Truthfully, I have always been a little bothered by recipe titles that contain an arbitrary name. What's the point? I'm sure "Sally" or "Ruth" meant something to the original recipe holders, but as recipes get passed down the line, the name becomes minorly annoying. Like a last-ditch effort at homey verisimilitude; an effort to convince someone, somewhere, that this recipe was developed in a warm, cozy kitchen by a lady with a frilly apron and a lot of love.
Well, turns out, I am now guilty of the practice and I finally understand why. For me, it's a way of distinguishing a specific preparation from all others. Especially with a dish as multifarious as chicken salad, which has as many different combinations as cooks who make it, you need a little signal to remind you just which chicken salad recipe this is.
And just which recipe is it? It's the one I grew up on--simple, quick, made of (mostly) pantry staples, and ready in a flash. Rest assured, there was most certainly a Thelma in this story, who made--among other delicacies--this precise chicken salad.
Thelma's Chicken Salad
serves 1-2; ready in 15 minutes if you have leftover chicken already cooked, closer to 30 if you're gonna cook it yourself
1 chicken breast (bone-in or boneless, doesn't matter)
1 hard-boiled egg (instructions below)
1 stalk celery, diced
1 scallion, sliced, or 1 Tbsp-ish of finely diced onion (Thelma says this is optional)
1/4 cup mayonnaise*
1 Tbsp sweet pickle relish
salt and pepper
- Bring a medium pot of water to boil and drop your chicken breast in. Cutting it in half will speed up your cooking time. I find bone-in split breast a little cheaper at the store, so go with that if you wish. As a bonus, drop in the ends of your celery, a quarter of an onion, and whatever other veg clippings you have; by the time your chicken is cooked, you'll have a couple cups of broth to use for another occasion. Boil for 15-20 minutes, until you can cut open the meat and see no pink. Remove from water and run under cool water. As soon as you can handle it comfortably, shred the meat and toss in a bowl.
- Meanwhile, in a smaller pot, cover one egg with water and bring the water to a boil. Once it boils, turn off the heat, cover the pot, and cook for 10 minutes exactly. Drain and drop in a little bowl of ice water. Peel and dice egg, and add to chicken bowl.
- Now, add celery, relish, and mayo and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. David had his on a nice sandwich (with some homemade potato chips); I had mine in a scoop over a bed of greens. Tasty either way.
*So maybe you, like me, are not a huge fan of mayonnaise. I don't know, something about of the taste of it, the coating inside my mouth, I can't really handle it as a dressing for salads like this one. I happen to really like a product called "Nayonnaise" put out by Nasoya (the tofu people), which is a soy-based spread. I can switch it out with mayo on most occasions and never notice the difference. You can also try thickened yogurt or sour cream, though the flavor will be a bit more assertive.