July 2, 2008

The Secret To Awesome Chicken Salad

The secret to awesome chicken salad is pistachios. Seriously. It was The Wife's idea and it was damn good.

Take your leftover chicken, some mayonnaise, celery, and they make the base for your chicken salad. But that's pretty dull chicken salad. You can throw in some salt and pepper but it's still pretty bland. And in Knoxville, I remembered eating a chicken salad sandwich that had chunks of fresh apple added to it, and it was really good. The sweet crunchiness of the apple added something to the chicken salad that made it tasty.

So we started adding small portions of sweet fruit to the chicken salad we made at home. We've settled on dried cranberries, and TJ's has cranberries dried after a soaking in orange juice, so you get a little bit of orange flavor with the cranberry.

The next step after fruits, of course, is nuts. Almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, all these were past experiments. Almonds -- that works good. Walnuts -- they were OK but I liked the almonds better. Sunflower seeds -- not so much. So this time around, I thought we might try some macadamia nuts we had left over from some baking The Wife had done. But she said, "Hey, how about those pistachios you brought back from Stinking Bakersfield that one day?" I resisted -- "We'll have to shell them," I said. "I'll do it," The Wife rejoined, and she did as I cleaned the celery.

Well, roasted pistachios in the chicken salad was an awesome addition. You don't need too many; they have a great, strong taste and they come with more than enough salt that you don't need to add any to the salad. Holy crap was that good chicken salad. I had the last of it for lunch today and my only regret is that it's gone now. Best leftovers since -- well, since the steak I made over the weekend, which has generated some tasty sandwich fixins, too.

Now, we like the creamy chicken salad. That means you just plop all of this in the food processor and mix for about a minute, until you've got a uniform, creamy off-white paste that you can spread on your bread or eat with chips like a luxurious dip. So the fruits and nuts get mashed up too and add their salty, fatty, sweet goodness in every bite. But if you chop the nuts up first, you can do this well in a more chunky, hand-made style of chicken salad too, if that's your preference for the texture of your chicken salad.

So there you go -- put pistachios in your chicken salad, my friends. Try it now, and thank us later.

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