It’s been a really hot summer here in Georgia. Hot temperatures and high humidity, too. It seems like I haven’t been cooking as much as usual, either. I just realized that I’ve only posted one actual recipe since the end of July! That must change and quickly! This is a food blog after all.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this blog and ways I can improve it. I’ve realized that I need to re-focus on what I know and do best – southern food. The problem, I think, is that I really like to try all kinds of foods and then I get excited and want to share those with my readers. I tend to let my focus wander a bit. I’ll do a little Italian something, then I’ll do a little Mexican something, but I need to get back to our wonderful southern cuisine. Starting right now!
Chicken salad is such a staple of southern cuisine. You see it on practically every menu in every southern restaurant. It’s present at nearly every celebratory occasion, wedding shower, and baby shower. It makes a great sandwich for a picnic, or stands on its own for the salad course.
Here’s the thing about chicken salad – there really is no recipe for it. Everybody makes it a little differently and you have to use your cook’s judgment when adding the ingredients because the measurements are different every time. Two things that make my chicken salad different are the roasting of the chicken and the addition of toasted pecans. Roasting the chicken gives a richer flavor than the traditional poached chicken meat and the pecans lend an additional texture and taste that is quite good.
Here’s what you’ll need to make my Toasted Pecan Chicken Salad:
4 skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts
1 1/2 tsp. butter
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
2-3 stalks celery, finely chopped
3/4 to 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350.
Line a roasting tray or cookie sheet with parchment paper. Drizzle the chicken on both sides with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Place breasts skin side up in preheated oven and cook until chicken is done all the way through. It will take anywhere from 35 to 50 minutes depending on the size of the chicken breasts. Remove the chicken from the oven and allow it to sit until it’s cool enough to handle.
After removing the chicken from the oven, put the butter into a small baking pan and place the pan in the oven until the butter melts. Remove the pan from the oven and add the pecans, stirring to coat them well with the butter. Cook until the pecans are toasted – about 5-6 minutes. Remove pecans from the oven and set aside.
When the chicken has cooled, remove the meat from the skin and bones, shredding it some with your fingers as you go. Discard the skin and bones. Chop the chicken into small pieces. I like the chicken chopped pretty fine, but not so fine that you would think it was ground. Just a nice small dice.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the chopped chicken, toasted pecans and celery.
Add the mayonnaise starting with 3/4 cup and adding more as you feel the mixture needs. The chicken breasts I used this time were really large. The four of them made about 8 cups of chopped chicken. I started with 3/4 cup mayonnaise but by the time I was finished I had added at least that much more. You just have to use your judgment as to the amount you need. Keep mixing and tasting until you think it’s right. You may also need to add more celery. It just depends on your personal preference. Be sure to give it a taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
Optional: 1 cup of halved red grapes may be added. If I had been making this for just myself or for a party, I would have added the grapes. But since BeeBop doesn’t like fruit in his chicken salad I left them out. It’s great either way!
My favorite way to have chicken salad is mounded on a lettuce leaf accompanied with fruit (my favorites are red grapes and cantaloupe – just a great taste combination with the chicken salad), sliced ripe tomatoes sprinkled with salt and pepper, and crackers. For a party, make chicken salad finger sandwiches. Remove the crusts from your bread, add the salad and cut into four pieces. For a tea or luncheon, serve the chicken salad in puff pastry shells. So many options!
- 4 skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts
- Olive oil
- 1 1/2 tsp. butter
- 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
- 2-3 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 3/4 to 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Line a roasting tray or cookie sheet with parchment paper. Drizzle chicken on both sides with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Place breasts skin side up in preheated oven and cook until chicken is done all the way through. Approximately 35-50 minutes depending on the size of the chicken breasts. Remove from oven and allow to sit until chicken is cool enough to handle.
- After removing the chicken from the oven, put the butter into a small baking pan and place the pan in the oven until the butter melts. Remove the pan from the oven and add the pecans stirring to coat them well with the butter. Cook until the pecans are toasted – about 5-6 minutes. Remove pecans from the oven and set aside.
- Take chicken off the bone, shredding it some with your fingers as you go. Discard the skin and bones. Chop chicken into small pieces.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine chicken, toasted pecans and celery. Add the mayonnaise starting with 3/4 cup and adding more as you feel the mixture needs. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Optional: 1 cup of halved red grapes may be added.
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Other chicken salad recipes you might enjoy:
- Dill Chicken Salad with Grapes and Almonds from Sweet Basil Kitchen
- Chicken Salad from the Food Network Kitchens
- Simply Recipes’ Chicken Salad