Aaaah, mayonnaise salads. When its summertime and 97 degrees outside, why not enjoy a meal entirely dressed in mayonnaise? It’s just what us Southerners do. I’ve been contemplating these cold all-in-one meals for a few weeks since a friend said she’s whipped up a batch of shrimp salad for dinner and wouldn’t have to cook that night. Brilliant! Don’t overthink the mayonnaise thing…it’s GOOD. The mayo is really just a nice vehicle for the other salad flavors whether they be onions, scallions, spices, apples, curry, celery. It really shouldn’t stand out as an ingredient if you’re doing it the right way. Mostly its there as a binder just like it would be on a sandwich, gently gluing the main players to eachother. Just like you wouldn’t want a big glop on a sandwich, you don’t want a big bite of mayo in your salad.
Of the mayo salad genre, I only have ever made two types at home: chicken salad and tuna salad. I am of course most familiar with tuna salad due to the constant availability of canned tuna in my pantry. Tuna salad can be dressed up to the nines with tons of ingredients or it can stand alone with just canned tuna, mayo, and maybe a dash of celery seed or sweet pickle relish. I am so particularly enamored with my version of tuna salad that you’ll never see me order it at a restaurant no matter how highly recommended. And tuna melt? Perish the thought. Warm mayonnaise? No thanks.
Chicken salad is different but it still requires the same basic components: cold, crunch, and sweetness. After testing canned chicken, I’ve determined that freshly cooked chicken is the only option. This is completely frustrating because you think you’re just going to douse it with dressing and it won’t make a difference how it’s cooked, right? Wrong. Mayonnaise salads are particularly dependent on texture. Not only the crunch I mentioned above, but the texture of the meat is infinitely important to its success. The ultimate best tasting chicken salad is made with roasted bone-in chicken breast. Second best would be a tie between roasted boneless skinless breasts and a rotisserie chicken. Rotisserie seems to win about 99% of the time since it’s a quick meal for the kids before it becomes a salad.
This Curry Chicken Salad has been a standby for years and is sadly the only recipe I have that uses curry. Someday I may better understand curry’s potential, but for now it’s just a fantastic mayonnaise seasoning. (Side note: I debated whether this was Curried Chicken Salad or Curry Chicken Salad but decided I did not “curry” anything in the stewing sense of the word since it’s a cold salad. If that’s the wrong wording, the food grammarians should correct me!)
Curry Chicken Salad with Craisins
Note: All the ratios should be to your taste and depend on what you have handy.
1 rotisserie chicken, diced or shredded
1/4-1/2 C mayonaise
1-2 tbsp curry powder
1/2-1 cup craisins, raisins, or other dried fruit
1-2 stalks celery, diced small
1/4 C chopped cashews (optional)
Place diced chicken in a medium bowl and add craisins and celery. Mix the mayo with the curry powder in a small bowl. Salt and pepper to taste. Gradually add the seasoned mayo to the chicken and stir to make sure it doesn’t get overdressed. Chill. Serve on lettuce, in a sandwich, pita, or tortilla wrap.
(Note: I originally just added the lettuce to stage up the picture and make it look like they do in restaurants, but I really preferred the salad with some salad. The lettuce cuts the richness of the dressing and brings you back over to the “I’m eating a salad to stay cool” side of things.)