If you’re thinking of lighter cool meals for summertime luncheons and don’t mind getting a little messy, one of my favorites is to make chicken salad and serve it in a pineapple “boat”. Depending on how you like your chicken salad, you can either use some of the pineapple in the chicken salad, or serve the chunks of pineapple separately. I do have one of the pineapple corers that makes the “rings” as you press into the pineapple, but you can also cut it out by hand if you want larger chunks. Either way you do it, you splt the pineapple vertically and you’re left with an empty pineapple that makes a perfect “boat”. Depending on the size of the pineapple, you can cut each half in half cross-ways and you have a “curved wedge” instead of a “boat”, but it still makes a pretty presentation.
I don’t like heavy mayo on chicken salad although I use a light version rather than no-fat. I’ve tried several no-fat brands and think there is simply too much flavor trade-off. I also use 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice (or 1/2 lemon) since I cut back on the mayo.
If I have time, I do boil boneless, skinless chicken breasts for 20 minutes, let them cool, and then cut them into small pieces. For an even better flavor, I ask my husband to throw a couple of extra breats on the grill when we do chicken and use those later. Packages of pre-cooked chicken strips are also available of course and yes, I use canned at times as well. However, if I’m going to the trouble and mess to do pineapple boats, I usually skip the canned type. It’s a simple recipe:
2 cups of chicken cut into strips or small chunks; 1/2 cup low fat mayo; 2 TBS lemon juice; 1 stalk minced celery; 1 TBS minced sweet onion (red or other variety); 1 TBS creole seasoning (or something like Old Bay); 1/2 tsp salt. Optional: 1/2 cup diced pineapple; 1/4 cup slivered almonds. Mix all ingredients, and add one TBS of mayo extra at a time if it is too dry until you get the consistency that you like.
This is another of those recipes that can be made a day ahead, although when I do that, I don’t add the pineapple because I’ve found that liquid from the pineapple breaks down. If I have room in the fridge, I prepare the pineapple “boats”, cover them with plastic wrap, put the chicken salad in another container and the pineapple chunks in another container, then assemble everything an hour or so before I’m ready to serve. Since the “boats” take up a fair amount of space, the other option is to do the chicken salad ahead of time and prepare the pineapples the day of serving. Oh, you can also make this same recipe using cooked shrimp instead of chicken.
There are several steps involved here, but it’s actually fairly easy. You serve the chicken salad boats/wedges with fresh rolls or chunks of bread – or none if you’re watching carbs and a plate of other fresh fruit in addition to the pineapple. A quick and pretty plate is to put the pineapple pieces in the center and surround them with slices of kiwi and/or strawberries. Have a sorbet for dessert if you want to and it makes for a lovely lunch.