Chicken salads are so versatile. There are myriad flavor combinations — from plain and herb to ethnic (as in Southwestern or Asian or Indian seasonings). The salad can be a light lunch main course, perhaps served in a demure lettuce cup, or a more substantial meal presented on a platter and spooned atop leafy greens surrounded by garnishes such as tomato wedges, thick cucumber slices or hard-boiled eggs.

Chopped up finer, chicken salad also makes a fabulous sandwich filling. Start with leftover cooked chicken, or poach your own specifically for a salad.

These two recipes use fruit and nuts as an addition to the salad. The fruit lends natural sweetness, and the nuts contribute richness, crunch and a complementary flavor.

POACHED CHICKEN BREASTS

To poach boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cook about 5 minutes longer.

1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts

About 4 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place chicken in a medium saucepan, add water, salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, until chicken is no longer pink in the center, 12 to 15 minutes.

Remove pan from heat and let chicken cool in liquid if you have time, or pat dry and use immediately. To keep chicken moist and juicy, cover with cooking liquid and refrigerate. Use within a day or two.

LEMON CHICKEN SALAD WITH PECANS AND GRAPES

Garnish simply or more elaborately, and serve with corn muffins or corn bread.

Servings: Four

1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

4 cups cubed cooked chicken (about 1 1/2 pounds)

1 cup green grapes, halved or quartered

3/4 cup finely diced celery

2/3 cup thinly sliced scallions

1 cup mayonnaise

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Lettuce leaves

Toast pecans in a skillet over medium heat until fragrant and one shade darker, about 5 minutes. Cool.

In a large bowl, toss chicken with grapes, celery, scallions and the pecans. Whisk mayonnaise with the lemon juice, zest and cayenne. Pour most of the dressing over the salad, stir to combine, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for up to 6 hours.

Before serving, taste. If the salad has absorbed so much dressing that it is dry, add more mayonnaise mixture. Serve on lettuce leaves.

CURRIED CHICKEN SALAD WITH APPLE AND ALMONDS

Good accompaniments are warmed Naan breads or other flatbreads.

Servings: Four

1/2 cup sliced almonds

4 cups cubed cooked chicken (about 1 1/2 pounds)

3/4 cup thinly sliced celery

3/4 cup diced unpeeled firm apple, such as Gala

1/2 cup chopped red onion

3/4 cup plain yogurt (low-fat or full fat)

1/3 cup mayonnaise

4 teaspoons curry powder

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Lettuce leaves

Toast almonds in a skillet over medium heat until fragrant and one shade darker, about 5 minutes. Cool.

In a large bowl, toss chicken with celery, apple and onion. Whisk yogurt with mayonnaise and curry powder. Pour most of the dressing over the salad, stir to combine, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for up to 8 hours.

Before serving, taste. If the salad has absorbed so much dressing that it is dry, add more yogurt mixture. Serve on lettuce leaves and sprinkle with almonds before serving.

 

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Dishing Up Maine” (Storey Publishing 2006) and “The New England Clam Shack Cookbook” (Storey 2008). She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula.