Chicken salad is any salad with chicken as a main ingredient. Other common ingredients may include mayonnaise, hard-boiled egg, celery, onion, pepper, pickles (or pickle relish) and a variety of mustards.
In the United States, "chicken salad" refers to either any salad with chicken, or a specific mixed salad consisting primarily of chopped chicken meat and a binder, such as mayonnaise or salad dressing. Like tuna salad and egg salad, it may be served on top of lettuce, tomato, avocado, or some combination of these. It may also be used for sandwiches. Typically it is made with leftover or canned chicken. It may also refer to a garden salad with fried, grilled, or roasted chicken (usually cut up or diced) on top.
In Europe and Asia the salad may be complemented by any number of dressings, or no dressing at all, and the salad constituents can vary from traditional leaves and vegetables, to pastas, couscous, noodles or rice.
Early American chicken salad recipes can be found in 19th-century Southern cookbooks, including Sarah Rutledge's The Carolina Housewife: Or, House and Home (1847) and Abby Fisher's What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking (1881). Rutledge details a recipe for "A Salad To Be Eaten With Cold Meat Or Fowl" that explains how to make a mayonnaise from scratch, before adding it to cold meats (chicken and seafood).
A SALAD TO BE EATEN WITH COLD MEAT OR FOWL.
The yolk of a raw egg, a tea-spoonful of made mustard, (it is better if mixed the day before,) half a tea-spoonful of salt. The mustard and salt to be rubbed together; then add the egg. Pour on very slowly the sweet oil, rubbing hard all the time, till as much is made as is wanted. Then add a table-spoonful of vinegar. When these ingredients are mixed, they should look perfectly smooth. If it curdles, add a little more mustard, or a little vinegar. With shrimps or oysters, a little red pepper rubbed in, is an improvement.
Abby Fisher similarly describes making a homemade mayonnaise, before adding it to chicken and white celery.
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