I use two recipes for chicken salad. One is very plain for sandwiches, usually made with leftover chicken breast (since we eat all the yummy dark meat for dinner) from a chicken I have rotisseried, and this one. It's not revolutionary but hard to beat when you want chicken salad to eat from a plate and not in a sandwich.
The ingredients may seem somewhat plebeian, but listen to what Sarah Leah Chase says:
While ingredients such as dried thyme, garlic powder, and store-bought mayonnaise reflect the culinary naïveté of my adolescence, the ensuing years of food sophistication spent cultivating window boxes of fragrant fresh herbs and whisking together countless varieties of homemade mayonnaise have yet to yield a more perfectly comforting and soothing chicken salad that this original "Ritz," rendition.
The recipe specifically calls for Hellmann’s Mayonnaise; however, I would recommend that you use whatever commercial mayonnaise is your favorite. When I lived in Atlanta, mine was Blue Plate; when I lived in Virginia, it was Duke's. But I lived in both places a long time ago, and I can’t get either here.
Chicken and Grape Salad
Adapted from The Nantucket Open House Cookbook
3½ pounds poached chicken breasts (recipe follows)
5 ribs celery, peeled with a vegetable peeler
1½ cups seedless grapes, halved
1½ teaspoons dried thyme
1½ teaspoons garlic powder (do not use fresh garlic however much you're tempted because it will be way too strong)
Salt to taste
3 cups commercial mayonnaise, your favorite brand (not salad dressing)
Remove chicken from the bone, and cut into 1-inch cubes. Coarsely chop the celery. Toss chicken, celery, and grape halves together. Season with the thyme, garlic powder, and salt. Bind the salad with the mayonnaise. You want to use a lot of mayonnaise to make the salad very moist and creamy, but start with 1 cup, adding more as needed. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 1 hour before serving.
Poached Chicken Breasts
3½ pounds chicken breast halves on the bone
White wine or vermouth
Fill a large saucepan with water, and spike it with a few splashes of white wine or dry vermouth (I use Noilly Prat). Scatter several onion slices, carrot slices, celery leaves, and parsley sprigs over the top, season with a dash of salt, and add the chicken breast halves. Bring the pan to a full boil, and then turn off the heat. When it is cool, remove the chicken breasts from the liquid, leaving the vegetables behind, and carry on with the recipe.
Plain Chicken Salad For Sandwiches
I just mix mayonnaise with a little softened butter and salt to taste and toss it with small chunks of chicken and some chopped onion and celery. I butter the inside of each slice of sandwich bread, which keeps it from getting soggy if the sandwiches are to be eaten later.