Saturday, May 2, 2009

Grown-Up Southern Tea Room Chutney Chicken Salad

Inspired by Martha's Tea Room in Ocean Springs, MS, this is a grown-up, southern tea room style chicken salad, made with chicken, red onion, apples, grapes, and pecans and a secret ingredient of fruit chutney.

Chutney Chicken Salad

This is not your standard deli style chicken salad with creamy mayo, celery, and sometimes, chopped up eggs - though that's pretty darned good itself and I sure love it. No, this one is the kind that you get when you go to lunch with the ladies at 'Tea Room Restaurants' all across the country, and in fact, Martha's Tea Room, right here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, was the inspiration behind this chicken salad recipe I wrote. The only secret I could pull out of the owner, Martha Reichard, was that it contained her mother's homemade mango chutney. Many people have tried to duplicate this top secret chicken salad and as Reichard stated in a television interview, nobody has come close. Well, this isn't her recipe either of course, it's just my tea room style chicken salad, inspired by Martha's Tea Room.

Martha's, once located in the downtown area of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, and now at 2113 Government Steet, right here on the Gulf Coast and at the time of this writing, operates Monday through Saturday, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. In addition to her top secret chicken salad and other sandwich makings, she serves on homemade bread she bakes every morning, she has other salads, gumbo, soup, quiche and delectable desserts like white chocolate bread pudding with a white chocolate sauce, caramel lover fudge cake and sweet potato cake, banana pudding, coconut cake with pineapple filling and chocolate banana pecan cream pie, amidst nearly 100 displayed tea pots many of which were heritage pieces from her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.

This recipe is what I consider to be a chicken salad that is all grown up, made with red onion, and tart apples, pecans and grapes, a little mayo and the secret ingredient of mango chutney.

Chutney is like a form of savory jam - a fruit preserve with the addition of some savory elements - like onion, garlic and vinegar. Chutneys are found in your grocery store on the shelf with the other fruit preserves and jellies. I fell in love with the mango chutney from The Virginia Chutney Company. I usually order it along with several of their other products and the shipping is worth it since the product arrives quickly and is well packed, making it here safe and sound. They always include a personal note of thanks, a brochure giving you some other ideas for using their chutneys, and sometimes, a little lagniappe too!

Best served on a soft, freshly made croissant, like these beauties.

A nice tender homemade white or wheat bread is also excellent, but use whatever bread you happen to have on hand at home. Dress it up with some curly lettuce and sliced fresh red tomatoes. Perfect on mini croissants for a party. Make it your own by adding more or less of any of the ingredients. Here's how to make it.

Check out more of my salad recipes on my Pinterest page, including my deli style chicken salad, egg salad, tuna and shrimp salads!

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Recipe: Southern Tea Room Chutney Chicken Salad

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 15 min | Yield: About 4 to 6 servings

  • 1/2 cup of chopped celery
  • 1 cup of chopped red onion
  • 1 small Granny Smith apple, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 cup of chopped pecans
  • 1 cup red seedless grapes, cut in half or quartered
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons of a homemade or commercial fruit chutney (mango, peach, apple or mixed), or to taste
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 3 to 4 cups of shredded or chopped cooked chicken
  • Freshly baked, over-sized croissants, white or whole wheat bread, preferably homemade
  • Additional mayonnaise for the bread
  • Curly lettuce and tomato, optional

Combine first 8 ingredients and mix well. Add the chicken and toss; taste and adjust seasonings. Apply a thin layer of mayonnaise on a freshly baked, split croissants or soft, white or wheat bread. Add a generous amount of chicken salad and dress each sandwich with lettuce and juicy, sliced tomato, if desired. Can also be served over a bed of lettuce. Sprinkle the top with chopped tomato and a tiny sprinkle of additional minced pecans.

Cook's Notes: Adjust ingredients to your liking, using more or less of anything. The mango chutney is what really makes this dish and I chose Major Grey's Mango by The Virginia Chutney Co. for this recipe. Besides mango, Major Grey's contains vinegar, ginger, raisins, garlic, limes, cloves and cinnamon. If you don't have a favorite homemade or commercial fruit chutney available, substitute one tablespoon of a similar fruit jam or preserve and some of the spices and seasonings, or you may omit for a basic chicken salad with grapes and pecans, increasing mayonnaise as needed. May also substitute your favorite apple for the Granny Smith and/or reconstituted, dried fruit, such as golden raisins or cranberries for the grapes. Place into a very small bowl, cover with boiling water and let rest for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until plump. Drain well.


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