Coronation Chicken Salad
Ah, the royal wedding. I had an especially delicious time watching it because A. we made coronation chicken salad and B. I was joined by one of my favorite people in the world: my friend Ali, who dropped in from NYC to hang out, teach me how to shop in Sydney, eat us out of all our Easter chocolate, and generally bring some sunshine to our lives.
Yes, it rained the entire time she was here. Not that that stopped us from getting out on the town. It was a glorious two weeks, full of food and friendship, borrowing clothes and feeling baby’s first kicks. It was also the first time someone from my past has visited me in Sydney, and it made me realize, among other (more important) things, that I’ve become a curmudgeon in the kitchen.
For example, I only use that knife, the serrated one, to chop tomatoes, and therefore so should everybody else. Speaking of tomatoes, I like them cut small so that the age-old truism that knives should never be used for salad be upheld. When I told her of my demands, Ali, being a good friend, gave me a withering glance, cut the tomatoes way too big with the wrong knife, and somehow we all survived.
The same applies to this chicken salad…despite all the difficulties, we survived. Obviously, we were going for something British, and, after nixing tea sandwiches (Francesco will not under any circumstances, eat sandwiches for dinner), we settled on coronation chicken salad. Difficulty number one (and I should have known this), was that Francesco’s immeasurable love of chicken would not cancel out his even stronger feeling that, forget about the sandwiches, chicken salad is not dinner food. This, combined with his refusal to even pretend to care about the royal wedding, made him a rather sullen dinnermate.
Difficulty number two: when making the salad, Ali and I went the easy route and rather than poach the chicken ourselves, we bought a gorgeous rotisserie bird just begging to be ripped apart and eaten with grease-covered fingers. Which is exactly what we did for the first five minutes until one of us remembered we were supposed to be using it to make coronation salad. Once we regained our self control, I wanted to pick the meat into small (knife-free!) bites, but Ali wanted something chunky. Almost a difficulty, but not quite: I acquiesced. After all, who knows how long it would be until I had someone to acquiesce to? (Don’t answer that, Francesco.)
It turns out, chunks and grumps and all, the chicken salad with a smash success. Francesco deigned to have some the next day (for lunch) and I happily polished it off somewhere deep in the law library. And, if I didn’t have those
five four remaining cans of Progresso Macaroni & Bean soup that Ali selflessly lugged over in her suitcase, I’d be wishing there was some leftover right now.
I’m pretty sure this chicken salad will not be waiting for another royal wedding to make an appearance. What I’m not sure about it whether, without Ali by my side, I’ll be able to resist eating the entire chicken before the salad even gets made.
So, in light of distant sunshine, reopened law books and looming final exams, long live royal ceremony and friendship to put things in perspective. And make life a little more delicious.
CORONATION CHICKEN SALAD
As much as I love the Queen’s accent, and despite the fact that I’ve lived in Commonwealth countries for oh, 7 years or so, I am not and do not purport to be British. Thus, this chicken salad is a gross approximation of what may (or may not) be a classic. We didn’t exactly measure, so just eyeball it as you go, adding more yogurt or curry powder or arugula as you see fit. We added some chopped almonds, which add a nice crunch, but you can leave them out. Apricot jam is also a classic ingredient, but we don’t think it adds too much. One chicken, with some finger licking, will make about 8 sandwiches or serve 4 – 6 for lunch.
1 rotisserie chicken, meat removed from the bones (juice, if any, reserved)
2 celery stalks, chopped small
2 handfuls baby arugula
3/4 cup golden raisins (sultanas)
1/2 cup almonds, chopped (optional)
3/4 cup Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 – 2 teaspoons curry powder
salt and pepper to taste
If you’ve reserved the chicken juices, place them in a small bowl with the raisins and let them soak for as long as you have, at least an hour.
In another small bowl, mix the dressing ingredients together. Add a bit more curry or salt and pepper to taste. Mix all the salad ingredients (including the soaked raisins and any remaining chicken juice) in a large serving bowl and pour the dressing over to coat. Toss everything together; if it looks (or tastes) too dry, go ahead and add more yogurt and spices until it’s as creamy as you want. Serve at room temperature on a bed of lettuce or in sandwiches. It will keep in the fridge for a few days.