Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Lot from a Little Series 1, Post 3: Smoked Chicken Salad Over Greens

I'm starting a new semi-regular feature here at Table for Two, in which I will try to offer some tips and tricks on eating well without breaking the bank, especially when cooking for a small number of people.

A Lot From A Little Series 1, Post 1: How to Smoke a Chicken
A Lot From A Little Series 1, Post 2: Grilled BBQ Smoked Chicken Pizza

Now, I'm going to admit something right off the bat here: this didn't come out all that good. And that's a tragedy to me, because it ended up being a waste of a lot of really tasty chicken. However, I'm going to post about it anyway, partly because despite our failure this is still a perfectly valid way to use up that chicken, but mostly because I'm hoping someone might be able to give us some ideas of how better to execute this dish. Because honestly, it SHOULD have been awesome.

The idea was to make a standard mayo-dressed chicken salad more interesting by using the smoked chicken in place of the usual poached chicken, and eat it over some mixed greens for a somewhat healthier lunch than sandwiches. It didn't seem like it ought to be difficult, so we followed our usual method for salads like this: mix up some light mayo and mustard with chopped red onion, celery, and carrots; lighten it up with a splash of red wine vinegar and balance it out with a bit of salt, few grinds of black pepper and a drizzle of honey; add in the shredded chicken, mix it up, and eat. Simple right?

Well, I'm not sure what went wrong, but it just didn't work this time.

Part of the problem was that it was overdressed, I think - the salad was on the runny side and that generally kinda grosses me out when it comes to mayo-based salads. I also think we made a mistake by salting the dressing, as the chicken itself had a fair amount of saltiness from the brining step. And we decided to toss in some finely chopped fresh parsley this time around as well, which really didn't work at all for me. I'm a little picky about parsley, admittedly, but I think it was overpowering here.

Regardless, neither of us was thrilled with it. We each took it for lunch one day out of the week, and the rest went in the trash... heartbreaking, when I think of how good that chicken was, and also embarrassing as I'm trying to write about getting the most for your money here, and I just threw out a third of a chicken's worth of meat. Sigh. Unfortunately, there was just no rescuing it.

This marks the third time, now, that we have attempted to make chicken salad with smoked chicken, and while the previous attempts were better than this one, none have been exactly stellar. It makes me wonder if we need to try a completely different approach, because I feel certain that there must be a way to make this work. Perhaps a mayo-based salad would work if it was VERY lightly dressed, and the dressing was VERY simple. Or perhaps we need to play with seasonings or explore other options for a creamy salad base (Greek yogurt, perhaps?). Or maybe we should abandon the creamy salad idea completely and go a different direction, using perhaps a vinaigrette dressing instead.

Anyway, aside from this being a disaster from a taste perspective, it was a success from a stretching-your-ingredients perspective - using about a third of the meat (mostly white meat) that was left from our bird, we had easily enough salad for us both to have lunch for 3 days or so. Its a shame we couldn't actually follow through with that plan.

So folks, anyone have any brilliant ideas to make a smoked chicken salad that actually works?

Next up in this series: Smoked Chicken and Cremini Crepes with Two-Cheese Bechamel

1 comment:

Cristen said...

I would say perhaps cutting the dressing with a touch of lemon or orange juice as opposed to vinegar. Perhaps also adding some avocado to deal with the saltiness from the chicken.