Curry Chicken Salad – Brown Bag Style
It seems like this recipe has been my secret delight for decades. I first came across it after moving back to Oklahoma. Mom & I were neck-deep into planning my wedding and were blessed to have the assistance of our very good friend Diane. In the midst of appointments, errands and decisions, we often found ourselves eating lunch at a tiny restaurant owned by a Hungarian couple.
The first time we squeezed into the tiny restaurant, Diane ordered her favorite – and I followed her lead. The sandwich was nothing like I had ever eaten. Creamy & spicy balanced with some crunch and sweet. It was perfect.
I happened to work around the corner from The Brown Bag, and once the wedding was planned and “I do’s” were exchanged, I managed to find just as many opportunities to eat there. Hubby worked nearby, and was always happy to meet me for some midday nourishment. It was the perfect setup – he always ordered the lunch special & I snatched a bite of every delicious culinary concoction, among which were: Hungarian Goulash, Stroganoff or a yummy Pot Roast. For dessert, we would spilt a perfectly lemony lemon bar. I may have been tempted to divert from my “usual”, but never did.
What did I order?? The chicken salad sandwich. But wait, this was like no chicken salad sandwich I had ever eaten. It was BRIGHT yellow…and perfectly seasoned with curry. Curry was the star and the chopped red grapes and celery were the perfect accompaniment. An over-sized portion of the chicken salad, one leaf of curly red lettuce and thick slab of red onion ((which I immediately discarded)) always sandwiched between two slices of wheat berry bread – that is the “Brown Bag way”. Oh! Last but not least, the all important small bag of Ruffles – always on the side. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
My love for this sandwich was so obvious, Diane even made the curried chicken salad ((from her own personal recipe)) & served it at my bridesmaid luncheon. Diane’s recipe has a few things I didn’t add, but her instructions are similar to mine: “add until it tastes good” – haha. I love the addition of apples and will be trying that next!
The bread could NEVER contain the generous helping of chicken salad & I always managed to wear it by the time lunch was over. After I stopped working to be a SAHM with a growing herd of baby boys, David would bring a sandwich home for dinner every so often. He even brought it to the hospital for me after a few of the boys were born. Then we moved too far from The Brown Bag – and my chicken salad sandwich love affair came to a halt.
Even after all these years – the first bite always takes me back to these memories: the excitement of wedding planning, our early married years and my sweet years of being a tired and happy brand new ((stinky, spit-up covered)) new mom.
For this recipe, I lightened up the original ((haha, seems like I am needing to lighten up a lot these days)) by adding only a few tablespoons of light mayo and getting the rest of the creaminess from some plain non-fat Greek yogurt. I think the all-mayo version is superior, so if you don’t want to lighten-up, just add enough mayo to reach your desired creaminess.
On the day I made this chicken salad, I didn’t have red grapes on hand. It was still tasty – but red grapes certainly put it over the top, so add them if you can. I think raisins or dried cranberries would also be yummy.
Lastly, a big slab of red onion is too much for me to eat ((I am sure those around me too)). Surprisingly, even though I removed the red onion slice from the sandwich, the onion essence was obvious and necessary. So, I added a few tablespoons of microscopically diced red onion and some chopped green onion.
- 3 c chopped rotisserie chicken breast
- 2-3 ribs of celery, halved lengthwise and chopped
- zest of one lemon
- 1/4 c finely chopped red onion ((optional))
- 2-3 T finely chopped green onions ((optional))
- 3 T light mayo (Hellmann's works great))
- 3/4 - 1 c fat free plain Greek yogurt ((add until desired creaminess is reached))
- 1 1/2 T curry powder
- 1/2 t tumeric
- sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
- 1 c chopped red grapes or 1/2 c raisins ((optional))
- 1/4 c slivered almonds ((optional))
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine ingredients. Add yogurt in increments until desired creaminess is reached. Add any desired optional ingredients, Stir until combined. Season with S&P to taste.
- Serve with crackers, as a sandwich or on top of a bed of fresh salad greens.
- If you are not watching calories & fat, feel free to leave the yogurt out of the recipe - and add mayo to reach desired creaminess. Also, I the amount of curry I used is based on my personal flavor preference. You may want to add more or less - so taste and stir to reach the perfect combination for you.