Welcome to the final Fare Exchange of July. Susan Elaine, on a visit to this city from Texas, stayed in Hot Springs, Arkansas, at the Lookout Point Lakeside Inn. "Their Stuffed French Toast was the lightest version of that recipe we have ever tasted, and we would love to prepare something like it at home."
Ms. Elaine, who came into a generous supply of rum in a home where nobody drinks rum, also asked for "recipes with rum as an ingredient."
The mention of a blog in the column that follows reminds me to remind you to tell us, if you haven't already, your favorite blogs and go-to cookbooks.
All Southern writers and readers need a discussion, from time to summertime, about chicken salad. Rose Secrest opened for today. "I don't know anything about chicken salad, but Stirling's [Coffee House] in Sewanee puts curry powder in theirs. Folks can try that in their regular recipe. Stirling's actually makes it vegan, if you want that recipe, too."
We certainly do, Rose Secrest.
Margaret McNeil of Margaretsmorsels.blogspot.com had a dual reaction to C.K.'s request for chicken salad recipes. "I'm sending two recipes; one that I've made for over 30 years and a second one that's become a new family favorite.
"I've been using the Brabson House Chicken Salad recipe ever since they sold packages of their recipes in the 1980s. It has an unexpected crunch to it that comes from a can of water chestnuts."
And secondly, " My family loves the Sassy Scotty chicken salad served at Chicken Salad Chick. A friend shared this recipe with me and, although it's not a true copycat, it's very close. You can substitute a rotisserie chicken and use bacon bits instead of cooking bacon." Ms. McNeil calls this one Ranch Chicken Salad.
And before she gave us her two recipes, Ms. McNeil offered some general chicken salad guidelines for chicken salad, plain and fancy.
"All chicken salad recipes start out the same. They use chicken, seasonings and something to bind it together. Usually the binding ingredient is mayonnaise, but I've seen recipes that use sour cream, whipped cream, cream cheese and even Cool Whip. Some recipes keep it simple, but other recipes add a lot of ingredients. The additional ingredients fall into four categories.
1. Fruit: This is probably the most popular addition to chicken salad. A lot of recipes use grapes, mandarin oranges or pineapple. I've also seen recipes that use peaches, apricots, strawberries or cranberries.
2. Vegetables: Although not as popular as fruit, most recipes usually include celery, onion, pimientos or a combination of the three. I've also found recipes that use garlic, green peas, green onions or broccoli.
3. Texture: Chicken salad doesn't have much texture, which is why a lot of recipes add something crunchy. Usually the crunch comes from celery or nuts, such as almonds, cashews, pecans or walnuts. Some recipes add texture by adding bacon, poppy seeds or French fried onions.
4. Seasonings: This is where personal preference comes into play more than any other category. I stick with salt and pepper, but there are recipes that call for lemon juice, sugar, mustard, vinegar, honey, mint or Worcestershire sauce.
"Chicken salad is a versatile recipe. If you don't like an ingredient, you can leave it out or substitute something else in its place. If you think it needs additional ingredients, you can add things you like. When you add or subtract ingredients, you need to adjust the amount of the binding ingredient and seasonings as well.
"When I make chicken salad, I use chicken breasts with the skin and bone attached. I find the meat is more flavorful than using boneless, skinless chicken breasts. While the chicken is cooking, I prep all the other ingredients. By the time the chicken is cooked, skinned and boned, I've got everything ready to assemble. I make chicken salad a day ahead and refrigerate it so the flavors have time to blend.
"A nice way to serve chicken salad is on a lettuce-lined platter. You can use a cookie scoop to make individual mounds of chicken salad. To make it fancier, top each mound with a sprig of parsley.
"I like to serve chicken salad with a basket of croissants and another cold dish, such as Cherry Gelatin Fruit Salad."
Chicken Salad With Water Chestnuts
My recipe uses what I consider to be traditional ingredients for chicken salad, but it does contain one ingredient that is slightly exotic: water chestnuts. Water chestnuts are bland, but they are extremely crunchy. I highly recommend leaving them in the salad.
4 chicken breast halves
Salt to taste
1 onion, quartered
1 stalk celery, halved
1 (8-ounce) can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
1/4 cup sweet pickle relish, drained
1 (2-ounce) jar diced pimientos, drained
1/4 cup chopped pecans (omit if there are possible nut allergies among your guests)
1/2 cup chopped celery
3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
Mayonnaise (enough to moisten)
Additional salt and pepper to taste
Cover chicken with water; add salt, onion and stalk of celery. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Cover and cook until chicken is tender, about 1 hour. Discard onion and celery. Skin and debone chicken; chop into small chunks. Add remaining ingredients; mix well. Keep refrigerated.
This recipe makes 8 servings.
Ranch Chicken Salad
3 cups cooked and chopped chicken
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup prepared ranch dressing
Black pepper to taste
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
5 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
In a large bowl, combine chicken, mayonnaise, ranch dressing and pepper; mix well. Gently stir in cheese and bacon. Refrigerate a few hours before serving for flavors to blend.
Makes 6 servings.
Diane Marrs, while affirming the virtues of typical basil pesto, inspires us with variations according to your request.
* Use leafy greens instead of basil. Spinach, kale and even carrot tops all work well.
* Make pesto without pine nuts by swapping out the pine nuts for a different nut, like almonds or walnuts.
* Add avocado to replace some of the olive oil.
* Add roasted red pepper to give your pesto a pop of color and smoky flavor.
Thank you all for your colorful, thoughtful submissions. Keep that up in the days ahead, please.
* Stuffed French Toast on the light side
* Recipes using rum
* Favorite blogs, cookbooks
TO REACH US
Fare Exchange is a longtime meeting place for people who love to cook and love to eat. We welcome both your recipes and your requests. Be sure to include precise instructions for every recipe you send.
Mailing address: Jane Henegar, 913 Mount Olive Road, Lookout Mountain, GA 30750