Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Dr. K’s Awesome Chicken Salad

As the Other Dr. K is often loathe to tell me, many of my recipes and general culinary choices usually result in, to put it bluntly, diarrhea (or, to put it euphemistically, the runs, the trots, or the green-apple two-step). This scene most frequently occurs in restaurants: after I order the buffalo chicken platter on the hottest setting, the Other Dr. K will squeeze her eyes shut, shake her head, and say, “You know you’re going to pay for that later.” And she is invariably right.

I tell that little TMI anecdote as a warning to precede the following recipe. To paraphrase the package of WOW! potato chips, “this chicken salad recipe may cause intestinal cramping and loose stools.” However, I would also like to add that without eating food like this, I probably never would have made my way completely through a single DC Showcase Presents volume. In fact, I have Zaxby’s and their nuclear chicken strips to thank for helping me get through the entire Phantom Stranger collection (in fact, "reading The Phantom Stranger" has become a euphemism in our house).

1-7 oz. bag or can of diced chicken, drained (the bags may say “no draining necessary,” but they are liars. If you don’t drain the liquid from the bag, you will have soggy chicken salad.)

1 hard-boiled egg

½ cup chopped celery

10 seedless grapes, halved


Brown Deli Mustard

Curry Powder


Garam Masala (These three spices can be affectionately referred to as the "Gut-Buster Trifecta")

Salt ‘n’ Pepa (Push it real good!)


1. Hard boil the egg. This is something I can never do right the first time. The egg always ends up breaking in the pot. Therefore, I can’t give good advice on this. The only thing I know to do is put the egg in the pot first, then add water and bring to a boil. This takes about 15 minutes--more than that if you have to start over again as I always do. In which case, some swearing will be involved.

2. Dump your drained chicken into a mixing bowl.

3. Add the soft ingredients: mayonnaise and mustard. I tend to eyeball my amounts here, but it usually works out to between ½ and ¾ cup of mayonnaise and 1-1 ½ tablespoons of mustard. Mix together.

4. Chop your celery and grapes and add those to the bowl. I like the texture of the celery in chicken salad, and the sweetness of the grapes goes well with the curry. The other day, I ordered a chicken salad sandwich from a restaurant, and the sandwich only had one grape in it. That was a crime.

5. At some point in the process, it is necessary to quote Jack Nicholson from Five Easy Pieces. If no one else is around, it may also be necessary for you to do both parts: Nicholson and the waitress.
“I'd like an omelet, plain, and a chicken salad sandwich on wheat toast, no mayonnaise, no butter, no lettuce. And a cup of coffee.”
“A #2, chicken salad sand. Hold the butter, the lettuce, the mayonnaise, and a cup of coffee. Anything else?”
“Yeah, now all you have to do is hold the chicken, bring me the toast, give me a check for the chicken salad sandwich, and you haven't broken any rules.”
“You want me to hold the chicken, huh?”
“I want you to hold it between your knees.”

Here's the scene itself:

You may also be tempted to sweep everything off of your table or counter to duplicate the scene's climax. This I would not recommend.

It is, however, immensely important to the quality of the chicken salad that you quote this scene accurately. Many people misquote Nicholson’s dialogue as something like,
“I want a chicken salad sandwich, hold the chicken salad.”
That’s just ridiculous and foolish, and it will ruin your food.

6. Crush your hard-boiled egg with a fork and put the pieces in the bowl.

7. Add your spices. I don’t include measurements for these either, as I just shake them into the bowl in an amount that looks about right. My best advice: shake it not so much like a Polaroid picture, but more like somebody’s gonna pay ya.

8. Add salt ‘n’ pepa to taste. Repeat “Ooh baby baby, baby baby” while mixing everything together.

9. Let stand in the fridge for at least an hour. This lets the flavors mix together, or "marinate," if you will.

Sometimes, I also add shredded cheddar cheese (which I shredded myself, natch). I have no preferences as far as bread is concerned. These are choices you will have to make on your own when the time comes. It may be difficult, bu I will not be there for you.


Maxo said...

I can't believe I'm saying this, but: Here's my favorite technique for hard-boiling eggs (taken from the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook).

Fill a pot with enough cool water to cover about an inch above the eggs. Bring it to an active boil (but not so active they start banging around in the pot and end up cracking). As soon as the water is boiling, turn the heat down so the water is just simmering and cover for 15 minutes.

Now cool off the eggs (I tend to replace the hot water with fresh, cold water and ice cubes). When you don't feel any more warmth coming off the eggs they're ready to go. I've noticed that the longer I leave them in the water, the easier they are to peel as long as you use them right way. If you refrigerate the eggs for later, I've got no guarantees.

Best of all, the eggs will almost always come out with a sunny yolk - I think I've only gotten that weirdo green tint a couple of times and I've been using this technique for years.

Maxo said...

Oh, and you probably already know this, but if you put an egg in the water and a steady stream of bubbles starts to come out of it, it probably already has a teeny-tiny crack in it and will burst while you're cooking it.

Stupid, no-quality-control chickens.