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Recipes and Stories

30 June 2017: More Summer Salads

Chicken Salad with Green Grapes and Almonds (because the pecans were in the freezer and the almonds were already toasted and ready to use)

About two-thirds of a left over roasted chicken, half a bag of green grapes languishing in the vegetable bin, and a new bundle of scallions. Add in a steaming afternoon in which cooking is out of the question. For most people, the logical sum of all that would’ve been chicken salad with grapes, a modern standard that has been enjoyed all over our country for more than thirty years.

Most people, that is, except for me.

I have this odd prejudice against fruit mixed with meat and poultry. If the combination is put in front of me, I’ll politely eat it, but as an old friend used to say, “it’s not the fondest thing I’m of.” It’s reflected in my work: about the only fruit and meat combinations in any of my cookbooks are apples with pork and citrus fruit with fish. So it’s very likely that I’m one of the only culinary professionals in the country who has never put grapes, blueberries, or strawberries into chicken salad.

But the rest of my household has a sweet tooth and loves fruit and poultry, chicken salad with grapes in particular. And there sat all the ingredients for it in my refrigerator, threatening to rebel if they had to sit one more day. I sighed, took out a favorite local community cookbook from St. Andrews Academy to use as a guide, and went to work.

And do you know what? I loved it, and will make it again. And again.

Sometimes we need to bite the bullet and get over a prejudice: we just never know what lovely experiences it might be causing us to miss.

But I’m still not playing football. You can’t make me.

Chicken Salad with Grapes and Almonds

This is based on a recipe from First Come, First Served . . . In Savannah: A Taste of Southern History and Hospitality, a lovely fundraiser cookbook from the Parent Teacher Organization of St. Andrew’s School in Savannah. Thanks to wonderful cook Jeannie Knight and a diligent committee, it’s brimming with so many of Savannah’s culinary treasures.

Serves 4

3 cups small-diced cooked chicken, preferably both light and dark meat
¾ cup small diced celery from the heart
½ cup sliced scallions, both white and green parts
¼ cup chopped sweet bread and butter pickles
¾ cup green grapes, halved and seeded if necessary
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
¾ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Whole black pepper in a mill
1/3 cup roughly chopped toasted pecans or almonds

1. Combine the chicken, celery, scallion, pickle, grapes, and 1 tablespoon of the parsley in a mixing bowl. Add the mustard, and most of the mayonnaise and gently fold it in until all the ingredients are evenly coated, adding more mayonnaise as needed to just lightly coat the ingredients. Add the lemon juice and season with black pepper to taste, and gently mix it in. Cover and refrigerate until well-chilled, at least 2 hours.

2. Just before serving, taste and adjust the pepper and add salt if needed. Fold in the pecans or almonds. Fold them in and turn the salad into a serving bowl. Sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of parsley and serve immediately.

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