Mama Lou’s Famous Chicken Salad

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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!

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Mama Lou's Famous Chicken Salad
  1. I always make chicken salad the same as Mam Lou. I have tried making the dressing separate and it never turns out quite right. So I gave up, and went back to the method that I learned.
  2. I first skin and pull the chicken apart. I dice the chicken up and put it in the bottom of a large bowl. Taste your chicken to see how seasoned it is. This will give you an idea of how much salt you might needed.
  3. Then I dice the onion and celery and put that on top of the chicken. I throw in a handful of craisins. Then I get out my Duke's Mayonnaise and put a big dollop on top. (For you I measured as I dolloped.) It is better to err on the side of needing to add more mayonnaise later than to have a chicken salad that is too soupy. On top of the mayo blob I add both mustards, a couple of splashes of red wine vinegar, and a little drizzle of honey. This is also where I add my fresh cracked pepper and salt. Mama Lou would say to add the seasonings to the wet mixture so that it all distributes better in the salad. I chop my fresh flat leaf parsley and dill and put that on top. I mix it all together and see if it needs any more mayo or salt. (Go easy on the salt.)
Recipe Notes

This chicken salad is a huge hit wherever I bring it. I like that it is so full of flavor and if I am feeding a big crowd it is easy to make a large batch. Enjoy!

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