Cold chopped chicken dressed up with fruits, nuts and highly seasoned with curry powder appeared on my radar screen sometime in the 1980s. It was and still is a most definite hit.
Most salads rely on a dressing of some sort for flavor to bring all the ingredients together. Oil and vinegar with spices for some, while many rely on something fattier like mayonnaise. Our recipe will have a half-and-half mixture of mayo and thick, Greek-style yogurt.
For the accompanying fruit I fall back on a trusty favorite – Helen Corbitt’s famous poppy seed dressing, flavor-boosted with toasted hazelnut oil and blackberry vinegar. Some classics can be altered with great success, and this is definitely the case here.
Previously I have relied on an oil from California packaged under the label La Tourangelle but with the appearance of Freddy Guys Oil and Hoskins Berry Farm Blackberry Vinegar, this salad is definitely local. If you live hither and yon, search out ingredients near you. If I still lived in Texas I would use pecan oil.
Hazelnut Oil – It Stands Alone!
“Hazelnut oil has a subtle, rich flavor that is unique among other oils but distinctly hazelnut. We recently introduced the oil for sale at farmers markets this fall, and our customers have been raving about it. Our grandpa perhaps said it best: ‘Hazelnut oil stands alone – there is nothing like it!’
“Our custom farm machinist in Italy, who built our small-batch roaster, promised to build us an oil press a couple of years ago. Even though the idea was simple, this machine had to be designed, built, and torn down and rebuilt several times to get it just right – but the result was worth it! Our one-of-a-kind, artisanal oil press was shipped from Italy and installed here in the summer of 2010.
“Since then, we have found that we can press only a few small batches of hazelnuts each day, and each batch of 25 pounds of pure, dry-roasted hazelnuts yields about 10 bottles of amber oil. The oil is gently filtered through cheesecloth and bottled in our kitchen. Since this is an unprocessed oil, there are some “cloudy” hazelnut proteins that tend to settle at the bottom of the bottle. We say shake up your bottle and let your palate experience all the flavors the hazelnut has to offer.
“Hazelnut oil is a healthy oil, rich in monounsaturated fats, and can be used for cooking and baking. Perhaps the best use of our oil, however, is as a “finishing” oil – for topping or dipping. Our chefs and customers have begun experimenting with the oil, and we are finding that many people like to use it to replace butter in various recipes. Our personal favorite is topping baked acorn squash with hazelnut oil – simple and delicious!
“Consider using it to top roasted beets just as they are served. Try it over rice and pasta as you are serving them, and it evens turns a simple baked potato into an interesting side – add it at the table as you would butter or other toppings.
“A bottle of oil makes a beautiful gift or a treat for your own kitchen. Please note that it is delicate and will last only a few months if stored at room temperature.” ~ Freddy Guy
“A hand-crafted Blackberry Vinegar that is made on our farm from the juice of our Marionberry and Chester Blackberry crops. The harvested fruit is fermented to alcohol using yeast native to the skins and stems of our fruit, and the alcohol is then converted to acetic acid ( vinegar) using a mother of vinegar also native to our fruit. The vinegar is made and aged in oak barrels.“In 2002 we started experimenting with this simple and traditional method of making vinegar and have been building our inventory ever since.This vinegar is alive and raw. It has a fruity, zesty base that lasts on the palate. Enjoy!” ~ Hoskins Berry Farm
I featured Helen Corbitt and her famous dressing in a post from 2009. You can read about it here. This recipe is halved from the amounts there, and here I used blackberry instead of raspberry.
“I would like to tell a story of a dressing designed for fruits. Where it originated I have no idea; I remember having it served to me in New York so many years ago I hate to recall. Rumors extend hither and yon that I created it; I hasten to deny this, but I did popularize it when I realized that on the best grapefruit in the whole wide world (Texas Ruby Red) it was the most delectable dressing imaginable. Today there is hardly a restaurant or home in Texas that does not have some kind of poppy-seed dressing. The recipe I use has been in demand to the point of being ludicrous and, strange as it may seem, the men like it – a few even put it on their potatoes. So here it is.” ~ Helen Corbitt – The Zodiac Room at Neiman Marcus in Dallas, Texas – 1957
Oregon Poppy Seed Dressing
- ¾ cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon (10 ml.) dry mustard
- 1 teaspoon (10 ml.) salt
- ⅓ cup blackberry wine vinegar or substitute another fruit vinegar of your choice
- 1½ tablespoons onion juice*
- 1 cup toasted hazelnut oil
- 1½ tablespoons poppy seeds
*See how to obtain it, below.
Mix sugar, mustard, salt and vinegar. Add onion juice and stir it in thoroughly. Add oil slowly, processing until thick. Add poppy seeds and process for a few seconds. Store in a cool place or the refrigerator, but not near the freezing coil.
It is easier and better to make with a blender or food processor. The onion juice is obtained by grating a large white onion on a zester or rasp for zesting citrus or grating hard cheeses. (Prepare to weep in either case.) If the dressing separates, pour off the clear part and start all over, adding the poppy-seed mixture slowly. It will not separate unless it becomes too cold or too hot. Helen says, “It is delicious on fruit salads of any kind, but has a special affinity for grapefruit, and in combinations where grapefruit is present. One of my most popular buffet salad bowls at the Houston Country Club, where I was manager, was finely shredded red cabbage, thinly sliced avocado, and halves of fresh grapes with poppy-seed dressing, but then, as I said before, poppy-seed dressing fans like it on anything.”
This is a very assertive and thick dressing. Use it sparingly at first, as you only want to complement your main ingredients. You can always add more.
You may find the toasted hazelnut oil and blackberry vinegar a little pricey, but this recipe makes almost 2 cups. You can substitute any nut oil (toasted or not) that will complement the vinegar, and you should still taste the fruity punch of the raspberry vinegar. If the nut oil cannot be found, use an unflavored vegetable oil, such as canola.
Curried Chicken Salad
Your chicken could be poached, grilled, baked or take the easy street method, as I did, and use a high-quality rotisserie chicken from the supermarket.
- 1½ pounds of chicken without the skin, cut into bite-size pieces
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ½ cup Greek-style yogurt
- 5 teaspoons curry powder
- ¼ cup Major Grey’s Chutney
- 2 ribs of celery, minced
- 1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped into bite-size pieces
- 1 cup red onion, finely minced
- 1 cup red seedless grapes, halved
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- Mix all ingredients together and let rest in the refrigerator for a few hours for flavors to meld.
- Serve a scoop over lettuce with assorted seasonal fruits such as cantaloupe, ruby red grapefruit, peaches, plums, raspberries and even avocado if you have some.
- Plate with the poppy seed dressing on the side.
About the Author (Author Profile)
Music, food and photography are at the center of Charles’ life. He performed with the Dallas Symphony, Dallas Opera and was assistant principal bassoonist with the Fort Worth Symphony for more than 20 years. When Charles and Victor moved to Baltimore, Charles created Lone Star Personal Chef and Catering Service and taught cooking classes at Williams-Sonoma. Now in Salem, Charles is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Mountain West Real Estate, taught cooking classes for children at the A.C. Gilbert Discovery Village, and owns and operates Charles Price Photography. Charles and Vic enjoy entertaining and frequently host dinners as fundraisers for local non-profits and charities
There are no comments yet. Why not be the first to speak your mind.