Sunday, April 1, 2012

Springy Artichoke Chicken Salad

I love-hate chicken salad. I hate that it's called chicken salad, because I always think people will assume I mean a big leafy salad with chicken. And then I think I should follow it up with sandwich, so that people know what I'm talking about. Because chicken-salad-sandwich isn't usually confused with salad + chicken. But sometimes I don't want to serve it as a sandwich, and then I feel all confused and mixed up…and then I end up calling it "chicken salad sandwich filling on crackers," which is way too complicated for such a simple dish. Aside from the name, I also hate how loaded with mayo some chicken salads are. I mean, I love a good creamy chicken salad now and then, but sometimes it's just too much. One time I ordered a chicken salad sandwich, and it had a heavy dose of mayo on the bread, too. Now that's just crazy-town, people. 

What I love about chicken salad, though, is how versatile it is. If you want to cut back on the mayo… or not put any at all, that's doable. Like this super creamy chicken salad with pureed artichoke hearts. It tastes awesome and artichokie (that's totally a word…as in "okie dokie, artichokie"), and the lack of mayo makes me feel better about leaving it on a platter for a party. Along with tangy artichoke hearts, this one has apples and celery, but I also love a good crunchy pecan or almond in my chicken salad. Switch it up, that's allowed. 

I also love that no matter what time of year I eat it, or where, chicken salad reminds me of spring. And of Easter, tea parties, picnics, and bridal showers. It's so lady-like and fun. Especially in an endive leaf, fancy finger-food style. You can also serve it on a cracker, in a pita pocket, or just between a couple slices of good bread. Or with a spoon. No judgement here.

Artichoke Chicken Salad

2-3 cups cooked chicken, chopped (cubed, grilled chicken is my fave for any chicken salad, though shredded rotisserie-style works as well).
1 12oz jar marinated artichoke hearts
1 apple, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
juice of 1 small lemon
salt, pepper
A handful of arugula

Add chicken, apple, and celery to a bowl. Drain about half the liquid off the artichoke hearts. Puree arti-hearts and remaining liquid, until smooth and creamy. You may have to pick out a few of the really stiff leaves if there are any. Stir in mustard & lemon juice. Combine creamy mixture with chicken until fully coated. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add arugula and gently toss to combine. 

OPTIONAL: You can add a splash of vinegar if you want it a bit more tangy, or a tablespoon of mayo if you want it a bit more creamy. Green onions and nuts would also be good. 
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