Chicken salad gains sophistication as it loses its mayonnaise

May 11, 1994|By Susan Herr | Susan Herr,United Feature Syndicate

Like fashion trends, recipes reflect the tastes and concerns of their times.

Chicken salad is a good example. Years ago, it was solidly predictable, a comforting, creamy mixture of chicken, celery and mayonnaise, with an occasional walnut or pineapple chunk tossed in. The salad was a given at ladies' luncheons, seated in a tomato cup or smoothed into a gelatin mold.

These days, the chicken plays a smaller role, supplemented by grains, pasta, beans and vegetables. Herbs and spices, citrus ,, zest and juices, vinegars, mustard and hot peppers provide the flavor boost that used to come from gobs of fatty mayonnaise. Moist ingredients such as fresh tomatoes, roasted peppers and diced fruit minimize the need for mayonnaise and oil.

Much like a favorite sweater and a pair of jeans, the salads in this collection are fast to throw together and fit in almost anywhere -- the perfect recipes for the '90s.


This dish was inspired by the green papaya salad from "The Foods of Vietnam" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 1989) by Nicole Routhier. For fresh spring rolls, wrap the salad in rice-paper wrappers.

Shredded chicken and green papaya salad

Serves 4

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat and poached

1/4 cup distilled white vinegar

1 tablespoon Chinese red chili paste

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 teaspoons sugar

1 green papaya, peeled, seeded and finely grated

2 carrots, finely grated

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 head Boston lettuce, leaves separated

With your fingers, tear chicken into shreds; set aside. In a small bowl, stir together vinegar, chili paste, garlic and sugar until the sugar dissolves. In a medium-sized bowl, combine papaya, carrots, cilantro and the chicken. Pour on dressing and toss well. Season with salt and pepper. (The salad can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 hour.) Mound on a bed of lettuce leaves and serve.

185 calories per serving, 28 grams protein, 2 grams fat, 15 grams carbohydrate, 102 milligrams sodium, 66 milligrams cholesterol.

Chicken, black bean, corn and tomato salad

Serves 4

3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat and poached

1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 large vine-ripened tomato or 2 plum tomatoes, cored and diced

1 cup frozen corn, thawed

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 tablespoons sherry or cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped scallions (3 scallions)

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Tear chicken into shreds and combine with black beans, tomatoes and corn in a salad bowl.

Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until just beginning to color, about 30 seconds. Add oregano and cumin; stir until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Remove from the heat; add vinegar and salt. Pour over the salad. Add scallions and parsley; gently toss to combine. (The salad may be prepared up to 8 hours in advance and stored, covered, in the refrigerator.)

313 calories per serving: 31 grams protein, 5 grams fat, 37 grams carbohydrate; 329 milligrams sodium; 49 milligrams cholesterol.

Mediterranean chicken and potato salad

Serves 4

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat and poached

1 clove garlic, peeled

1 anchovy fillet, rinsed and patted dry

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

1/3 cup nonfat plain yogurt

1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise

12 imported green olives, pitted and finely chopped

1 tablespoon drained capers, rinsed and chopped

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound Yukon Gold or red potatoes, cooked, peeled and sliced

1 1/2 cups halved cherry tomatoes

L Cut chicken into 1/2 -inch dice; set aside in the refrigerator.

On a cutting board, roughly chop garlic and anchovy fillet. Sprinkle with salt and use the flat of a large knife blade to mash them to a paste. Transfer to a small bowl and add parsley, yogurt, mayonnaise, olives, capers, vinegar, mustard and pepper, whisking to combine.

Put reserved chicken, potatoes and tomatoes in a large bowl and add the yogurt dressing. Toss gently to combine. Let the salad stand for at least 20 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to blend. (It may be made up to 24 hours in advance and stored, covered, in the refrigerator.)

326 calories per serving: 31 grams protein, 8 grams fat, 34 grams carbohydrate; 699 milligrams sodium; 72 milligrams cholesterol.

Poached chicken breasts

Many of these salad recipes call for cooked chicken breast meat; if you don't have cooked chicken on hand, use this easy method. Cover the breasts with plastic wrap and flatten them slightly with a heavy skillet. Remove the wrap, arrange the breasts in a single layer in a saucepan or skillet, and pour in cold water to cover. Slowly bring the water to a simmer over low heat. Once simmering, turn the chicken over, cover the pan and remove from the heat. Let sit for 15 to 20 minutes, until no longer pink in the center. Transfer to a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

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