Every once in awhile someone comes into your life and makes a difference. Grace is that person for me.
I belong to an organization of exceptional women – the Junior League – specifically the Junior League of Albany, NY. While the primary mission of the Junior League is to build better communities through the volunteer efforts of women working together for a common goal, the other thing you should know about Junior League is that it is very, very social. We have meetings and do incredible things (in the Albany area Hospice, Ronald McDonald House, Race for the Cure, Gilda’s Club/ACS Hope Club, the Equinox Domestic Violence Shelter and other noteworthy projects are all here thanks to Junior League efforts) – but we also share meals, snacks, drinks, etc. at many of our meetings.
At one particular meeting we had a potluck. The hostess (the lovely Carolyn) always takes great care of me but I was incredibly touched that Carolyn’s mom Grace also made a special dish with me in mind. Grace is a long-time member of the League and made this absolutely amazing hot chicken salad from a Junior League cookbook. (Leagues throughout the country publish cookbooks and sell them as fundraisers. Albany’s cookbook is called The Stenciled Strawberry.)
So, quite taken with this delicious dish, I decided “Hot Chicken Salad” didn’t do it justice and I renamed it “Amazing Grace’s Chicken Salad.” Both Grace and the Chicken Salad are amazing so it really works! (Grace is the kind of person everyone wishes was their mom because she’s so nice and helpful and charming and, well, gracious!)
It turns out that Amazing Grace’s Chicken Salad is MY mom’s new favorite dish. It’s nice to share a recipe – but it’s REALLY nice when you can make a dish for someone and bring it to them and all they need to do is reheat it.
So, here’s the REAL recipe (and then I will note my changes – as usual!)
4 cups cubed cooked chicken
4 cups chopped celery
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 tea tarragon
1/4 cup grated onion
1 tlbs lemon juice
2 cups mayonnaise
1/4 cup extra dry vermouth
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup crushed corn flakes
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Combine chicken with celery, salt, tarragon, onion, lemon juice, mayonnaise, vermouth and almonds. Let sit one hour for flavors to develop.
Scoop mixture into a buttered casserole dish (2 quart).
Top with cornflakes and cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes (heated through and lightly browned).
Note: Grace substitutes crushed potato chips for cornflakes.
Now, for how *I* make it:
When I am in a hurry I make whatever chicken salad I feel like and top with parmesan cheese.
When I am being a little more careful:
Chopped chicken, celery, onion (I chop finely instead of grating) black pepper, about a teaspoon of cumin, a teaspoon of oregano (because I hate tarragon), some parsley if I have it on hand, lemon juice, mayo, and if I remember vermouth or other white wine. I use walnuts quite often and they work very well, but the almonds are great, too, if you have them. I never use the cornflakes or potato chips. I always use Parmesan Romano (in the shaker jar). I usually put mine into individual casserole dishes instead of baking it in a big dish.
It’s important to note that this recipe is adapted from one originally published by the Taylor Wine Company of Hammondsport, NY.
This is such a simple recipe but it is truly amazing! The flavors work incredibly well together and sometimes simple is all it takes. Thank you, Grace, not only for your amazing chicken salad but your friendship and grace as well!