Not your mama’s chicken salad: some new favorites

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By Norm Harding, Reporter

Everyone over the age of 50 can remember their mother’s tried-and-true recipe for chicken salad...pieces of cooked chicken, chopped walnuts, a little chopped celery, sliced white grapes and lots of mayonnaise!
Sound familiar?
These days, there are so many different varieties of chicken salad that I’ve lost count. Most start out with a bed of crisp green lettuce topped with cooked, grilled or marinated and then grilled chicken breasts. Then it can be topped with various cheeses, nuts, veggies and even fruits.
A special dressing is almost always used, using such ingredients as soy sauce, honey, garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, red or white wine, mustard or apple juice. Many herbs and spices also come into play, like curry powder, turmeric, ground ginger, cumin and fresh parsley, cilantro, basal, thyme and parsley.
I’m sure everyone has his or her favorites. These are just a few of mine.

Grilled Chicken Salad
Strips of chicken breasts are marinated in a soy-based sauce and then grilled and served over mixed greens.
1 lb. boneless chicken breasts cut into 1-inch wide strips
2 Tbsps. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. cumin
Mixed salad greens
Place the chicken strips in a zip-top plastic bag. In a small bowl, whisk the soy sauce, honey, vegetable oil, minced garlic, curry powder, turmeric, ginger and cumin together. Pour the mixture into the bag, over the chicken. Seal the bag and marinate for 30 to 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare an indoor or outdoor grill for use. Place the chicken strips on the grill. (Use a grilling wok or a grilling basket on an outdoor grill.) Grill for about 10 minutes or until the chicken is done, turning occasionally. Serve the grilled chicken strips over the mixed salad greens. Makes 4 servings.

Grilled Balsamic Chicken Salad with Strawberries, Mangos and Avocados
Grilled chicken is cut into strips and mixed with greens, strawberries, mangos and avocados and topped with balsamic vinaigrette.
1/2 cup balsamic vinaigrette
2 Tbsps. white wine vinegar
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
6 cups assorted salad greens, chopped
1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
1 medium mango, peeled, pitted and sliced
1 medium avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Heat gas grill for direct heat. Place chicken on the grill, cover, and grill chicken over medium heat 15-20 minutes, turning and brushing occasionally with 1/4 cup of the balsamic vinaigrette, until juice of chicken is no longer pink when centers of thickest pieces are cut. Once done, cut chicken into slices.
Using a large bowl, toss the salad greens, chicken and strawberries; divide among 4 plates. Arrange mango and avocado around each salad. Sprinkle with cilantro. Drizzle with reserved dressing. Makes 4 servings.

Chinese Chicken Salad with Ginger Peanut Dressing
Chinese veggies are topped with cooked chicken strips and then covered with a ginger peanut dressing.
2 cups fresh spinach leaves
4 cups romaine lettuce leaves
1 cup carrots, julienned
1 cup broccoli flowerets
2 cups bok choy, julienned
3 cups assorted Chinese vegetables (pea pods, bean sprouts, water chestnuts)
1 cup cooked boneless chicken breast, cut into thin strips
3/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 Tbsps. apple juice concentrate
2 Tbsps. soy sauce
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
Mix spinach, romaine, carrots, broccoli, bok choy and Chinese vegetables. Divide onto 4 plates. Equally distribute chicken onto salads. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, apple juice concentrate, soy sauce, ginger and garlic; mix well. Heat the peanut butter in the microwave until a liquid-like consistency. Whisk the peanut butter into the dressing mixture. Pour the dressing over the salads. Makes 6 servings

Chicken Salad with Bacon-Mustard Vinaigrette
Hot bacon-mustard dressing is poured over romaine leaves, mixed with shredded rotisserie chicken and then topped with crumbled bacon.
4 slices bacon
2 Tbsps. cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 Tbsp. coarsely ground black pepper
1 bag (9 oz.) cut hearts of romaine
2 cup (about 10 oz.) shredded, skinless rotisserie chicken meat
In a 2-quart saucepan, cook bacon over medium heat 5-6 minutes or until browned. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Discard all but 1 tablespoon bacon drippings from saucepan.
Using wire whisk, add vinegar, Dijon mustard, oil, salt, and pepper to drippings in saucepan and heat to boiling over medium heat. Remove from heat.
Place romaine in large serving bowl. Pour hot dressing over romaine; toss until coated. Add chicken and toss until well mixed. Crumble bacon and sprinkle over salad. Makes 4 main dish servings.

Chicken Salad with Cabbage and Ramen Noodles
You can cook the chicken in advance and refrigerate or pick up a roasted chicken at your favorite deli.
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1-1/2 Tbsps. soy sauce
1 medium head of cabbage, shredded
6 chopped green onions
2 pkgs. chicken flavored Ramen noodles
1/2 cup plain sliced almonds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup sesame oil
1/4 cup rice or white vinegar
1 seasoning packet from the Ramen noodles
1 Tbsp. sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place chicken breasts on foil and pour soy sauce evenly over chicken. Wrap in foil to make a packet and bake for 35 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove from oven, cool and cut into bite-size pieces.
In a non-stick skillet, toast noodles and almonds, stirring so they won’t burn. Add sesame seeds at last minute and brown lightly.
In a small bowl, mix together oil, vinegar, seasoning packet and sugar. Place cabbage, onion and chicken pieces into a large bowl and pour oil mixture over top and mix well. Add toasted noodles, almonds and sesame seeds; mix again. Makes 4 servings.
Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, email him at nharding@brunswickbeacon.com.