So I personally think the savoury afternoon tea course is there to keep me from the scones and pastries. Plain and simple. This kind of goes along with my opinion that everyone on the planet falls into one of two categories – they are really either a salt- or sweet-lover at heart. If given a choice, most of us will consistently go for one over the other.

Doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy the other – and I do enjoy the good savoury options at an afternoon tea. But I would only rarely ask for seconds on them, unless they are really outstanding.

One of the typical afternoon tea sandwiches is a coronation chicken sandwich – which is the classic chicken/curry combination.

However, when we were putting together a family cookbook a number of years ago, and I saw my cousin’s recipe for chicken salad, it seemed like one that could adapt well to afternoon tea. The flavors are a little unusual in my circles, so I’ll admit to being a little skeptical at first – dill with chicken? Pecans in a chicken salad? Sweet pickle relish?

It only took trying this recipe once to realize I could easily get addicted to this version of chicken salad. The dill and sweet relish make a great combination with the mayo and lemon juice, there’s a nice fresh crunch from the celery, and the pecans make a great nutty addition. Put it on a nice grainy bread, and it’s a winner.

Though I love coronation chicken for an afternoon tea, it’s nice to change things up a bit and try something different. This Southern chicken salad makes the perfect change from the usual.

As to flavor, I like to punch it up, so while the original recipe called for 1/4 tsp. dill, I heaped that up a bit. Added little extra lemon juice, a few extra pecans – you get the idea.

I also don’t like “soupy” meat salads, so I tend to cut back on things like mayo, so the chicken and other ingredients really come through. I’ve noted these edits in the recipe below. But of course this can all be easily tailored to your tastes.

And if you don’t have sweet pickle relish easily to hand, it’s essentially a combination of cucumbers, sugar, salt, cider vinegar, mustard seeds, celery seeds, like this recipe from Leite’s Culinaria, and easy to make.

Southern Chicken Salad

  • Servings: 8 sandwiches
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 12 oz. chicken breast
  • 1/4 – 1/2 c. sweet pickle relish (I split the difference and use about 1/3 c.)
  • 1/4 c. finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 c. chopped pecans (a few extra don’t hurt)
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon juice (I’m generous here as well)
  • 1/4 tsp. dill weed (I make it a heaping 1/4 tsp.)
  • 3/4 c. mayonnaise, to desired consistency (I start with 1/2 c. and add extra teaspoonfuls if I think it needs it. Also, the original recipe called for Miracle Whip, so it can be used if preferred)
  • 1/4 c. chopped celery
  • Cracked black pepper to taste

Directions

Mix the chicken, pecans, celery and onions.

Separately mix the lemon juice, dill, sweet relish and mayo, then add to the chicken mixture until everything is integrated. Crack some black pepper over the top, to taste, and mix in as well.

Let sit a couple of hours in the refrigerator before serving.

Pair it with a good multi-grain or seedy bread, or other favorite bread. Makes about 8 sandwiches, or use as salad on lettuce leaves with cherry tomatos.

As noted in the recipe, apart from afternoon tea, this makes a great salad topper – add lettuce and tomato and you’ve got a great lunchtime salad.

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