About Caraway Irish Chicken Salad
Summertime always seems like the perfect time for chicken salad. It is a medium that offers endless possibilities for creativity to bring an unusual gourmet touch to a lunch or picnic. However, after a series of more innovative chicken salads, I found myself craving something a little closer to traditional, but not so traditional as to be boring. In that spirit, the idea of importing the flavor combinations from my husband's traditional Irish soda bread was born.
My husband brought into our marriage a number of recipes that quickly became woven into the fabric of our new family's traditions. One of them is his delightful recipe for Irish soda bread. This recipe comes down to my husband from his father's mom, who grew up on an Irish farm in County Cavan, Ireland. Caraway brings a noteworthy flavor that is uncommon in the American palate, yet its potential savory character is rounded out with the earthy sweetness of raisins. Although we always celebrate St. Patrick's Day with this traditional family recipe, we always find it a delightful treat year round.
The other day I found myself hankering for chicken salad, but wanting to try something new. My curry & thyme chicken salad is a classic in our house, but I had recently made it. I had a taste for a mostly traditional salad with just a little something different. I pondered my chicken salad urges while munching thoughtfully on a warm piece of my husband's Irish soda bread. And of course, inspiration was right in front of me. Or, more accurately, right in my mouth.
With a focus on caraway, a relatively unusual spice in the American diet, I think this post is perfect for the new rules for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Dil Se.
Caraway may have been in use as a flavor agent as early as the stone age in southern Europe. In Roman times, the roots of this plant were used to make bread fed to Roman soldiers from Julius Caesar on down.
In folklore, caraway prevented fickleness and wandering attention. This made the plant popular for everything from love potions (to claim that certain someone's undivided attention) to chicken feed (to keep those quirky chickens from absent-mindedly wandering off).
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/4 teaspoon anise seeds
1 Tablespoon finely chopped sweet yellow onion or shallot
3 Tablespoons raisins
1/2 granny smith apple, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
16 oz (12 ounces cooked) chicken breast
1/4 cup mayo plus 1-3 Tablespoons to preference
salt and pepper
Cook chicken breasts until cooked through. I prefer to grill them, but you may use whatever cooking method you prefer. Allow to cool completely and then cut into half inch dice.
Finely dice half a granny smith apple. Finely chop celery and onion (or shallot if you prefer a lighter onion taste). Combine salt, pepper, cumin, anise, caraway and mayo. Mix to combine. Stir together seasoned mayo with raisins, apple, celery, and chicken breast. I find tastes for the amount of mayo in chicken salad vary widely, so add more mayo gradually until you reach the level you prefer. Taste and adjust seasonings to your preference.
Serve on Irish Soda Bread or sourdough with (optional) leaf lettuce and tomatoes.
About CarawayThe small rice-shaped caraway "seeds" are actually not seeds at all: they are fruits. These dried fruits produce a pleasant anise flavor. They are sometimes used in baking--when making Irish soda bread or traditional rye bread. Because of the properties of the essential oils within the fruits, using caraway in breads tends to produce denser breads.
Irish Chicken SaladBy the Skinny Gourmet (E. McDonnell)