Being known as a cook within your varied social circles has its distinct advantages. You get to bring what you like ( or make best) to the neighborhood potluck, the family birthday, or the church funeral lunch. Not terribly long before Covid (Are we saying that now?), I catered a funeral meal. The family involved was generous about letting me know their much-loved patriarch LOVED things like ham salad, chicken salad, etc. To keep the buffet interesting, I included CURRIED CHICKEN SALAD SANDWICHES. One lady — someone I’d trust — approached me to allow that my CURRIED CHICKEN SALAD was better than a top-shelf local restaurant’s version. I didn’t forget that. Who would, huh?
No idea how that worked as I had no recipe, just cooked and stirred until it tasted as I liked–even though I was cooking for a couple hundred people. But I remembered the compliment. This summer, when I was asked to provide lunch for a moving crew, that salad pinged. Next thing I knew, I was cooking chicken and stirring it all together once more with a lovely sweet curry powder from Penzey’s. This time, I kept track of the ingredients and wrote them down. Turns out, they were oh-so-simple. In fact, that was the key–not many details. Freshly cooked, tender chicken with just a small variety of finely chopped vegetables and fruit…and seasoning each level as I went along. Of course.
WHERE DID CURRIED CHICKEN SALAD ORIGINATE?
…………………… Why, at Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation Luncheon, of course!
The recipe "Poulet Reine Elizabeth" now widely known as Coronation Chicken has been created by Le Cordon Bleu London to be served at the Coronation Luncheon in 1953. This is the extraordinary story of the recipe and of one of the most significant moments of Le Cordon Bleu London. ~Le Cordon Bleu London
What was perfect for my friends and their movers, as well as for the Queen or a big funeral lunch, is also a shoe-in for summer picnics, cook-outs, car trips, bridal showers, and maybe just for days when you really don’t feel like cooking. In which case, make Curried Chicken Salad with rotisserie chicken from your grocery’s deli and take a big break. (Costco rotisserie chicken is tastier and less expensive than most grocery store versions.)
What’s For Dinner? Solved for the Whole Summer! from More Time at the Table
While I’m a cookbook fanatic, I’ll allow most cookbooks don’t concentrate on summer fare. See Anna Pump’s SUMMER ON A PLATE for an exception to the rule. I end chopping up a ton of green salads and then get my husband Dave to fix anything on the grill — which is how you may operate, as well. Sometimes those meals get old or boring (or don’t work in the case of picnics and road trips) and a yummy cold sandwich sounds pretty good. Here I make use of the big bag of 4-inch ciabatta rolls from Costco — they freeze well and are lovely as bread for salad or soup, too. You could also try pretzel rolls, pita bread, tortillas, croissants, or whole-wheat Kaiser buns, which might all hold the salad better than the proverbial sliced bread — with the exception of a perfectly fresh walnut-raisin loaf. If that’s available, go for it.
The common phrase, "the best thing since sliced bread," as a way of hyping a new product or invention may have come into use based on an advertising slogan for Wonder Bread, the first commercial manufacturer of pre-wrapped, pre-sliced bread. ~ by Art Molella; THE ATLANTIC, April 8 2012.
While you don’t need them — this is easy stuff — I include a few prep photos for fun:
And now you’re ready to try some old school summer “cooking” fun:
Curried Chicken Sandwiches
- 1 – 1 ¼ pounds chicken tenders
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- 2 each cut into small dice: green onions and celery stalks
- ½ cup each chopped canned pineapple and seedless green grapes cut into fourths
- ¾ – 1 cup mayonnaise or to taste — plus more to spread on both sides of rolls
- ¾ teaspoon sweet curry powder – or more to taste
- Pinch ground cayenne
- ¼ cup finely chopped walnuts, optional
- 6 ciabatta rolls — sliced in half and spread lightly with mayonnaise on both sides (can sub pita bread)
- 1 cup fresh greens mixed with soft herbs such as parsley, cilantro, dill, basil, etc.
- COOK CHICKEN: Heat a large skillet or grill pan over medium heat. Toss chicken tenders with a tablespoon or two of olive oil, half-teaspoon of kosher salt, and ¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper. Transfer to pan/grill and spread evenly. Cook until golden on one side –about 3 minutes; turn to cook the other side until golden—another 2-3 minutes. Lower heat, cover, and continue cooking another minute or two until done through with no pink remaining. Turn out onto cutting board, check for doneness; cool. Chop into pieces between ½-inch and 1-inch in size.
- MEANWHILE, CHOP THE VEGETABLES AND FRUIT and place in a large bowl. Season with a pinch each of salt and pepper.
- ADD COOLED CHICKEN, MAYONNAISE, CURRY POWDER, A LITTLE MORE SALT AND PEPPER, CAYENNE, AND WALNUTS (IF USING). Stir together well. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- SCOOP SALAD ONTO THE BOTTOM HALVES OF EACH ROLL and grind a little pepper on top; add greens and herbs. Add the roll tops and serve immediately. If storing for a trip or picnic, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and keep refrigerated or in cooler with ice until needed. (Salad alone will keep 2 days in the fridge in a tightly-sealed container. Do not freeze.)
Change it up: While I left my recipe with a very simple ingredient list, you could add apples, pears, raisins, mango, other nuts, and so on. Walnut-Raisin bread, despite it being “sliced bread,” would be lovely, too. Other curry powders may be spicer if you like heat or you can simply add cayenne to your grocery store curry powder. Make your own curry powder and have it exactly as you’d like. To cut fat, use light mayo or try half plain Greek yogurt and half mayo. No carbs for you? Add the salad to greens or roll it up in lettuce leaves for a wrap. You can also try low-carb tortillas.
Wine: Off-dry Riesling. Dessert: Homemade cookies.
Other Curried Chicken Salad recipes: Try Ina Garten’s, Gourmet Magazine’s (2002), or NYT/Eric Asimov’s, or Coronation Chicken recipe from Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation Luncheon in 1953.
CUTTING FOOD AND GAS COSTS: Thought for the week…..
LIFE GOES ON:
Home from my MIL’s funeral and instead of being overwhelmed with grief —not that I’m not grieving — I find myself overwhelmed with the beauty of spending days on end in the midst of family. If only it didn’t take an occasion to bring us together. How to change that?
Thanks for spending time with me in my kitchen. I’m, as always, grateful for your positive presence in my cooking life.
Make some chicken salad,
below: my husband Dave’s parents, Gene and Lorna Morgan at their wedding in 1950. They married the day after Lorna graduated high school. She crossed the river just days before their 72nd wedding anniversary. How fast does life move?