We live far from most of our family. If we are going to load up and drive a full-day, I want our car picnic lunch to be a little special. It gives us something to look forward to and turns the lunch stop into an event. Sometimes I will use the sun dried tomato wraps and make chicken salad wraps, or I will use home made bread or bread from Panera. Just the act of eating food outside enhances the taste.
When it comes to chicken salad, I think most of us like the style of chicken salad our mothers or grandmothers made. I have a friend who has to have shredded chicken in his chicken salad because that is how his grandmother made it. I like chunks and lots of herbs, because that is how Mama Lou made it. When I was a student at Clemson, our church had an adopt-a-student program. I was so lucky to have Lou and Norb Goebel as my adoptive parents. Not many people will say that their best friend in college was in her 70’s! I learned so much from Mama Lou. Clemson University prepared me well for my career, Mama Lou gave me an internship on life. Once a week I would go to Mama Lou’s and help her clean house. She paid me to help clean house, but I got so much more out of the experience. That is when I first learned to cook. Lou and Norb had their biggest meal of the day at lunch. We would work on cleaning the house and then I would help Mama Lou make lunch. If there was a home game that weekend, I would help prepare make ahead meals for all of the family coming to town. Chicken salad was one of those recipes. I have made a couple of small additions over the years. I add fresh dill, dried cranberries and use a roasted chicken (instead of boiled), otherwise it is just like Mama Lou’s.
This is one of my family’s favorite things that I make. For me I love the moist chicken with just the right amount of crunch from the celery and onion. The fresh dill and parsley make this chicken salad special. When I make her chicken salad, I feel close to Mama Lou. As I chop the celery I remember her instructions to me, make sure you dice that celery very small. I can’t remember if it was Ricky of Jimmy, but one of her grandsons ‘thought’ he did not like celery, so we did a small dice to hide it. Even though my family loves celery, I still dice the celery small. I think the small dice helps it distribute better throughout the salad. Mama Lou also insisted that we use Dukes Mayonnaise (the best) and lots of fresh parsley.
I hope you give this a try and wish you many happy chicken salad memories!