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Four Chicks' Chicken Salad - a dish for every party

March 19, 2009|By JUDY STARK/St. Petersburg Times

WHO: Judy Speed, Brenda Jones, Arlene Celli and Carol Lynn, all of Clearwater, Fla., all 60- or 70-something.

WHAT: Four Chicks' Chicken Salad

ABOUT THE RECIPE: The women were neighbors and young moms together in 1976 in Clearwater. Their kids played together and went to school together, the moms played tennis and bridge together. Brenda Jones, who enjoyed searching through cookbooks and magazines for new things, came up with this chicken-salad recipe. The four friends have never stopped making it.

Judy Speed's daughter, Shelley Kappeler, dubbed it "Four Chicks' Chicken Salad." She says: "Brenda made this salad for my kitchen shower when I got married 16 years ago, and a few years later for my baby shower." The Four Chicks "have made it for everyone's baby shower, Super Bowl party and bridge party. They have been best friends since the 1970s. More than this chicken salad holds these women together."

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TIPS FOR OTHERS: The original recipe calls for "pulling" the cooked chicken, with two forks, as you would shred pork for barbecue sandwiches, but Speed says, "Who does that anymore?" and admits she just chops the chicken. You can cook chicken or buy a rotisserie chicken (Kappeler likes mojo-flavored best). Each step takes a little work: toasting the almonds, rehydrating the dried cranberries -- but that's what makes it good. Try serving it in mini-croissants, or fold it in a flour tortilla like a taco.

CAN'T COOK WITHOUT: Speed loves Chef Paul Prudhomme's Pizza and Pasta Magic spice combination. "That stays right on my kitchen counter," she says, and although she doesn't use it for this chicken salad, it finds its way into pizza, sandwiches, vegetables.... It's the secret ingredient in a lot of dishes.

THE COOK SAYS: "Men and women both love this. People constantly ask me for the recipe." -- Judy Speed.




FOUR CHICKS' CHICKEN SALAD



2 cups cooked chicken (your own or rotisserie)1/4 cup dried cranberriesButter for sauting1/4 cup sliced almonds3/4 cup mayonnaise (or to taste, depending on whether you like your chicken salad thin or thick)1/4 cup golden raisins1/4 cup diced celery2 tablespoons diced red onionSalt and pepper to taste (about 1/4 teaspoon each)

Pull, shred or chop cooked chicken to yield 2 cups.

Soak cranberries in just enough hot tap water to cover for about 15 minutes to plump them; drain and dry on paper towel. (Don't skip this step or the cranberries will draw the moisture out of the mayonnaise and salad will be dry.)

In a small skillet in a little butter, toast the sliced almonds. Gently mix chicken and mayonnaise, then fold in other ingredients.

Source: Judy Speed, Brenda Jones, Arlene Celli and Carol Lynn, all of Clearwater

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service www.scrippsnews.com)

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