I woke up in Las Cruces… When I made my way downstairs for breakfast, I thought for a moment I had walked into heaven. The buffet-breakfast at the hotel was filled to the brim with Air Force pilots in their flight suits. Hello, Top Gun. From a quick glance around, I estimated about half were tall and good looking. Or was it just the uniform?
That’s from the journal I kept when I drove cross-country over six years ago. It’s too bad there isn’t more to the story than that, but I’m a wallflower… more Walter Mitty than Mae West. But it’s moments like that that made the trip more than getting from point A to point B. I stopped to notice things. I looked around. I finally had the blinders off. The ingredients of my trip were simple: me, my car, and music with a sprinkling of thoughts and sunsets. I drove off into the sunset everyday for over a week. And it felt right.
Chicken salad is kind of like that. It’s ingredients are simple, but if you pay attention it can be more than a sandwich. It has subtle textures and flavors that come together in a quiet song. And it feels right. Roast chicken is pretty and dressed for company. But chicken salad is that quiet, perfect moment alone.
The chicken salad I make is pretty basic: chicken, celery, onion, salt, pepper, mayonnaise. If I have an apple around, I may dice up half of it and add it as well. Walnuts or pecans certainly don’t hurt either. I’ve even been known to add grapes. But most of the time the basic chicken salad is all I need.
I had this chicken salad for lunch the other day, and I was surprised by how much more pronounced the rosemary was in it than the roast the night before. If you are more patient than I am, you might have this on toasted wheat bread perhaps, or maybe with crackers, or some other way that requires more than a fork. If you are not more patient than I am, you will probably eat it straight from the bowl.
I never measure when I make this, but this time, just so I could be more specific than “take some chicken and add a little onion and some celery… and a glop or two of mayonnaise”, I measured. You’re welcome. I know how frustrating it can be to be given a “recipe” like tht (my mom is the queen of not measuring). But even though I’m giving you measurements, keep in mind it really is just a formula. Tinker with the ratios until you find your happy place… and throw in half an apple once in a while.
1 1/2 cups chicken, chopped into bite-size chunks
1/4 cup onion, diced
1/3 cup celery, diced
about 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste
1. In a medium-sized bowl, mix chicken, onion, celery and mayonnaise.
2. Taste it. Adjust the salt and pepper to your liking.
3. Taste it some more. Make a sandwich. Or just eat it from the bowl… but most of all, enjoy.