Southern Sandwich Spreads: Honey Pecan Chicken Salad and Pimento Cheese
The perfect make-ahead lunch or snack solutions.
Nashvillians, let’s take a trip down memory lane. Freshly baked cranberry bread… some of you already know where this is going, a thick slice of tomato, a hearty cut of romaine and a generous portion of chicken salad with sliver almonds. RIP the Iroquois sando from the deeply missed Bread and Co. If you’re a Nashvillian, there is a high likelihood that you too have a Bread and Co. menu item that lives on in your taste bud memories. While I wish I could magically bring that overly-priced, yet so-delicious cafe back into existence, I cannot. What I can do is share with you my two favorite southern spread recipes for Honey Pecan Chicken Salad and Pimento Cheese that you can easily create to satisfy your Bread and Co. like cafe-cravings as we shelter in place for the foreseeable future.
Since we’re on the subject of Chicken Salad, let’s start there. I discovered this recipe in the June edition of Southern Living in 2006 when looking for new recipes meant waiting for the new Southern Living Magazine to drop monthly (and yes, I still have the cutout). Something to keep in mind with both of the recipes I’m sharing today: since we’re not baking, exact measurements are not crucial. We’ll use my favorite method: add some and taste. This approach allows for creativity and for you to make either of these your own.
Honey Pecan Chicken Salad
- 4 bone-in split chicken breasts
- 1 1/2 cups diced celery
- 1 1/4 cups dried cranberries
- 1 cup chopped pecans (roasted, optional)
- 1 1/3 cup Hellmann’s mayo
- 1/2 cup honey
- kosher salt
- tin foil or baking mat
Process for Chicken:
To get the most tender chicken, I follow the suggestions of Ina Garten who says anytime you are using chicken in a recipe, start with bone-in. This is a very fool-proof method that takes the approach of “set it and forget it”.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, cover a baking pan with tin foil
- Wash and pat dry the chicken breasts
- Place breasts on covered pan
- Generously cover the breasts on the top and bottom with EVOO
- Generously salt and pepper the breasts on the top and bottom
- Roast breasts for about 1 hour
- Remove and cover with tin foil to cool completely
Tip: Roasting time is dependent on the size of the breasts. Normally the bone-in breasts I come across are quiet large and take about 1 hour+ to fully cook. The skin should have a nice golden color to it and if you press on the breast and it springs back quickly, you know they’re done. Once you pull them out of the oven, huddle the breasts together on the pan with the yummy juices and pull the tin foil over them to create a tent. Cooling can take up to 1 hr. I like them to be a little warm still when I start pulling the chicken because it’s a little easier to do so.
Process for Honey Pecan Chicken Salad:
- Remove the skin from the chicken breasts
- Pull off all of the chicken from the bones, chop and add to big mixing bowl
- Add celery, cranberries and pecans to bowl, toss with chicken
- Add mayo and honey, mix well
- Add salt and pepper
Add Some and Taste: This is your time to get creative. After adding the mayo and honey, if you think it’s looking a little dry – add more mayo or honey or both. Adding a little bit at a time until you reach your desired taste. The same goes for salt and pepper. I like to add 5 generous pinches or salt and about 20 turns of fresh cracked pepper.
Warning: I have used this recipe countless times on claimed “pimento cheese haters” to convert them to “pimento cheese cravers”.
In our family and circle of friends, we actually call this southern spread Vicki’s Vimento Cheese. My mother, who happens to be the founder of Gracious Garlands, is Vicki and she’s is frequently told she should jar and sell this yummy spread. So, here it is – our secret family recipe – all for you. Because times are tough and we’ve got to share the cheese to stick together. And, it’s just too dang simple to not share.
- 8 oz block extra sharp cheddar cheese
- 8 oz block pepper jack cheese
- 1 small jar diced pimentos
- 3/4 cup Hellmann’s mayo
- Grate both blocks of cheese and toss in mixing bowl
- Add pimentos to bowl (with juices)
- Add mayo, mix
- Add salt and pepper, to taste
Tip: If you have a food processor, I highly recommend using this to grate your cheese and save your hands.
Add Some and Taste: Here we are again. Remember my measurements for binding agents and spices are relative – so add more if you want!
Now, you have some yummy snacks or lunch alternatives to last you throughout the week! I hope these recipes will bring joy to your home in these times of uncertainty. Please share your creations with us when you make them by tagging us on instagram at @graciousgarlands!