When I was younger and still living at home with my mom, there were a few things she’d make that I just couldn’t keep a fork or spoon out of.
One was her tuna salad.
Another was chicken soup with matzo ball soup.
And another was her chicken salad. Usually sometime not long after she made chicken soup, my mom would throw together her chicken salad. I thought there was something magical about mom’s chicken salad. It was creamy without being heavy, had the right amount of celery crunch, and toasted almonds.
In college, I tried many chicken salads. I was pleasantly surprised by that one that has the grapes in it, and displeased with any that had pickle relish. I tried to make my mom’s many times and failed. I swear, she had a secret.
So finally, after a trip to the grocery store in which I purchased chicken, mayonnaise (the real stuff), sliced almonds, and celery, I called my mom on my $0.40 per minute cell phone from the back deck of the big blue house I lived in at the time and took notes on a scrap of paper while she dictated what to do to make her chicken salad.
And there, in my basement kitchen, cooked in an IKEA piece of crap pot and mixed in an IKEA piece of crap mixing bowl, I succeeded. I had a bowl full of nostalgia that finally tasted “right”. And of course, it was gone in a day.
Today after work, I was wracking my brain for something to do with the pounds of chicken I purchased a few days ago, and this chicken salad immediately came to mind. I hadn’t had it in forever, at least three years because it’s never been on the blog, and something about it spoke to me today. Mainly, it was the fact that it was super simple and I had another project going in the kitchen at the same time.
So, without further adieu:
Mom’s “Magical” Chicken Salad
- 1 lb cooked chicken breasts
- 4 ribs celery
- 2 ounces sliced almonds
- 1/3 cup real mayonnaise
- Chop or shred the chicken into small bite-sized pieces.
- Toast the almonds in a skillet until lightly browned and aromatic
- Chop the celery finely
- Mix the ingredients together and refrigerate
Yeah. That’s it. I can remember thinking that I felt so stupid that I couldn’t get something that simple exactly right. And then I realized: in prior attempts I’d fudged steps. Toasting the almonds in a skillet until aromatic is essential. A microwave won’t do, and raw or roasted won’t either. Real mayo is also key. Otherwise it ends up tasting like fake mayonnaise which really, no one likes. You might tell yourself that you like fake mayo, but you’re lying to yourself, and don’t get me started on Miracle Whip.
I enjoyed this bowl all on its own, and plan on a little more tonight, but am really looking forward to this salad for lunch tomorrow, if I can make the leftovers last through the night.
And because I know you all love seeing adorable pictures of our dogs, here’s a silly one of Maddux who’s decided he’s Superman for Halloween.
I hope you had a lovely Halloween and a great day! “See” you tomorrow with a fun baking project!