memory of that sandwich. I am presenting you with a close copy of that coveted recipe!
If you have a little time, start with boneless skinless chicken breast. You can even start with the frozen breasts! Simmering the chicken in bouillon-infused broth makes it tender and flavorful.
Be sure to save any leftover broth for another day. It freezes well. Clever idea: why not simmer the whole bag of chicken breast this way and use the rest for another recipe or two?
If you don't have the time or prefer to spend your time doing something else, pick up a rotisserie chicken. Whatever you do, please don't miss out on this yummy sandwich. I made a batch last weekend using rotisserie chicken because I was in a hurry. I removed the skin and chopped up every bit of meat. It was amazing.
You will need about two to three cups of cooked chicken for six sandwiches on buns or 10 cream puffs.
Now, chop up about three ribs of celery pretty fine. You will need a cup of chopped celery. Next, put the chicken, celery, and the rest in a bowl and add the mayonnaise and lemon juice. If it seems dry, add a teeny bit of broth at a time until it's just right. Or, if you're using rotisserie chicken, add mayo or a little more lemon juice. Did you want to add pecans? If you do, now is the time to add them.
Stir everything together, nibbling as you go. (It's okay; no one is looking!) Heap the chicken salad on a good quality bun like King's Hawaiian. The tea room served it on croissants. Before serving, they would stud the filling with 6 or 8 red grapes cut in half before adding the lettuce. The sweet, crisp grapes pair beautifully with the savory filling.
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!
Want to make an elegant statement? Cream puffs are deceptively easy to make and pretty fun to do! Make the cream puffs any size you want. Cream puffs are a beautiful and unique way to serve this incredibly delicious chicken salad.
They are also make a perfect dessert when you fill the with mousse, pudding, lemon curd, or whipped cream! Make mini-size cream puffs for irresistible little bite-size sandwiches or desserts!
Here's how easy it is to do.
Melt a stick of butter in a cup of boiling water. Add a cup of flour and 1/4 teaspoon of salt all at once. Keep stirring until it forms a creamy ball of dough.
Then, you'll add four eggs, one at a time. Stir the dough vigorously to blend until you have a lovely golden dough. My batter is deep yellow because of the gorgeous "farm eggs" I get from my egg lady Steph. Her chickens are happy eating greens, and they lay beautiful eggs with sunny yolks.
I used an ice cream scoop to plop blobs of batter onto parchment-lined cookie sheets. The cream puffs bake for 15 minutes in a hot 450-degree oven, then slowly in a 325-degree oven for about 25 minutes until they turn a lovely golden brown shade of deliciousness.
The next step is to remove the cream puffs from the oven and split them open, leaving a hinge. Turn off the heat and return the cream puffs to the oven for 20 minutes to let the inside dry. Finish cooling them on a rack. Then, they are ready to fill!
My daughter Karen served the chicken salad and the cream puffs individually on her lovely spring table to let each guest decide how much to take. It was up to them to add grapes! My advice? Go for the grapes!
Wait! Are you wondering about the five ways you can serve this yummy salad? You'll probably come up with more of your own, but here you go!
Do you have any luncheons or bridal showers coming up? What are you planning to serve? I'd love to hear your ideas!
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