Chicken salad isn't just a way to use up leftover chicken—if it's good enough, it can be a reason to cook a chicken in the first place! Here you'll learn a basic chicken salad recipe, plus three ways to build on it if you're looking for something a little different.
Basic Chicken Salad: Dice the chicken, keeping as much skin as you like, and transfer to a large mixing bowl. (You should have about 8 cups, enough to make all four versions of chicken salad.)
Mince shallot. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt on the cutting board, then run knife through the minced shallot again to distribute the salt and to create a finer mince. Transfer to a small mixing bowl. Squeeze lemon juice over the shallot and let rest for at least 10 minutes and up to 30, to remove the raw flavor. (This process is called "macerating.")Meanwhile, dice celery so the pieces are the same size as the diced chicken, or smaller; add to the bowl with reserved chicken.
Crush the garlic and roughly chop. Use a Microplane to grate the ginger, about 1 teaspoon. Into a small saucepan over medium heat, add oil, garlic, and ginger. Sauté until aromatic, stirring frequently, 1–2 minutes. Turn off the heat; then add curry, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne to the pan; stir until a paste forms. Let cool.
Remove tarragon leaves from stems; discard the stems. Mince the tarragon leaves; you should have about 2 tablespoons. Set aside. Assemble Basic Chicken Salad: Add mayonnaise to a bowl. Scoop the minced shallot out of its bowl with a teaspoon, leaving behind the lemon juice, and add to the mayonnaise. (Discard the lemon juice.) Stir mayonnaise and shallot until combined. To the bowl of chicken and celery, add half of the mayonnaise mixture and stir until evenly coated, then add more mayonnaise to taste. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. (Makes about 8 cups Basic Chicken Salad.)
Tarragon Chicken Salad: To 2 cups of Basic Chicken Salad, add minced tarragon and tarragon vinegar; stir until evenly combined. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. (Serves 2.)
Jerk Chicken Salad: Squeeze lime juice into a mixing bowl with the mayonnaise. Add jerk seasoning, and stir until combined. Add mixture to 2 cups Basic Chicken Salad; stir until evenly combined. (Serves 2.)
Curried Chicken Salad: Add curry paste to mayonnaise, and stir until evenly distributed. Add curried mayonnaise to 2 cups Basic Chicken Salad; stir until evenly combined. Add freshly squeezed lime juice and salt to taste, and stir again. (Serves 2.)
Assemble sandwiches: Pile a scoop of chicken salad onto a slice of bread; top with lettuce and a second slice of bread. Repeat with remaining chicken salad, bread, and lettuce.(Note: Chicken salad will keep for up to 2 days in the fridge in an airtight container. Assemble sandwiches immediately before serving.)