COOKING ADVENTURE #45: Epic Chicken Salad
I was excited about making this. Want to know why? Because I’ve made it before and it was phenomenal. However, some things don’t really go according to plan. Here’s the deal: I live in Maine. It’s November, which means the temperatures are dropping here and snow is imminent. In fact, we’ve already had our first snow. Because this recipe is kind of crazy in its ingredient list, I discovered that some of the things needed weren’t in season. And that proved catastrophic for this week’s cooking adventure. What I ended up making, and what you see in the photo above… don’t make it. Trust me. It pales in comparison to what I was supposed to have made. I can tell you with certainty that this salad was supposed to have more colors in it than just green…
Let’s start at the beginning. My good friend, Sabrina, and I have eaten lunch a few times at this cute little sandwich shop down the street from where I live. It’s called Clan McLaren’s. They specialize in making sandwiches and salads with an Irish flare. Each time I’ve gone in there, I’ve always ordered what they call the Victoria Salad. To the average person, it seems as though they will be getting a chicken salad. But what comes to you on the plate is something completely different, wrapped in pure magic. And boy is it delicious! I decided that I wanted to be able to have this for dinner a few nights so I quickly took note of the ingredients in the salad, bought the groceries and made it up. It wasn’t quite the same as the salad at McLaren’s but it was pretty close and it tasted great.
Last week, I had a hankering for a nice fresh salad and figured that this would be a great recipe to go back to and to do for a Cooking Adventure. It’s been some time since I made the recipe but I jotted down the ingredients from memory and went off to the grocery store to get them. Now, if you are a long time reader of Cooking Adventures, you’ll know that my local grocery store has let me down several times when it comes to finding ingredients for some of my more exotic recipes. So, too, was it the story this time.
One of the let-down items was a can of mandarin oranges. I’ll attribute this one to memory versus the store not actually having them. I hadn’t written it down on the list so it just completely escaped my mind. The grapes, however, are a different story. Every time I’ve gone to the grocery store, I’ve always been able to find them. This time, though, I encountered grapes that were definitely going by. The store was trying to sell them for three dollars. I picked through the bags but found that most looked pretty funky and that it wasn’t worth it to spend the money for the few that looked okay. So then came the question, if I can’t use grapes in this salad… what do I replace it with? I could have gone the apple route or skipped the grapes all together and done just mandarin oranges… But instead, I gravitated toward the pears and decided that it would be a good replacement.
Onion. Again, long time readers will know my struggles with this multi-layered vegetable orb. I personally like it in salad… but with pear? I wasn’t sure how well that would mix together. So, I didn’t buy that either.
I remembered that there were supposed to have been nuts in the salad though I couldn’t remember which ones in particular. Walnuts? Slivered Almonds? Instead of deciding on one, I forgot about both on my way through the store. I know, pathetic.
I did manage to remember the main ingredients: chicken, mayonnaise, lettuce, croutons, and the salad dressing. If only I’d actually remembered what salad dressing I was supposed to get. I knew it was supposed to be some kind of oily dressing. But instead of going against my instincts and picking up Italian dressing, I followed the dark voices toward balsamic vinegrette and chose that instead. Now all that was left was to concoct this sad excuse for a salad. Before I was even through the check out line, I knew it was going to turn out horribly. It did.
I combined all of the ingredients, cooking the chicken first, then cutting it up into tiny slices and mixing it with mayonnaise. I also add a dash of curry to the mix which makes the chicken salad taste AMAZING. It may sound strange but give it a try. Lettuce, croutons, chicken salad, pears… I even added an avocado because I thought the salad looked ridiculously bare. Then, I slathered the dark balsamic vinegrette over everything and to my horror, stared down at this “thing” I dared to call a salad. Not at ALL what it was supposed to be like.
The desired salad is a bed of lettuce with a scoop of the chicken/mayo/curry mix resting on top. Grapes are cut in half and tossed in with slices of mandarin orange. Walnuts are sprinkled over it along with croutons and onion slices add an extra spark of purple against the green lettuce leaves. In addition to the Italian dressing, you are also supposed to add just a little drizzle of the mandarin orange juice from the can to give it a hint of citrus. It sounds magical, doesn’t it? Oh, how I wish I’d actually been able to make it last week. Boo hoo.
Next week on Cooking Adventures, we’ll be kicking it up for Thanksgiving! Along with my yearly Green bean Casserole, I’ll be trying out this new funky recipe that I found on Pinterest for Apple Cider Pound Cake with a scrumptious Sparkling Cider Glaze! Excited? Tune in next week!
P.S. I made this recipe the way it’s supposed to be made last week. THIS is what it’s supposed to look like: