Cambrian: Opinion

Elegant chicken salad recipe brings back memories of mom

An elegant chicken salad to grace your table.
An elegant chicken salad to grace your table. Special to The Cambrian

Remembering mothers on Sunday elicited gustatory memories of Mom’s fragrant kitchen: my ultimate classroom, lab and recipe-writing workshop.

A chicken simmering on her stove signaled comfort dinners and entertaining luncheons.

Hilarious tales, recounting her first Home Economics teaching job in the Sierra foothills above Fresno circa 1940, amazed me. Fresh chicken meant that her Oklahoman roommate chopped off its head; Mom plucked the feathers and cooked it. Imagine, a couple of UCLA coeds plying their newly minted education to practical skills in their country life. Stories for a book!

Chicken salad graced Mom’s table at many a luncheon. Simply elegant, it was a hostess’ dream for do-ahead preparation and fussy-free presentation. The white breast meat endowed the salad; the tender dark meat contributed to a homey chicken rice casserole. The abundant broth souped and sauced our home-cooked meals for the week.

The reward for your effort if you are a commercial broth user? A free chicken. Do the math. A poached chicken yields a gallon or so of broth, about the price of the chicken, depending on its pedigree. Yes, Virginia (Mom’s name), there is a “free lunch,” soup or salad. Gratitude, I’ve learned my lessons well.

Chicken Broth

In a large stock pot, bring to a gentle boil and simmer on medium-low heat for one hour.

5 pound whole chicken, rinsed

1 gallon plus 1 cup of water

1 large carrot, scrubbed and cut in pieces, optional

4 stalks celery, preferably the outsiders with some leaves, cut in pieces

1 onion, quartered

1/4 tsp. salt

Remove chicken from pot. Cool and debone white and dark meat to separate bowls. Return chicken carcass and trimmings to the pot. Simmer for two or more hours. Strain broth through a colander, discarding the bone material, and refrigerate. De-fat when congealed. Use or freeze.

Chicken Salad

4 cups chicken breast, diced

1-1/2 cups celery, finely diced

1 cup pineapple chunks, drained and halved

1/2 cup Best Foods Mayonnaise

1 tsp. lemon juice

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. curry powder, optional

1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Linn’s California Chutney, optional

Salad greens

Cut chicken breast into bite-size pieces. Add celery and pineapple. Blend mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, curry if using and toss with chicken mixture. Toast slivered almonds in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Before serving, fold in toasted almonds. Serve chilled salad in a lettuce leaf. Garnish with chutney if using curry. Serves 6-8.

Chicken Rice Casserole

1 cup raw rice, white or brown, cooked in chicken broth, according to package directions

4 cups diced chicken, dark meat

6 tbsp. butter

6 tbsp. flour

2 cups chicken broth

2 cups milk, any percent

1/4 tsp. each thyme, summer savory, marjoram

1/2 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. butter, divided

4 oz. mushrooms, sliced

1/4 cup shallots, minced (optional)

1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Lightly grease a 13x9 casserole. Layer cooked rice and chicken. To make sauce, melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add flour, stirring for a minute. Slowly pour in chicken broth and milk, stirring until mixture smoothly thickens, 5-7 minutes. Season with spices and salt. In a medium skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Sauté shallots and mushrooms. Toast almonds in remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a 350-degree oven for 5-7 minutes. Add mushrooms and almonds to sauce.

Pour over chicken rice mixture. Cover. Bake in 350 oven for 30-40 minutes. Or, refrigerate and place in cold oven to heat at 350 degrees for one hour. Serves 8.

The Culinary Corner is special to The Cambrian. Submit recipes and ideas to Consuelo Macedo and Nancy Allen at The Cambrian, 2068 Main St., Cambria, CA 93428, or email her at cambrian@thetribunenews.com.
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