Everything is hotter in summer, but your meals don't have to be.
If sweating over a hot stove or grill doesn't sound appealing this season, there's a salad for that: Chicken salad. Often mayonnaise-based and served cold, chicken salad can be prepared in advance and, according to restaurant chain Chicken Salad Chick, dressed up in ways that are worth crowing about.
Claibourne Rogers owns a Chicken Salad Chick in South Florida, and says she fell in love with delicious chicken salad varieties from the chain when she was working as part of their public relations team five years ago. When Rogers and her husband decided to start their own business, franchising a Chicken Salad Chick was a no-brainer.
The mom of three says if there's one thing she's learned from owning the restaurant it's that chicken salad can have many flavors that go way beyond the norm.
TODAY Food asked Rogers for ways to dress up basic chicken salad from home and, while the chain doesn't share the secret ingredients they put into their standard chicken salad, she did spill on ways to take your own recipe to the next level.
"Summer is the perfect season for chicken salad," Rogers, who is one of nearly 200 owners of Chicken Salad Chicks across 17 U.S. states, explained. "It's the perfect addition to an outdoor activity whether that's a pool party or a barbecue and while everyone has their own chicken salad recipes, I think you can dress up your own chicken salad the same way we do."
Add in some fun
Rogers says while some remember to throw in celery or grapes to give their chicken salad some flavor, the real way to up your game is to get creative with add-ins.
At Chicken Salad Chick, each flavor of chicken salad is named after an important woman in the founder's life, from the Fruity Fran, a blend of apples, grapes and pineapple to the Buffalo Barclay, a buffalo-wing-inspired version of the creamy dish.
At home, Rogers says to think outside the coop.
"People love to add fruit to chicken salad but they may not always think of adding summer flavors like lemon or basil," she said. "One of our favorites and one of our biggest sellers is Lauren’s Lemon Basil that has both lemon and basil in it. It’s a great way to make chicken salad even more refreshing and good for that summer vibe."
Other fun add-ins include cranberries or nuts like pecans, which can add sweetness and crunch to chicken salad.
Rogers also suggests giving chicken salad a Caesar salad vibe by adding Caesar dressing and parmesan cheese to the mix.
"For spicy lovers, adding jalapeño to chicken salad is also delicious," Rogers suggested.
Serve it creatively
Beyond simple rolls or bread, Rogers suggests serving chicken salad in store-bought phyllo dough cups or on flavorful spinach wraps. The Florida mom also says to consider Hawaiian rolls or even taco shells as a medium for serving chicken salad.
"That’s something a little different," she said of the twist. "We do our Sassy Scotty chicken salad, which has bacon, ranch and cheddar cheese, and then we put it in a taco shell and put extra cilantro and cheese on top. It's amazing for taco night."