5-25-10

SENECA CHICKEN SALAD

SERVES 4-6

To me, chicken salad is the ultimate picnic food, and during the hot stretches of summer I try and keep a batch of it in my refrigerator at all times. Wrapped in a roll and tossed in your backpack, it’s the perfect reward after an impromptu bike ride to the pier. But on busy days, J and I stand over the counter armed with our forks and eat supper straight from the bowl.

Usually I gravitate to the simplicity of my mother’s recipe — just chicken, Hellman’s, salt, pepper, and a scallion — but I am not a purist. A pinch of curry or turmeric, a drizzle of sesame oil, or the substitution of yogurt for mayo can lend the old American standby an  accent and transform the dish into something entirely new every time.

Today, I was thinking of a deconstructed, classed-up buffalo wing (which, admittedly, might be an oxymoron) when I roasted a few breasts rubbed with red chile powder, roughly chopped them, tossed them with mayonnaise, harissa, red onions, and a small crumbled handful of blue cheese. I’ve dubbed it “Seneca” after one of Buffalo’s neighboring towns. But whatever you want to call it, it’s deeply creamy, full of bite, and a real cool comfort.

3 large boneless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon red chile powder
salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups Hellman’s mayonnaise
1 teaspoon harissa
2 oz. crumbled blue cheese
1 scallion, trimmed and chopped thinly

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Rinse chicken breasts and pat dry. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle generously on both sides with salt, pepper, and red chile powder. Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through. Turn off oven and set chicken aside to cool.

2. When the chicken is cool to the touch, chop the breasts into rough 1/2 – 1″ chunks. Place in a medium bowl and stir in mayo, harissa, and salt and pepper to taste. Add blue cheese and scallions and mix gently with a fork until it is evenly dispersed. Chill for an hour before serving.

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