It’s that time of year again; that time when you pack up the car and head to your favorite football team’s stadium to tailgate in the parking lot before watching them defeat the opposing team in a triumphant home victory. Tailgating food does not have to be just plain blah and consist solely of prepackaged hot dogs, hamburgers, and potato salad. No no no. Tailgating is an opportunity to create unique treats for the whole crowd (regardless of whether they are cheering for the same team) that they will be talking about for a long time to come. What’s even more unique about the tailgating experience is that most folks tend to not sit down and eat a massive meal from a plate that is piled as high as the stadium itself but instead pick and choose small bites that they eat throughout the tailgate. Tailgating is not a sit down dinner at a fancy restaurant. It is a chance to play some yard games (albeit in a parking lot or field), chat with old friends and family, and get ready for that big game (over a good beer or two I suppose). Note: We do not encourage the consumption of cheap beer, i.e., any beer that contains the word “light” during the tailgate. Tailgating is an experience and so why not make it a memorable one by treating your crowd with some special flavors and foods that are bite-size, but packed with flavor?
Chicken salad is often prepared with boiled chicken pieces and mayonnaise (along with a few other ingredients that tend to differ between recipes). Occasionally, you will find a chicken salad that is prepared with oil and vinegar instead of mayonnaise, but this is rare and if you are buying prepackaged, store-bought chicken salad, chances are you will not be acquiring this variety. In fact, most store-bought chicken salads are more mayonnaise than anything else. I mean, if your guests want a heart attack before the game, just give each one a jar of mayonnaise and have them dig in. We do not want that though. Chicken salad does not have to be a dense blob of year-old mayonnaise mixed with a minuscule piece of scrap chicken meat and maybe, just maybe, a piece of a carrot or some celery. Chicken salad can be made in way that makes it quite light and fresh and packed with wholesome, nutritious foods as well as a ton of flavorful spices.
A great way to wow the crowd at your next tailgate is to prepare a curried chicken salad that you can spoon onto crostini and then layer with avocado, tomato, and some fresh whole milk mozzarella. The curried chicken salad is wholesome, thanks to the addition of cashews and grapes to the dish, and spicy since there is a good helping of curry mixed into the mayonnaise. Honestly, mayonnaise has very little flavor and so adding some herbs and/or spices to it will never hurt. Lastly, a slice of avocado, diced tomato, and mozzarella give the bites a smooth creamy texture that contrasts the crisp crostini. Better yet, the chicken salad and crostini can be prepared the day before so that on game day, all you need to do is scoop and serve. If you are careful, you can even cut the avocado the day before, just be sure to wrap the slices tightly in plastic wrap and store them in a sealed bag in the fridge.
We hope that this curried chicken salad with avocado on crostini pleases your crowd at your next tailgate!
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3/4 lb, 1/4 to 1/2 inch cubes)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion (diced)
- 1/2 cup celery (diced)
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup mango chutney
- 2 tablespoons curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup cashew pieces
- 1 cup red grapes (roughly chopped)
- 1 medium heirloom tomato (finely diced)
- 2 avocados (sliced thinly)
- 1/4 lb mozzarella (sliced thinly)
- 1 lb crostini (If you can’t find them at your local market, simply slice a french baguette, toss the pieces in olive oil. Spread out on a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and a little garlic powder and bake at 350 degrees F until crisp.)
- Dice the chicken into very small peices (1/4 to 1/2 inch cubes) and place in a saute pan over medium-high heat with 2 tbsp of olive oil. Try not to stir too often since we want the chicken pieces to get a nice sear on the outside. Once the chicken is cooked thoroughly (internal temperature of 170 degrees), about 5-7 minutes, remove it from the pan and place in a small bowl. Place the bowl in the refrigerator to allow the chicken to cool.
- Dice the onion, celery, grapes, and tomato and set aside. If your cashews are not crushed, place them in a small plastic bag and crush them with the bottom of a pot (or a meat tenderizer if you have one).
- In a food processor, bring together than mayonnaise, mango chutney, curry powder, salt, and pepper until well mixed and very smooth.
- Once the chicken has cooled, remove it from the refrigerator and in a separate medium bowl, combine the mayonnaise mixture, onion, celery, grapes, cashews, and chicken. Once the ingredients are evenly distributed, place the chicken salad back in the refrigerator to stay chilled. If you are preparing the chicken salad the day before, make sure that the container is well sealed.
- Just before serving, thinly slice the avocado and mozzarella cheese.
- To serve, place several crostini on a plate. Then, put once slice of mozzarella on top, followed by a slice of avocado (see the photo below). Then, place about 2-3 tablespoons of the curried chicken salad on top of the avocado. Lastly, top with a tablespoon or two of the diced tomatoes.
- Your crostini are ready to serve! To allow your tailgating crowd to make their own, just place the ingredients in small bowls with spoons/forks. They are super easy to make on the fly and your guests can put as much or as little of each component on the crostini! And, if you have any chicken salad remaining, use it for a sandwich the next day!