I grew up eating a lot of macaroni salads. Mami would make them for every single occasion, no matter how big or small, eventful or not. It was the staple main dish [for fiestas, cumpleaños, and the like]. Bocaditos de pollo always accompanied the varying salads. I was very fond of the version bearing cheddar cheese, pepino, tomato and lots of onion. She made it for the Fourth this year and it was delightfully enjoyed by everyone, including some Americanos that thought the combination was odd.
Nowadays, I’m not the biggest fan of cold pasta salads, especially elbow macaroni. I think I’ve established here on Flanboyant Eats that I don’t love mac-n-cheese. Well, except for my cousin’s ridiculous 7 cheese recipe. It’s smack yo momma kinda good and I only make room for it on Thanksgiving. Other than that, the idea of gooey cheese, bread crumbs, or even panko, layered and re-layered with pasta just isn’t appealing to me. I find it rather crazy, but I just never had an intimate moment with it where I fell in love.
However, in playing around with different kinds of salad options, in an earnest attempt to eat better (yeah, been saying that for 2 years now), I went back to our ubiquitous macaroni salad and thought of a chicken version — another salad I’ve never been fond of. You know, you go to an American restaurant chain and the buffet offers stale and flat looking chicken salad. It repulses me every time. I can’t stand to see it on a menu. And, a chicken salad sandwich?? Even worse!
On the Fourth, while Mami was making her beloved elbow macaroni salad, I went for a tangy chicken and apple macaroni one. I shredded chicken, seasoned it, diced some Granny’s, added mayo (another no-no in my mouth), spicy mustard and olives. The nosey onlooker, better known as Mami, criticized the addition of olives, but I like to think I know what I’m doing. Sweet apples, salty olives? Yes, it works. And I love, love, love.
So much, I’ve been a complete glutton since the Fourth, borderline freezing the leftovers and having a small plate, about the size of these pictures, and treating myself to it for lunch until just yesterday, adding more olives as they’ve mysteriously disappeared. Someoene in this casa has been serving it up, too. See? Closet lovers sneaking some in. Ohhh, the crunch, the sweet, the salty, the pungent, the soft pollito, the creamy mayo and the slight heat in the mustard! It’s all so dreamy and delicate. Perfect for a hot summer picnic, an on-the-go lunch option or a side dish to your main course.
I’m not reinventing the chicken salad wheel here, just making it a bit sexier and more attractive for those of us that sit on the cold salad fence. I’m not claiming it’s fancy or even super refined. It’s just damn bueno!
From mi mesa to yours.
Rustic Macaroni Chicken & Apple Salad
- 1/2 box elbow macaroni, cooked
- 3 Granny Smith apples, diced
- 2 chicken breasts, pulled
- 1 cup mayonnaise (homemade is better)
- 3/4 cup Spanish salad olives with pimento, sliced
- 4 Tbsp. spicy mustard
- 1 Tbsp. salt for chicken and pasta, divided
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
In large pot, add 1.5 quarts of water, 1 tsp. salt and boil deboned chicken breast, approximately 20 minutes. While chicken is cooking, cook pasta. Remove chicken from heat, transfer to plate and let cool until you can handle with your hands. Shred chicken. Strain pasta and let cool until it reaches room temperature. In large mixing bowl, combine pasta, chicken, mayonnaise, mustard, apples, paprika and olives. Mix gently using wooden spoon. Cover and let chill for 2-3 hours, depending on your fridge temperature.
Serve cold or room temperature.
Serves 12-15 4 oz.
* Chef's notes: pineapple can be used in place of apple! Plating suggestions: place in a mold for cupcakes, tower tartare's or even shape into a huge log for spreading on crackers, though that would be best suited for large parties.