Growing up, I never thought I was a chicken salad person. Lots of people aren’t chicken salad people, but it’s really that they aren’t mayo people. Me? I’m a mayo person (Hellman’s/Best Foods only, please!). So that wasn’t my problem.
But I realized it was really that I’m not a raw-celery-or-onion person, and people always seem to insist on putting little crunchy bits in their chicken and pasta salads. WHY, people, why?? I prefer my crunchy bits in the form of walnuts or cucumbers, not that harsh, intense crunch that comes with those loathsome raw onions and seems to permeate every chicken and pasta salad you can order in a restaurant.
If I wanted an edible (in my opinion) chicken salad, I had to make it myself.
As a disclaimer, I have since discovered several versions of chicken salad I enjoy, and I would like to share them with you at some point, but this one is still my favorite.
I don’t even remember the first time I made this chicken salad, but it’s long been a standby of mine. I’ve fed it to countless friends, even ones who aren’t mayo people, and I’ve never met one who hasn’t loved this chicken salad.
And there are so many things you can DO with it! It’s perfect on a flaky buttery croissant for a light lunch, but I’ve also made it into pasta salad; spread it out on tortillas, rolled them up, and sliced them to make little chicken-salad pinwheels for a party; and I’ve even made mini cream puff shells stuffed with this chicken salad instead of custard. You just can’t go wrong, people.
When I was making this yesterday, my dear husband Mike was taste-testing, and he said “It could use a little more spice.” Now, he pretty much wants me to add cayenne pepper to everything I make, so I told him this was not meant to be a spicy dish, and that not everything had to be spicy, and this was supposed to be a good meal for the spice-phobic among us, and I still hadn’t added the garlic yet, so hold his horses.
Then when he left the room I added a little cayenne pepper. And I have to admit, it’s pretty good. I only added a little, and it’s totally optional, but it did add a nice depth that wasn’t there before. It’s not even enough to call it a “kick” so don’t be afraid to add the small amount I’ve included in the recipe.
Now let me show you a very important ingredient.
Memorize that label. Got it? Good. I usually find this baby on an endcap in the produce section, or right next to wherever they have the jars of sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil. If you can’t find it, you may be able to substitute a combination of tomato paste and julienned sun-dried tomatoes, but I can’t vouch for proportions or taste at this point.
My mouth is already watering at the thought of having this chicken salad again very soon. I have one more croissant left… Mmmmmmmm.
Sun-dried tomato basil chicken salad
- 2 cups shredded chicken
- 1/4 cup sun-dried tomato spread
- 3 tbsp mayonnaise
- 3 tbsp chopped fresh basil
- 1 clove garlic pressed or minced
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper optional
- Salt and pepper
Mix all ingredients with a fork. Season with salt and pepper to taste.