When I'm in the kitchen thinking about chicken salad, my first step is to ask myself, "Self, What would Rita Bohanon Do?" Who the flip is Rita Bohanon, you ask? BLASPHEMY! Who is Rita Bohanon?! Only the greatest and best chicken salad maker to walk God's green pastures, that's who! I'll forgive you if you are new here, but if not, it is high time you learn to respect the name Rita Bohanon. This woman knows her way around a chicken salad. (Well frankly she knows her way around most things in the kitchen, but she is held on a pedestal by every person in Campbellsville Kentucky for her kick ass chicken salad) If Jesus were having his last supper in 1992, he would have said, I want Rita's chicken salad. (if Jesus were me, that is...)
Anyway. The second statement following "What would Rita Bohanon Do?" is usually "Damn you, Rita Bohanon!" because my chicken salad is NEVER as good as hers. I have spent years trying to dissect what she puts in there, and guys, I don't know. I wish I could tell you. Actually I probably wouldn't because it's the best kept secret in America, but I would consider telling you...for 45 seconds...and then i would lock that recipe in a vault.
So here I am today, with the left over roast bird, standing in my kitchen, barefoot and engaged (I know, I almost had you...) trying to figure out what the eff she does differently. My first thought is, she probably doesn't use leftover bird. She probably uses the best white breast she can get her hands on. And I BET she either poaches it or roasts it in the oven with the skin on and then takes it off, all moist and happy like. What did I do? Grab the carcasses out of the fridge and go to town. So we will say
Difference #1 : For Rita, Chicken Salad is NOT an afterthought. It is NOT a leftovers meal.
But, hey, I had left over bird and stop judging me for making chicken salad an afterthought. Also, Rita is a big proponent of using grapes in her chicken salad, and by golly SO AM I! That juicy sweet bite of grape paired with that savory chicken and that tangy sauce. OOOWEE! (that is me squealing like a pig) So
Difference #2: Fruit is equally as important as the bird.
And I honor this one, every time baby. Rita also slams it in the texture department and knows that you need some snap crackle and pop in your chicken salad as well. Snap of the celery, crackle of the pecans, and a pop of that juicy grape. Girl knows what she is doing. This shit is science, and she's playing the role of Bill Nye. I also, would never ignore the chemistry of chicken salad. Therefore
Difference #3: Chicken Salad is Chemistry.
And Finally, your are left with the sauce. Some people just use mayo (bless their hearts) and some use dijon, some use a combination and some like a vinegar based chicken salad. This guys, is where Rita has got me. I don't freakin' know what she uses! I change mine every time hoping I'll eat it and Rita will appear out of a cloud like Endora and slap me with a stick and turn me into a chicken salad god. That hasn't happened yet, and it didn't happen today, but I gotta tell you, today's chicken salad, is. good.
Not Rita's Chicken Salad
2 cups shredded or chopped chicken. ( I am using a mix today, but I recommend all white meat)
3 ribs of celery, diced
2 cups halved grapes
1 diced apple
1 cup crushed pecans
Salt & Pepper
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
2 pinches sugar
2 teaspoons fresh squeezed orange juice
1 table spoon white wine vinegar
1 cup oil (your choice on the type, most people don't like olive oil in this but I do. you can use a milder flavored oil like safflower or corn)
In a food processor, process the egg yolk and the dry ingredients. After well incorporated, add the orange juice and the vinegar. Process continuously while adding the oil through the top feeder, a drizzle at a time until you see the liquid start to emulsify. ( Starts to froth slightly and thicken, just important for the mixture not to separate. Then continue add the rest of the oil in a stream, with the processor still running. Add oil until you reach your desired thickness. I like mine on the soft/loose side.
Pour the dressing/mayo in your large bowl, and then add the chopped chicken, grapes, apples, celery and pecans. Toss in the dressing until well coated, season with salt and pepper.
Serve this on a croissant and you are in business! Here is hoping you don't have vultures trying to steal your chicken like I do...
Rita, if you see this, you are a legend in my book, sister! Stay tuned for the final step to using every piece of the chicken (can you guess what we're doing with the carcasses?) and I do believe I have promised you a bang out carrot cake....