Monday Night Martha: Chicken Curry Salad

This week's dish is adapted from Mark Bittman's Curried Chicken Salad recipe in his cooking bible, "How to Cook Everything." We have deep respect for Bittman, who writes the Minimalist cooking column in the New York Times, and it feels quasi-sacrilegious to alter Bittman's recipe in any way. But it's only because we've cooked so many of his dishes often enough that we feel confident enough to make a few minor tweaks. You'll find the original recipe here.

This is one of the those "kitchen sink" recipes where you can add whatever you have lying around.

Bittman recommends a half cup of diced green apple or a half cup of blanched, slivered almonds. Both are fabulous, however we prefer to add a half cup of dried cranberries and a half cup of chopped celery. The celery adds crunch and the cranberries add zing.

After deciding what to add to the salad, you'll need a pound of chicken breast. The original recipe calls for cooking it in lightly boiling chicken stock, which is great if you have some around the house. If not, you can just as easily pan fry the chicken in a drop of oil.

Once the chicken is cooked, we like to set it aside in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to allow it to cool down. Then shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces. You may find that hand-shredding the chicken will give you more tender bites than cutting it with a knife.

Mix several tablespoons of mayonnaise with a tablespoon of curry powder. We like to add salt and pepper, and a dash of sugar (or Splenda) to sweeten the sauce. It can be helpful to add a tablespoon or two of milk to keep the salad from being too dry.

Add the chicken, cranberries and celery (or whatever else you decided to throw in there) and mix it all together. If the salad seems too dry, add a bit more mayonnaise or yogurt or milk. If you do add milk, go very, very slowly and add it only a tablespoon at a time.

What is extra fabulous about this salad is that you can have it as a side dish with dinner, or as a lunch all on its own.

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