Cooking Contests / Food

Cherry Almond Chicken Salad

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Believe it or not, I seldom indulge in sandwiches.  But when I do, I make it a point to make a sandwich that I will thoroughly enjoy.  Slapping a few pieces of turkey or ham on some bread just won’t do.

One of my favorite sandwiches to make is chicken salad.  It’s a timeless classic and a blank slate waiting to be filled.  Really, the possibilities are endless.  Whether you choose to add sundried tomatoes, fresh basil, chunks of mozzarella, and sauteed onions and garlic for an Italian flair.  Or opt for an Asian inspired chicken salad with snow peas, crunchy lo-mein noodles, mandarin oranges, and a punch of soy, you won’t be disappointed.

When coming up with different flavor combinations for my sandwiches, I generally follow these guidelines:

  • Start with cooked, white meat chicken that has been shredded.  I know many people cut up chicken in chunks, but I prefer to roughly shred the chicken.  Your finished product will hold together much better, and you won’t have to worry about chunks of chicken falling out of your sandwich and onto your lap.
  • Add greens.   To boost the nutrition of your sandwich and to add a punch of color, I always add some freshly chopped, green leafy vegetables.  Kale is usually my first choice.  It’s cheap, easy to clean, mild in flavor, and arguably one of the most nutritious vegetables that you can add to your diet.   You can also opt for other greens such as spinach, arugula, or even romaine lettuce hearts.
  • Include a naturally sweet element.   Typically, this means that I add fresh or dried fruit.  My family loves freshly chopped apples, pears, or sliced grapes added to the mix.   Carefully folding in fresh, not frozen, berries or cherries is a great option as well.  If not using fresh fruit, I include dried fruit such as raisins (don’t forget about the golden variety), cranberries, or dried cherries.
  • Add a bit of crunch.    Texture or the lack there of, can really make or break a recipe.  Sandwiches are no different.  I love to add some kind of a crunchy element to my chicken salad.  Most of the time I add in sliced or slivered nuts such as almonds, pecans, or walnuts.  Crunchy lo mein noodles, sesame seeds, or roasted pumpkin seeds are great as well.
  • You’ve got to season!   Go beyond the basic salt and pepper additions.  Add fresh basil, Italian seasoning, rosemary, cinnamon, curry, and so on.
  • Don’t add too much mayonnaise.  I must confess that I really like mayonnaise.  However, I detest salads and sandwiches that are literally bathed in mayo.  I add just enough mayonnaise to hold all of my chicken salad ingredients together.  That’s it.

A few months ago I began to work on some sandwich creations to submit to Arnold’s America’s Better Sandwich Contest.   I was fortunate enough to have been selected as one of the fifteen finalists.  I used the guidelines above to create my entry.   My Cherry Almond Chicken Salad is one of three finalists in the Creative Classics Category.  Be sure to head on over and check out my recipe at http://arnoldbread.com/recipes/cherry-almond-chicken-salad , and while you are there, please consider casting your vote for my sandwich.

You can vote daily through October 23rd.  Your vote, combined with the judges’ scores, will help determine not only each category winner but the Grand Prize winner of $25,000 as well.   Now that is a lot of dough (I couldn’t resist!).  I’d love your help.  Also, for each vote that is cast, Arnold will donate one loaf of bread (up to 100,000 loaves) to Feeding America.  So your vote counts in more ways than one!

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