When I came to the realization that all I needed were my taste buds to make any kind of delicious wet salad I literally saw a light bulb go on in my head. I was excited and truly happy as if I had graduated to the next step towards becoming a really good cook, I realized all I needed aside from the chicken to make a great-tasting chicken salad were the basic ingredients: mayo, mustard, salt and pepper, onions (optional). All other ingredients such as carrots, celery and so on were merely add-ins, and these "add-ins" could change depending on what you like in your salad, depending on what you had in your refrigerator to spare or needed to use up.
Thus the greatest chicken salad recipe is your own and it always, ALWAYS, begins with a home roasted chicken. I've tried making chicken salad with the pre-roasted and pre-diced chicken from Trader Joe's and it just isn't the same which is why the best time to make chicken salad is when you have chicken leftovers from a chicken dinner that was cooked at home.
Begin by shredding or dicing the chicken into bite-size pieces, you will need to clean the chicken of any skin. It helps to just give-in to the fact that your hands will be getting dirty and greasy, once you've accepted this fact it'll make things a lot more fun.
I started off with a day old home-cooked over-roasted chicken. I really only enjoying eating dark meat and so I always have the majority of the body leftover whenever I roast chicken, I found that making a chicken salad out of it is the perfect way for me to eat the white meat, nothing goes to waste and you can have delicious chicken salad for a day or two- that's like, three to five meals from one chicken! What a deal!
Once the chicken is shredded or diced up and put into a large mixing bowl the fun part begins. Rummaging through the refrigerator! I always begin by taking out the basics: mayo, whole grain mustard (or other mustard of your choice), salt, pepper. I love a bit of bite from an onion and it just so happens that I have a shallot left over from way back when. Mr. Borscht loves carrot, I love celery and apples, we both loves capers! All these ingredients will be tossed together into the salad. After mixing it up thoroughly take time to do a taste test, very important step, add a bit more mayo, mustard or salt if needed. And always add a little bit at a time, when in doubt add just a little bit, it's easy enough to add more, taking it out on the other hand? Much harder to do.
My secret ingredient to my chicken salad is... DILL. Fresh dill is best but if none is to be had dried dill does the trick too. I always add loads of dill into my salad, it's one of Mr. Borscht's favorite things and I know anything with dill just makes it that much better for him. Mix the herbage in last, especially if it's fresh, this will keep it from getting too smashed and torn during all the mixing.
So get creative with your customized chicken recipe but remember to...
USE home-cooked roasted chicken.
BEGIN with the basic must-have ingredients: mayo, mustard, salt, pepper and onion (optional).
PICK your add-ins based on what you desire: carrots? Celery? Herbage? Cucumber? Capers? Pickles?... etc.
A LITTLE BIT AT A TIME is how you should begin figuring out your ingredient amounts, this especially applies to the mayo, mustard and salt.
My Chicken Salad Recipe
Ingredients (for 4-5 servings):
Body (no legs or wings) of 1 home-cooked oven roasted chicken (a chicken that was about 5lbs to start), in bite-sized bits
1/2 - 1 cup of mayo
1/4 - 1/2 cup of whole grain mustard
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 stick of celery, small diced
1 large carrot, shredded
1 - 1 1/2 tablespoons of capers
1 small shallot, minced
1/2 a small green apple, diced
2-3 tablespoons of dried dill
Put the chicken into a large mixing bowl with all other ingredients except the dill. Mix all ingredients together thoroughly with a spatula.
Taste test and add more mayo, mustard, salt or pepper if needed. If adding a little bit more, mix again thoroughly. Do another taste test to make sure you get it right. Keep repeating the taste test process until the chicken salad comes to your desired taste.
Lastly, add in the dill and mix again.
Serve immediately or wrap the chicken salad up tightly with plastic wrap and allow the flavors to meld and marry in the refrigerator until ready to eat.