Friday, June 10, 2011

Chicken Salad for Bad Southern Belles

“Good Southern belles never put dark meat in their chicken salad…”  wrote Marilyn Schwartz in her classic guide to manners below the Mason/Dixon Line: The Southern Belle Primer, or Why Princess Margaret Will Never Be a Kappa Kappa Gamma.

Southern belles who follow this archaic rule (that smacks of racism) don’t know what they are missing. I think the best chicken salads are made with dark meat. Here is my recipe for chicken salad that also contains several other ingredients that once might have kept a Southern belle from receiving an invitation to join the Junior League.

The day before, or at least an hour before:

Put in a medium saucepan:

1 package of skinless, boneless chicken thighs

1 large carrot, roughly chopped

1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped

1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon salt

Enough chicken stock to cover all

Poach over a medium-low heat until the chicken breasts are cooked (about 20 minutes).

Reserve liquid for later use and put chicken thighs in a covered bowl in the refrigerator to chill.

1 small red onion

Peel and chop into small pieces and then put in a jar and cover with balsamic vinegar. Put into refrigerator to marinate.

Next day, or at least an hour later:

The chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 stalk of celery, chopped

¾ cup of chopped fennel bulb

½ cup chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon of fresh chopped tarragon

1 tablespoon of fresh chopped dill

1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

1 can of whole water chestnuts

½ cup of roasted, lightly salted almonds

½ cup of shelled pistachio nuts

2 tablespoons of the marinated chopped red onions

Five or six bread & butter pickles, chopped

Five or six cornichons, chopped

½ teaspoon of red curry powder

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon of ground black pepper

2 tablespoons of mayonnaise, preferably Hellman’s (under no circumstances substitute Miracle Whip. For such a gaucherie you would be given a stern rebuke by Ms. Schwartz)

Thoroughly combine all the above ingredients in a large bowl. The salad is better if it is put in the fridge for an hour or so to allow the flavors “to marry.” If you don’t have time for this, stall for as long as you can before serving to let the flavors at least co-habit for a while.

I like to serve the salad on a bed of arugula lightly dressed with a vinaigrette.

Serves 3 or 4


  1. Holy cow! Or chicken. I would begin the recipe by advising to raise the best slow-growing meat birds you can find, feeding them on organic grain and letting them roam in your yard to take advantage of fresh greens any yummy bugs. After slaughter, let the chicken(s) rest for at least 24 hours before poaching their thighs. I have yet to raise a chicken with more than two thighs.... the fennel and tarragon, parsley, dill, and cornichons make it sound like a remoulade-like dressing. My chickens will be ready for this preparation in late August or early September, so I will hang on to this recipe. THANKS!

  2. I was thinking that this sounded appetizing until the talk of slaughter. Just kidding, I'm just squeamish about the creatures. My husband makes all sorts of good chicken dishes using those prepared rotisserie chickens... maybe white and dark meat together would be acceptable? thanks, sp