The word “Madras”conjures up many different images for many different people. Preppy folk think of those wonderful multi-hued plaids of light cotton fashioned into pants and loose-fitting shirts for summer. Cocktail connoisseurs instantly crave Highball of Cranberry and Orange Juices, with a nip of Chilled Vodka and a Wedge of Lime. But I think of a perfect composition for a hot day: Madras Chicken Curry Salad! It is refreshingly spicy, soothingly chilled, and a brilliant hue of summer that it just shouts delicious!
Madras Curried Chicken Salad, as I know it, is a brilliant composition that I first encountered as a child when visiting Charleston, South Carolina. It was a “proper” luncheon offering, elegantly served, at least for me at the time, in lettuce leaves. I found its brilliant color to be alluring, and its sweet and spicy flavors quite a delight.
How It Came To Be…
It is believed to have been “discovered” in 1640 when English merchants arrived in the port of Madras (now Chennai) on the southeast coast of India on the Bay of Bengal. The British were enchanted by the colorful sights, and heady aromas of the land, and recipes for curries and such made their way back home. (Fun Fact: Did you know that Chicken Tikka Masala is considered a truly British dish - as it the most popular restaurant order, over every other, in the entire country!)
However, It Is Not At All Authentic!
If one travels to India, and asked for a Madras Curry, they would have no idea of what you were speaking of! (The same holds true in regard to asking for a Danish in Denmark...) Curries are a very complex and varied concoctions, primarily the domain of domestic kitchens, and not of trained chefs. The term “Madras Curry” was most likely coined by restaurateurs in London in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and is totally bogus.
But It Is Delicious…
No matter its origins or authenticity, it is nevertheless a wonderful item on a summer buffet menu or as a main course that is more than mundane!
MADRAS CURRY CHICKEN SALAD
Time: 45 minutes + chilling, Serves: 8 as a main course
1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless breast of chicken pan roasted, poached, or oven baked
cooled and cut into ¼ pieces
1 onion, chopped
1 tbls olive oil
2 tbls Madras Curry
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp turmeric
1 lbs seedless green grapes, halved lengthwise
1 cup of full fat Greek Yogurt, plus more as needed
¼ cup of Major Grey’s Chutney
¼ cup almond slivers
1 head of Butter or Boston Lettuce
How to make
Prepare chicken as desired
In a small skillet, add olive oil and onions and caramelize over low heat.
In the last ten minutes or so, add spices to avoid a “raw” flavor, allow to cool
When cool, in a large bowl, thoroughly combine onion and spice mixture with yogurt and chutney.
Add chicken, combine, add grape halves, combine. Cover and chill for at least two hours, but preferably overnight.
Arrange a few lettuce leaves on a plate, spoon into the center the chilled chicken mixture, top with slivered almonds