Saturday, the air conditioner broke. It was a lovely day, 96oF, 96% humidity, with the sun beating down as if on the Mojave Desert. Ahhh, good times. While waiting for the repairman to arrive, while contemplating being robbed blind, I decided to whip up a lunch that would offer a hint of coolness. For inspiration I looked no farther than the two fat, ripe mangoes sitting on the counter. They made me think immediately of my very most favorite chicken salad. I have been making it for more years than I care to remember, tweaking it over time until it reached my version of perfection.
This salad is indeed cool and refreshing, the most important of Saturday’s considerations. But it is much more besides. The creaminess of the yogurt counterpoints the crunch of peppers and almonds, the sweetness of mango offsets the heat of Aleppo flakes, while the hint of curry ties the various flavors and textures together. I suppose I could make other versions of chicken salad, but, really, why bother?
If you use a good-quality Greek yogurt, thick and rich and dense, you need not drain it as directed in the instructions. If you choose any other type of plain yogurt, the kinds more widely available in regular supermarkets, please do take the time to drain it. If you don’t, the chicken salad will become a bit soupy upon standing. Feel free to add or substitute other bits of crunchy veggies and nuts to suit your taste. And though I suppose you could put the salad between bread and eat it as a sandwich, I find it best when eaten straight from a bowl with a big spoon.
Curried Mango Chicken Salad
2 cups plain yogurt
1 T curry powder
2 tsp honey or agave nectar
1 tsp Aleppo pepper flakes
3 cups cooked chicken, diced
1 1/2 cups mango, 1/2″ dice
1 red bell pepper, 1/2″ dice
8 green onions, thinly sliced crosswise
3/4 cup whole almonds, coarsely chopped
Line a strainer with cheesecloth or a paper towel and place over a bowl. Spoon the yogurt into the strainer and put in the refrigerator for half an hour. When the yogurt has finished draining, whisk it together with the curry powder, honey, and pepper flakes until smooth, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the chicken, mango, bell pepper, onions, and almonds. Adjust the seasonings if necessary, and chill.