Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Rosemary Chicken Salad and the Art of Customizing Recipes

We're switching the schedule around a bit this week, due to the gremlin that has taken up residence in my face. Wednesday's usual article is postponed until next week, replaced by this lovely recipe.

As this popular and highly rated Rosemary Chicken Salad recipe from Cooking Light is presented, it’s essentially a blank slate. I mean, it's moist, it tastes good, and it uses up a bunch of leftover chicken, but no single flavor ever comes forward to assert itself as master and ruler of its subordinates. But there's a reason for that. A good reason. Nay – a really good reason.

And that reason? Is you.

Seriously, though. Recipes like this one are invaluable, because they allow the chef (a.k.a. you) near-infinite possibilities for improvisation. You can add nearly any ingredient you like to the original dish, because it's highly improbable you'll go wrong with your choices. Why not try:
  • Celery
  • Grapes
  • Apples
  • Dried cranberries
  • Smoked almonds
  • Raisins
  • Cashews
  • Pecans
  • Walnuts
  • Cayenne
Eggs, beans, oatmeal, polenta, and pasta salads are similarly inclined, in that they can be customized until the cows come home, with huge, gaping room for error. We'll discuss more about the customization itself next week, but in the meantime, should you decide to whip this up, there are a few things to know:

1) My loathing for mayonnaise is surpassed only by my loathing of sinusitis, but it’s in here because the other flavors cover up the flavor and texture enough so I don’t ever have to taste, smell, or think about it.

2) The calculations are very different from Cooking Light’s, largely because I don’t include bread, and have changed the proportions of the original recipe a bit (less mayo, more yogurt).

In conclusion, go nuts with this thing. The salad's the limit.


If this recipe looks tantalizing, man, you'll like these:

Rosemary Chicken Salad
Serves 5
Adapted from Cooking Light.

3 cups (about 3/4 pound) roasted skinless, boneless chicken breasts or rotisserie chicken, chopped
1/3 cup chopped scallions
1/4 cup slivered or sliced almonds
6 tablespoons Greek low-fat yogurt
2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Chopped: celery, grapes, apples, dried cranberries, smoked almonds, raisins, cashews, pecans, walnuts, cayenne (optional)

In a medium mixing bowl, combine chicken, scallions, almonds, yogurt, mayonnaise, mustard, salt, pepper, and chosen optional ingredients. Serve on whole wheat bread with mixed greens.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price Per Serving
134 calories, 5.1 g fat, 3.7 g fat, 0.7 g fiber, 18.5 g protein, $0.78

NOTE: These calculations are for chicken breasts, and no optional add-on ingredients.

3 cups (about 3/4 pound) roasted skinless, boneless chicken breasts, chopped: 373 calories, 4.1 g fat, 0 g fiber, 78.3 g protein, $1.48
1/3 cup chopped scallions: 11 calories, 0 g fat, 0.9 g fiber, 0.6 g protein, $0.30
1/4 cup slivered or sliced almonds: 144 calories, 12.6 g fat, 3 g fiber, 5.3 g protein, $0.63
6 tablespoons Greek low-fat yogurt: 65 calories, 1.8 g fat, 0 g fiber, 8.5 g protein, $0.97
2 tablespoons light mayonnaise: 70 calories, 7 g fat, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein, $0.16
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary: 1 calorie, 0 g fat, 0.1 g fiber, 0 g protein, $0.25
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard: 8 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein, $0.07
1/8 teaspoon salt: negligible calories, fat, fiber, and protein, $0.01
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper: negligible calories, fat, fiber, and protein, $0.01
TOTALS: 672 calories, 25.5 g fat, 3.7 g fiber, 92.7 g protein, $3.88
PER SERVING (TOTALS/5): 134 calories, 5.1 g fat, 3.7 g fat, 0.7 g fiber, 18.5 g protein, $0.78

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Sassy Molassy said...

What?? No true mayo-phobe would ever eat chicken salad! no way, no how will any mayo-based salad ever come near my mouth. Do you know how hard it is to go through the bridesmaid years in the south not eating chicken salad?

Annie said...

I hate mayo, too. Usually if there's no way of getting around a mayo-ish ingredient, I just substitute Greek yogurt for the mayo. Here, you already use the yogurt for most of the binding agent. Why include mayo at all?

Dee Seiffer said...

I make a version of this often, without the rosemary, but with the apples, celery, cranberries and nuts (aka Chicken Waldorf Salad).

The yogurt works well with tuna, too. Tuna salad with greek yogurt, lemon, celery, celery seed, salt & pepper...yum and no mayo.

Dee Seiffer said...

Oh, Kris - hope the gremlins leave your face for a long, long time and you feel loads better.

Anonymous said...

This looks great. I'm going to nominate it for Easter lunch.

Katie said...

I love swapping yogurt for mayo. It's healthier and really does taste better!