I am a late in life lover of chicken salad. As a child, I had an aversion to this type of mixed up dish coated in dressing – I felt they were primarily tools my mom used to hide things I didn’t want to eat. I was always concerned that chicken salad or casseroles were stealthy ways to get me to eat my vegetables. But I got over that as an adult, in part because I reached a stage in life where you simply couldn’t stomp your feet and refuse to eat something and still be accepted in polite society. And then I realized how very good a well-made chicken salad truly is. So, all those years, my chicken-salad-loving mother was right.
In my own kitchen I have created Lemon Dill Chicken Salad to appeal to my mother and a fall appropriate Maple Mustard version. I have made chicken salads with Moroccan flavors and with an Asian flair. These are dressed primarily with mayonnaise with additions of buttermilk and yogurt.
But over the years, as I have perused my ever-growing collection of community cookbooks, I kept running across recipes for “Cooked Dressing for Chicken Salad.” Rarely is there an actual recipe for chicken salad, just the dressing, but after seeing so many recipes, I had to give it a try. And I am glad I did. The dressing is creamy and tangy with a sweet-and-sour edge from the sugar and vinegar. I kept the recipe simple here, with crunchy celery and almonds and a nice herbal note from parsley, but this salad will absolutely work with a variety of additions, so get creative.
By the way, my mom loves this version.
Chicken salad with cooked dressing
3 chicken breasts
1 cup chicken broth
3 celery stalks
1 bay leaf
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup slivered almonds
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1. Place the chicken breasts in a large saucepan that fits the breasts in one layer and pour over the broth. Squeeze the lemon juice into the pot, then drop in the juiced skin. Break up one celery stalk and add it to the pan with the bay leaf. Add enough water to cover the chicken breasts if needed, then place over high heat and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through (165 degrees F. internal temperature), about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the chicken breasts to a plate to cool.
2. Make the dressing while the chicken is cooling. Beat the eggs in a medium sized saucepan, then beat in the sugar. Stir the flour into the water to make a paste, then add it to the eggs. Add the vinegar and salt and stir to fully combine. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the dressing thickens to the consistency of runny pudding. Pull the pot of the heat, and stir in the butter, a small piece at a time, until each piece is melted before adding the next. Set aside to cool slightly.
3. Finely chop the remaining two stalks of celery and place in a large bowl. Dice the chicken into small pieces and add the bowl with the almonds and parsley and stir to combine. Spoon in the dressing a bit at a time and stir to coat the chicken until you have a consistency that suits you. You may personally not want to use all the dressing.
4. Season with salt and pepper to taste, cover and chill until ready to serve. The salad will keep for two days.
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