Friday, June 3, 2011

Polynesian Chicken Salad

There are few things that say “quintessential American tea-time hor d’oeurve” like chicken salad.  Mayonnaise, grapes, walnuts, celery…you know the drill.  These dainty sandwiches and porcelain tea cups were what made 10-year-old life seem antique and classy.  But a decade later, I want something more original and exotic than that ol’ go-to recipe. 
 I settled on a Polynesian theme for my experimental chicken salad.  Polynesian flavors incorporate the sweetness of natural fruits like pineapple, mango, bananas, and coconut, into other ingredients like rice, beans, chicken, and sweet potatoes.  Sweet and sour sauces, made from soy sauce, sugar, and white vinegar, can also used.  This gives me a good amount of inspiration. 
The final product was tasty, and although it combined unexpected flavors, the chicken salad was overall quite good.  A few dollops of mayonnaise made up the base (as in most traditional chicken salads), but I sweetened it with pineapple juice and counter-balanced it with some lemon juice and soy sauce.  Orange peppers and pineapple tidbits varied the texture, while Sriracha spiced up the original mildness.
 My main gripes with the recipe I created were that the sauce was too thin and still tasted too much like mayonnaise.  Once the salad was added to cold rice, the problems were not as blatant.  However, I am still wondering how I could keep a similar flavor profile and make the entire sauce thicker.  I tried a little corn starch, but that made the sauce awkwardly starchy and more pasty than creamy.  Overall, perhaps there is a reason that you stick to the “good ol’ recipes”, but where can we grow from there?
Anyways, this recipe isn’t quite ready to impress guests, but it is sure to satisfy you when you cannot tolerate the traditional chicken salad anymore. 

Polynesian Chicken Salad
1 ½ cups cooked chicken (I used chicken thighs)
About 3 T mayonnaise
2 T apricot preserves
1 T lemon juice
1 T pineapple juice
2-3 t Sriracha (Asian hot sauce)
2 t soy sauce
1 tsp ginger, freshly grated
½ cup cilantro
Salt and pepper
½ cup pineapple tidbits
1/3 cup orange or yellow pepper, diced

1.       In a small bowl, combine mayo, apricot preserves, lemon juice, pineapple juice, Sriracha, soy sauce, ginger, and cilantro.  Whisk until smooth – taste test for appropriate flavoring.
2.       In a Tupperware container with a lid, add chicken, pineapple, orange pepper, and mayo sauce.
3.       Chill for 4-6 hours.  Serve over rice, garnish with cilantro.

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