Friday, December 14, 2012

Toasted Walnut-Chicken Salad Spread

I participate in a neighborhood book club.  December is our month to vote on the eleven books we'll be reading for the next year and who will be the hostesses each month.  Since we don't review a book in December we come together with food and wine.

Well, we do that every month anyway, but it's more of a pot-luck in December. Our December hostess provides us with a dessert, coffee and wine and the rest of us bring appetizers. 
I made this chicken salad spread to be served with crackers.  I adapted it from 'Cozy Country Christmas', a Gooseberry Patch book.  I was able to prepare it the night before which was really nice since my train normally gets me home about 20 minutes before I need to head over to the hostess' house.

I realize that the above photo looks like I just threw it on the serving plate.  And I did, really.  I just gathered up a big ol' spoonful and slapped it down on the plate.  No time for fussiness tonight.  I blame the Trinity Railway Express for getting me home so late.  By the time I pulled into the driveway I should have already picked my neighbor up and been at book club.  So yes, I literally threw it on the plate; didn't care at the moment if it looked like a pretty ball or not.  Oh yeah, I rushed to take a photo of it as well.

 I toasted the walnut halves and chopped them up once they were completely cooled.

When cooking the chicken breasts, I went simple.  I didn't want a lot of other flavors to dominate in the chicken salad so I did a simple simmer with homemade celery salt and celery tops with lots of leaves.  Once the breasts cooled I chopped it up finely in the food processor.

I minced the celery and onion up quite tiny since I wanted them to be in bite-sized pieces.  I used a center stalk of celery so it would be more tender.  I did not do my mincing in a food processor because I wanted the celery and onion to have definite shapes.

Once combined with the mayonnaise the spread was covered and put in the refrigerator over night.  The walnuts weren't added at that time.  I added the chopped toasted walnuts right before serving so they would be nice and crunchy.

My thoughts on this recipe:  Prior to adding the walnuts to the spread I tasted it and thought it was OK but no different than any other chicken salad or chicken spread.  But once I added the walnuts, W-O-W!  The walnuts turned a blah,  so-so spread into a spread that was crunchy with a great toasted flavor.

I kept a little bit of the spread for my lunch the next day and Lovey tried it.  He normally won't even eat chicken salad but he tried this for some reason and he told me that it was really good.  And that's really surprising coming out of his mouth.


Toasted Walnut-Chicken Spread
Yields 2-1/2 cups
Adapted from a recipe by Mary Ellen Jernigan from Chesapeake, VA

1-3/4 cup cooked chicken (about 1-1/2 to 2 boneless chicken breast halves)
1/2 cup walnut halves
2/3 cup Hellman's mayonnaise
1 stalk celery
2 Tbsp. red onion
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
assorted crackers

Mise en place:
  • measure out mayonnaise
  • finely dice celery
  • finely dice onion
  • measure out salt
  • measure out garlic powder
Toast walnuts.  Spread walnut halves onto a baking sheet with sides. Toast in a 350°F oven for about 10 minutes, or until browned and aromatic. Allow to cool completely. Once cooled roughly chop and set aside.

Place chicken in a pot and cover with water.  Add celery salt and celery tops to the pot.  Bring to a boil then turn down heat and simmer until done, about 20 minutes.  Skim off any white foamy scum as it forms on the surface.  Drain and allow to cool.  Roughly chop and place in bowl of food processor.  Pulse until finely shredded.  Pour into large mixing bowl.

Add celery and onion to chicken and combine thoroughly.  In a small bowl combine the mayonnaise, salt and garlic powder.  Add to chicken mixture and mix well.  Cover and chill.  At this point you can cover and refrigerate over night.

Just prior to serving fold in the toasted walnuts.  Serve in a small bowl or form into a ball shape on a plate.  Serve with an assortment of crackers.

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