In 1907, an enterprising Philadelphia delicatessen owner named Edward Schlorer added preservatives to his wife’s mayonnaise and sold it as salad dressing. This might have seemed like a small footnote in culinary history, but it was a turning point in salad making. Instead of making boiled dressing, with flour and vinegar, cooks could combine Mrs. Amelia Schlorer’s mayonnaise, leftover chicken from Sunday dinner, a couple of ribs of chopped celery, and a little salt and pepper, without going near the stove.
It was inevitable that a recipe so ridiculously simple and tasty would take off with hundreds of variations, each with their own following. At Rebecca’s, a busy Boston cafe, chicken salad with red grapes and walnuts was a regular menu feature. The addition of juicy grapes and crunchy nuts to a simple mayonnaise chicken salad was so appealing that some customers ate it every day for lunch. Occasionally the kitchen ran out, and whenever this happened, grown men would sulk.
Like many cooks, we’ve done our share of tinkering with chicken salad, and whenever we think we’ve run out of possibilities, something new emerges. Some of the best ideas start with store-cooked birds. For instance, a main-dish salad, which can be put together practically on the spur of the moment, calls for a rotisserie chicken, vegetables and fresh basil and a garlicky vinaigrette, instead of a mayonnaise-based dressing. Like all chicken salads, it’s flat-out delicious.
Roasted Chicken Salad with Basil
A purchased rotisserie chicken makes this salad a snap. Cook the corn and beans until just crisp-tender.
1 (2 1/2- to 3-pound) cooked rotisserie chicken
1 3/4 cups cooked green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 3/4 cups cooked corn kernels (about 3 ears)
1 chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red or white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Remove skin from chicken; discard. Remove meat from bones and chop. You should have about 4 cups of meat.
2. Toss chicken, beans, corn, bell pepper, basil and pine nuts in a large bowl.
3. Whisk garlic, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a bowl; pour over salad, tossing gently. Serves 8.
Recipe by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough.
Per serving: 320 calories, 19g fat, 75mg chol., 27g prot., 10g carbs., 2g fiber, 370mg sodium.
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Photo credit: Mark Boughton Photography / styling by Teresa Blackburn