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Mayo mixture for chicken salad

I love chicken salad. To me it always tatstes better when you get it at a deli. I am at a loss when I make it at home as far as the mayo mixture goes. Some people use part mayo and part sour cream in the mixture. What else can be added to make it more flavorful to get that deli salad flavor? Last weekend I had a chicken salad wrap from a loca deli that had chicken, cranberries, cashews, and I think basil and it was very flavorful. Thanks!

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  1. My chicken salad is very basic, nothing like what you mention at the end of your post. I use kosher salt and fairly coarsely ground pepper, in proportion to the mayo a very small amount of Dijon mustard and a squeeze of two of lemon juice. I've even served it in a small bowl with crackers as an app.

    1. A local Jewish (emphasis on the "ISH" ;) deli makes their chicken salad with mayo and cream cheese, and it's amazing -- so creamy, with a little tang from the cream cheese. When I make it at home, I use mayo and lime juice or mayo and lemon juice, lots of freshly ground black pepper, cream cheese if I have it, celery, green onion, and walnuts or pecans. Apples, grapes, and/or dried cranberries are also a nice addition.

      c_oliver's suggestion of a little dijon mustard is a good one. A former roommate of mine used unsweetened whipped heavy cream in her chicken salad as well as mayo, and dill I think.

      1. Most home cooks do not adequately season their food. I expect that salt is the single greatest variable here. You need to season the salad itself, of course but more importantly you need to season the chicken as it is cooking. Also grate some shallot on the microplane and add it with the mayonnaise.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Kater

          I'll disagree with you on the seasoned chicken part. I do a Frugal Gourmet kinda/sorta poach with no seasoning at all. Then I can add whatever I want for whatever use.

          1. re: Kater

            The OP is trying to duplicate a favorite deli's chicken salad. As c_oliver's is completely different from what the OP wants, I'm going to agree with Kater- most home cooks underseason. Salt is usually the culprit.

            That said, my deli adds finely grated parmesean as the secret savory ingredient that really brings it together. When I make chicken salad at home, I like to add curry powder (plenty of S&P) with walnuts, currants, cilantro and red onion, but again, that's probably not what you're going for either.

          2. For another variation on this theme, I add chopped celery, chopped green onions, a bit of pesto, and mayo...yum!

            3 Replies
            1. re: critter101

              Fresh tarragon is delish in chicken salad along with mayo, green onions, thinly sliced celery, salt and pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Yum, I want some now!

              1. re: Rheta

                +1 tarragon is a good friend to chicken salad. and i agree also that a little grated hard cheese adds a rounder flavor. you know it's good but you don't quite identify it as cheese.

                1. re: Rheta

                  I'm another one for the fresh tarragon. I made it for my boyfriend *one* time, and now he won't let me fix it any other way. I use sea salt, garlic salt, minced, dried cranberries, and pepper as well.

                  I like the hard cheese and lemon ideas, if I leave out the cranberries. Next time, I may have to risk his wrath.

              2. Hey there, Richie:
                As I know you're also from the Land of Steady Habits, have you tried the chicken salad at Stew Leonard's? They've been passing samples out of it lately and makes me think you and I are in search of the same thing...WHAT IS IT "they" do that is so different? I even looked at the ingredients for a clue, but nothing jumped out at me. I have to go out that way. Will either pick some up or look very closely at the label so we can compare notes. I'm with you--there is SOMETHING different out there. I think theirs added celery seed or celery salt. I hope we can find it! By the way, I've also chopped up grapes to add to chicken salad. And if you like the savory and sweet combo, you could try diced apricots or tart Michigan cherries, too...I often add either of those to regular salads.

                http://kattyskitchen.wordpress.com/

                13 Replies
                1. re: kattyeyes

                  HI Katty, I got this latest chicken at a local deli on the Post Rd in Milford right down from Whole Foods but before the old Linens n Things. I think it's called the Village Cafe and it's a good old standby when you are on the Post Rd. Also many years ago the corner store in my neighborhood used to get it from Hummel's in New Haven, it was very plain, no extra cranberries,nuts, or celery but it was oh so good! Never had Stew's yet though. I like the grapes idea, forgot about that but have had them before in chicken salad.

                  1. re: kattyeyes

                    By the way Katty, I was at Stew's in Danbury today after the Elephants Trunk fleamarket and they use corn styrup in their chicken salad. Maybe the key is a bit of sweetness.

                    1. re: javaandjazz

                      Oh, noooo! But it really is sooooo good, isn't it? Did you have a bite? :)

                      1. re: kattyeyes

                        They weren't giving any samples today, only samples of apple crisp!

                        1. re: kattyeyes

                          But HFCS and "regular" corn syrup are quite different, aren't they?

                          1. re: c oliver

                            I was just surprised to see sugar or a form of sugar used as one of the ingredients. Never dawned on me that sugar would be in chicken salad.

                            1. re: javaandjazz

                              I think other people here have mentioned things like honey. *I* wouldn't like it but I'm the ultimate savory not sweet eater.

                              1. re: javaandjazz

                                Me, either, but would be interested if you get to try a bite next time. They usually serve it on those tasty little toast crackers...yum!

                                1. re: javaandjazz

                                  A pinch of sugar can really help to bring flavors together...it doesn't take too much, not enough to add a ton of calories. You'd be surprised at he number of things that have a little sugar added to round things out (including savory dishes).
                                  In small quanitities, it's not evil. Hell, for some things, it's fine in large quantities too (unless you are restricted).

                                  1. re: The Professor

                                    I discovered the secret to homemade Chinese food is a spoonful of sugar. Also tried leaving it out of coleslaw but it needs that spoonful to balance the lemon. The honey in the chicken salad is key, but it is just a small drizzle. It's like not putting enough salt in a recipe because you think it's bad for you, you will never get it to taste just right.

                                    1. re: coll

                                      Yes years ago when learning to cook Chinese food, my teacher Mrs Yu when instructing us to make Beef with Broccoli Sauce, instructed us to put a teaspoon of sugar on the broccoli (and vegetables) druring the stir fry process. I've never noticed a sugary taste at all. Sweet, salty, spicy, it's not even noticed.

                                      There is this wonderful Thai salad that I just adore, and the dressing is sweet and spicy hot, I sure wish I could figure that one out. 1 tsp of sugar is not enough considering the whole dish, it really does do magic.

                                      1. re: chef chicklet

                                        This is sort of like the equivalent of adding a bit of salt in chocolate chip cookies (or any dessert). It balances the flavors and actually accentuates the sweetness factor.

                                        Same thing with sugar in savory Chinese dishes.

                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          or a little pinch of cayenne in brownies!