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!
Two Ways To Whip Up The Most Delicious Chicken Salad You Ever Tasted
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.
Ready Set Serve The Best Sandwiches Ever
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!
A savory chicken salad with basil, lemon, and toasted pecans that great on buns, in a cream puff shell, a wrap, or stuffed in a ripe tomato.
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast simmered until tender with one heaping tablespoon of paste-type chicken bouillon in enough water to cover the chicken. This process should take less than 30 minutes, and you can do this step ahead of time.
- OR meat from one whole rotisserie chicken, skin removed.
- 1 cup thinly sliced celery
- 2 tsp dried basil, or better still, 2 Tbsp of fresh basil, chopped fine
- 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 mainly for color, optional
- 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 a pan, dissolve bouillon with 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!
- OR chop up all the meat from one whole rotisserie chicken with the skin removed.
- Chop or shred the chicken to desired chunkiness. We like ours fairly finely chopped. You should have 2 to 3 cups of chopped chicken.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well. If it seems a little dry, add a little broth at a time until you reach the right consistency.
- If you add pecans, toast them first by putting them in a single layer on a paper towel and microwave in thirty-second increments, stirring in between until the desired toastiness is achieved. I can't tell you how just long because every microwave is different.
- 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!!
Feeling Fancy And Festive Serve It In Quick And Easy Cream Puffs
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!
Easy puffy pastry shell you can fill with savory chicken or seafood salad or with pudding, mousse, lemon curd, or whipped cream for an elegant dessert.
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup (one stick) butter
- 1 cup flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Bring water to a boil in a heavy saucepan.
- Melt one stick of butter in the boiling water.
- Add the flour and salt all at once and stir until a ball of dough forms.
- Remove from the heat and let it cool slightly.
- Beat in four eggs, one at a time, until the mixture is smooth.
- Drop batter onto parchment-lined cookie sheets three inches apart.
- Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 325 degrees and continue baking for 25 minutes.
- Remove cream puffs from the oven and split open, leaving a hinge.
- Turn the oven off and return the cream puffs to the oven for about twenty minutes to allow the inside to dry out slightly.
- Remove the cream puffs from the oven and fishing cooling them on a rack.
This Salad Is Fancy Enough To Serve At The Most Elegant Luncheon
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!
- Serve it on a deliciously sweet Hawaiian bun or slider bun with lettuce and plain potato chips! Casual and so yummy!
- Stuff it inside a plump ripe tomato!
- Roll it up in a tortilla and make it a wrap!
- Pile it into a croissant for an elegant touch like it was served in the tea room!
- Spoon it inside a light and airy, crispy cream puff shell! The textures play beautifully together!
- Bonus! Scoop it onto a bed of lettuce for a light lunch!
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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