I have to admit that I was finding it difficult to think of a topic for this week. The day before Thanksgiving is much too late to offer any new plans or ideas (and, besides, I offered three side dish options last week). And everyone is too busy thinking about Thanksgiving to be interested in anything else. Or maybe that’s just me and I’m projecting!
While ideas for Thanksgiving leftovers would be another possibility — and I do have tons of ideas for that — I wrote on that topic two years ago in my first piece in the Berkshire Eagle.
And then, we made a roast chicken for dinner, which meant, as it often does, that I made my favorite curried chicken salad with the leftovers. I realized that this would be a perfect recipe on its own, and also one that can be made with turkey leftovers!
Let’s talk about the chicken. Most standalone recipes for chicken salad instruct you to poach boneless, skinless breasts. That’s lovely, but it’s not the only way. While roasted meat can be a bit drier, the mayonnaise will give your chicken salad plenty of moisture. Also, I don’t restrict myself to the white meat. It’s fine to use dark meat or a combination of both. You can even cut meat from a store-cooked chicken and it will still be delicious. Leftover turkey will likewise be wonderful.
Curry powder is a bit of a mystery ingredient. Unless you use a particular brand and variety frequently, it is difficult to predict the strength of the flavor, and some can be quite spicy. If you are unsure, try less curry powder to start and add more if needed. My favorite splurge for curry powder is the Maharajah Curry from Penzey’s — it contains saffron! It may take some time for the color to bloom, but the curry powder should give your chicken salad a lovely hue.
Really any dried fruit will work, or even a cubed fresh apple, which, of course, you would not simmer to rehydrate! And the choice of nuts is up to you, as well. I always have slivered almonds in the freezer, so that’s my go-to, but sometimes, if I have spicy, candied pecans, I’ll chop those to use instead.
Meanwhile, have a great Thanksgiving, and let me know if you make this recipe with your leftover turkey!
CURRIED CHICKEN (or TURKEY) SALAD
1/4 cup golden raisins, or other dried fruit, cut into smaller pieces if large
2 tablespoons dry white wine, or water
3 cups cooked chicken cut into ½-inch cubes; turkey can be substituted
1/4 cup mayonnaise, or more as needed
1-2 teaspoons curry powder, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon honey mustard
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
3 tablespoons slivered almonds, or other nuts, chopped if large
Place the raisins, or other dried fruit, and wine or water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a strong simmer, and let cook for 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover, and let sit, allowing the raisins to plump, while you prepare the rest of the chicken salad.
Place the chicken, mayonnaise, curry powder, mustard, and ginger in a medium bowl. Mix well to combine. Add the raisins and any residual liquid in the pan. Mix again, cover and refrigerate.
Meanwhile, toast the nuts, either in a small dry sauté pan, shaking or stirring constantly, or on a tray in a toaster oven. Do not walk away for even a moment, as nuts can burn quite suddenly.
Allow time for the chicken to absorb moisture from the mayonnaise and the flavors to develop, at least a couple hours, then taste and adjust, adding more mayonnaise and curry powder as needed. Add the nuts and stir to combine.
Serve in a sandwich, with crackers, or on a bed of greens.