From leftovers to chicken salad. Today, I’m sharing one of my favorite ways to turn leftovers into a practical meal that doesn’t feel like leftovers.
Holidays are great for fun, family and food. But sometimes you find yourself left when a heaping amount of leftovers. Labor day, yes it has almost been two weeks since, and yes, I have been MIA on the blog since, but we’ll discuss that later… Anyhow, on the Sunday of Labor day weekend, we had a cookout. Beef and chicken fajitas, rice, beans, guacamole, homemade salsa, and the rest of the works. Even though there were 12 of us that ate, there was plenty of leftovers packed into the fridge.
After a morning on the water of Medina Lake, we got back to the house and breakfast. On the menu: fajita and egg tacos. Now, that is how you do breakfast tacos.
Even still, we had leftover chicken.
Nonetheless, my mind was working out just how I was going to use it up. Chicken Tortilla Soup, Chicken Enchiladas, Chicken Pot Pie, etc. And then my mom’s Chicken Salad came to mind.
As mentioned countless times on this blog, my mother, Teresa, is a whiz in the kitchen. Possibly hundreds could attest to this. But where she excels the most is in the simplest of meals. Something she does causes a simple sandwich to feel like the best thing you have ever eaten. Chicken or tuna salad have always been my favorite sandwiches of hers. That could also be because normally they accompany a more than satisfying soup. However, they are good enough to stand alone as a bomb sandwich. She doesn’t take sandwich-making lightly.
So I get started on my own chicken salad.
First, I break the chicken down into chunks. Wisely the guys hadn’t sliced up all the meat prior to serving. That kept the meat from drying out whatsoever. Then I fed the chicken chunks into our Ninja blender to coarsely shredded consistency. You could easily shred your chicken up with two forks, but this is faster, and way more fun. I ended up with around 1 pound of shredded chicken.
Also if you don’t have leftover chicken, one of my favorite/easy ways to make chicken for things like this, is in the crockpot. I add the chicken to the bowl of my slow cooker, add water or whatever liquid you like until it is covering the raw chicken. Add seasonings, like garlic powder, chili powder, paprika, onion soup mix, etc. Turn it on Low for 6 hours or High for 3-4 hours until it is falling apart.
Once chicken is shredded, I work on dicing up apples and celery. I dice them up pretty good so they don’t seem too chunky. Ideally in each bite, I want chicken, apple, celery and relish. Obviously you could also dice up a hard-boiled egg, or whatever else you like to add to your chicken salad.
As I am dicing up the ingredients I add to my bowl of chicken and continue to stir so that I can judge the proportions of each of the additions. Like I said, my goal is even consistency. In this last batch I used 3-4 stalks of celery and 1 1/2 Granny Smith apple.
A dash or two of salt and pepper. Stir. Now time to add the plain Greek yogurt. And this is where this turned into Not My Mother’s Chicken Salad. She of course uses 100% mayonnaise (HEB brand, naturally). And it is so yummy. But if you’re looking at lightening up your chicken salad, plain Greek yogurt is an excellent way to do that. Plain yogurt would work too.
Like with adding the celery and apple, I add a little at a time, stirring with every addition so that I can get it to the equilibrium point of creamy, but not too creamy. Luckily I had another pair of taste buds to help find that point. I’d say I used somewhere between 2/3 and 1 cup of yogurt. But honestly, I was adding a heaping spoonful at a time, so don’t hold me to that!
Once it is nice and creamy, I add my favorite relish. I use Dill, but use whichever you love the most. Again, I add by the spoonful and stir in between additions, I continue to taste until I am pleased. This is also the time to add more salt and pepper if needed.
Something I also like to add to chicken salad, or pimento cheese, is chopped pecans. They add a great texture and it’s good for you too!
Top on crackers, or put in between soft slices of bread. Smooshable spreads, go on smooshable breads. Pretty sure Alton Brown said that on an episode of Good Eats!
What are your favorite things to add to chicken salad? What is something you make differently from your mom/grandma?
As always looking forward to hearing from y’all!
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