Curried Chicken Salad
Curry is one of my favorite spices. I grew up eating my grandma’s curry recipe made with a whole chicken, bones and all, creamy potatoes, carrots, and peas. I remember seeing the dark bay leaves peeking through the golden curry sauce as a child and thinking they were sticks or something, having no place in grandma’s delicious curry. We always ate our curry with fresh baguettes, dipping the crunchy crust into the sauce while at the same time using it to spoon mouthfuls of colorful vegetables and tender meat.
It wasn’t until college that I really had curry any other way; at an Indian restaurant where I had vindaloo, from a roux for Japanese curry, and as a salad at a local coffee shop near campus. While my grandma’s soupy curry will always be the exemplar of what curry is to me, curried chicken salad is also another great way to enjoy that wonderful spice, especially in the hotter months of the year.
The curry and raisins are sweet and refreshing on the cool and creamy chicken salad. A mixed herb salad with an extra spread of mayonnaise on some hearty whole wheat slices of bread rounds out this perfect lunchtime sandwich with texture, flavor, and color.
Curried Chicken Salad, adapted from Tyler Florence’s recipe
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds total)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise, plus extra, if you like, for spreading
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup chopped, blanched almonds, toasted
1/4 cup raisins
A handful fresh basil leaves, torn
8 slices good-quality, dense white bread such as Tuscan
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Heat the oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat until smoking. Sprinkle the chicken breasts on both sides with salt and pepper. Put them in the pan in a single layer, and brown them 2 minutes on each side. Put the skillet in the oven and roast until the chicken is just cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool.
3. Chop the cooled chicken and put it into a large bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Spread 4 bread slices with mayonnaise, if you like, and spread with the curried chicken. Top with another slice of bread and serve.
This is a good basic recipe for curried chicken salad. I didn’t find the curry flavor to be as strong as I would have wanted, so I increased it to taste (anywhere from 1/2 teaspoon to a teaspoon). Instead of basil, I used cilantro.
I looked up other recipes for curried chicken salad, including Ina Garten’s, but found this one to be the most basic. A fresh squeeze of lemon juice right before eating would liven up the flavors a bit, in addition to some extra spices, like paprika or cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, coriander, or, as Ina Garten’s recipe suggests, some chutney. Also, in lieu of raisins, fresh sliced grapes or dried cranberries would also brighten up the salad.