Monday, June 22, 2009

Chicken Salad with Homemade Mayonnaise

I've been really been trying hard to think about my food before I eat it - what am I eating, what are these ingredients, can I make it healthier and more natural? I want to eat real food. What do I mean by real food? Sometimes I don't even know. But I think I mean eating each meal with as many basic ingredients as I can (i.e. cut back drastically on prepared ingredients).

Obviously, you've seen the homemade yogurt (which is really so simple and cheap I can't imagine buying it anymore), and the homemade granola with maple syrup or honey as a sweetener, and the larabars. I can eat these things without guilt, even if they're high in fat, because I know they are real food.

Enter Julia Child. I'm nearly finished with her autobiography My Life in France. Julia was the queen of real food. And she was a scientist just as much as a master of the art of French cooking. She spent months perfecting a recipe for homemade mayonnaise. And she ate it with great abandon - lived to be 91 - and was never overweight.

In another book, Cooking for Mr. Latte, I read about the author's encounter with Julia in which she arrived in France for work, went to the nearest cafe for lunch, and ordered hard boiled eggs, a baguette, and homemade mayonnaise. She alternated between spreading that mayo on the eggs and bread and greatly enjoyed her deconstructed egg salad sandwich.

Needless to say, I had the hugest craving for homemade mayonnaise after reading these stories. I do have a jar of Hellmann's in my fridge, which I don't mind using. It even says "Hellmann's REAL mayonnaise" on the jar. But the ingredients included "natural flavors and calcium disodium EDTA" so I wanted to try making my own.

I loosely followed the recipe in Cooking for Mr. Latte, but I didn't have all the ingredients so I improvised a little. It contained egg yolk, dijon mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, and olive oil. I'm not going to reprint the recipe quantities here because in all honesty, it wasn't super fantastic mayo. But it was good! And it made my chicken salad even better because I knew every single ingredient that went into it. PS - If Hellmann's is REAL, why is it white, when mine turned out a very deep golden/yellow/green? Egg yolks and good olive oil have color in them!

Chicken Salad
Cooked chicken, cut into bite sized pieces (this tastes great with canned tuna as well!)
2 ribs celery, diced
Handful of toasted walnuts or other nut or seed
Handful of dried cranberries, or chopped apple or other fruit
2 chopped scallions
Mayonnaise to coat, either homemade or store bought
Salt and pepper to taste.

I put it on top of a bed of spinach and brought it to work for lunch.

It would be killer with green apples and cheddar cheese on rye bread, or craisins and brie on a baguette. Toasted pumpkin seeds are also a great substitute for the walnuts.

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