Calvin’s Market: Legendary Chicken Salad

Recently, one of my co-workers shared the chicken salad that she brought to work for her supper break. We kept taking tastes until we consumed all of it; the chicken salad was awesome. It was different; very smooth–almost a paté. Calvins Market Legendary Chicken Salad - 4 - IMG_5856_1

Then surprise! I discovered that the salad came from Calvin’s Market at Bocage, a neighborhood grocery store that is just around the corner from where I live.

I decided to learn a little more about the chicken salad and found that I’m not the only one who likes it. Everyone I spoke to seemed to know about Calvin’s Market chicken salad; stating it is the best they’ve eaten. Folks buy the salad for parties, LSU football game tailgating gatherings or just for supper. Comments on internet forums, such as Yelp, were the same; folks raved about the chicken salad. One reviewer even makes special stops when visiting from out-of-town.Calvins Market Legendary Chicken Salad - 3 - IMG_5830_1Of course the recipe is guarded and not handed out; but a friend claims to have a recipe that tastes mighty similar. I decided to try her recipe and have a taste test with my co-workers, husband and neighbor.

Calvin’s Market at Bocage

Calvin’s Bocage Market is a small family owned grocery store. (The current owners have been there since 1996.) I live in an older, established area of the city near the Bocage area. Our subdivision is 50 years old this year! A few neighborhood groceries like Calvin’s Market have managed to persevere around town over the years. Large chains such as Whole Foods, Cosco’s, Trader Joe’s and Fresh Pickin’s have moved into our city. But I still like to support locally owned establishments. Calvins Market in Bocage - IMG_5777_1

These groceries have a loyal customer base and have developed some sort of niche. According to an article in inRegister, a local magazine, the owner of the market can greet the majority of his customers by name. When I visited today at noon, there was a steady flow of customers coming in and out of the store with purchased lunches.

In addition to the usual grocery store items, Calvin’s sells po-boys at lunch; great deli meats and a nice wine selection; they offer local produce (the tomatoes are wonderful) and local products such as Bergeron’s pecans. One specialty is home cooked and prepared dishes which are chilled, such as chicken salad, gumbo, red beans and rice. Another specialty is sandwich and party trays; and meals for holidays. I’m thinking of ordering a fried turkey for a Christmas meal–not that healthy but I’m sure it will be delicious.Calvins Market Chicken Salad Packaged Containers - IMG_5775_1

Calvin’s Market Legendary Chicken Salad

A local magazine, inRegister, wrote an article three years ago about the chicken salad. The store’s owner, Calvin Lindsly, and his deli cooks arrive at the store by 5 am to start preparing the salad — boiling the chickens, grinding them, etc. The owner personally oversees quality control; it is a very consistent preparation. The salad is popular; it is not unusual to sell 350 to 400 pounds on an average day according to the inRegister article. On LSU game days, the grocery store may sell 2,200 – 2,500 pounds. (www.inregister.com/article/deli-delight-a-simple-chicken-salad-sparks-a-following)

The chicken salad is different from any other recipe I’ve tasted. The chicken and other ingredients are finely ground; almost like a paté. There are no lumps or pieces of chicken in the salad.Chicken Salad in Container - 2 - IMG_5825

The recipe does not appear to contain eggs, relish or many spices. Today I couldn’t even taste onions; but just a hint of pepper–not even dried chives or parsley. The salad dressing is difficult to identify; that’s what makes the chicken salad unique. The salad is very smooth–you taste chicken, chicken, chicken. Some internet forum readers suggested that the dressing contains cream cheese, others swear it uses dry Hidden Valley Ranch Mix. Swanson’s Chicken Salad Mix results in a similar salad, according to forum contributors.

Mary’s Recipe – Keys for Success

My friend, Mary, claims to have a recipe that tastes just like Calvin’s. I decided to make the recipe realizing that I’m taking a guess here. Mary gave several suggestions for making the salad successfully.

  • One is to use rotisserie chicken; making this preparation much easier than boiling a chicken.
  • Use only the white meat from the chicken. (I used the dark meat in a homemade soup.)
  • Mary also stresses using “real” mayonnaise–not salad dressing. She uses Hellmann’s mayonnaise. It has a tangy flavor. Blue Plate brand is a New Orleans mayonnaise which also tastes great.
  • Ingredients for Chicken Salad - 2 - IMG_5793_1Use a food processor to grind the chicken finely.
  • Use only a “hint” of spices. You want to taste the chicken, not a spicy concoction.

The other ingredients in Mary’s salad are celery, onion, fresh parsley, salt and pepper and red pepper or Tony Chachere’s Creole Cuisine. Mary says you can skip the red pepper or Tony’s seasoning all together by using a seasoned rotisserie chicken. In any case, you don’t need much “hot spices and pepper.” Mary’s recipe uses lots of celery and fresh parsley. This gives the chicken salad a “fresh” taste.

I have both Italian flat leaf parsley and curly parsley growing in containers in my back yard. Parsley grows best in cool weather in Louisiana. This makes it easy to step outside to my “garden grocery store” for parsley in the fall and winter.Parley in containers in backyard - IMG_5784

Making the salad

Here are the ingredients for Mary’s chicken salad recipe and also three variations. The rotisserie chickens from Calvin’s Market were small. Each one weighed about 1-1/2 lb and yielded only 7 oz de-boned chicken. I had to adjust Mary’s recipe quantities as it was for a wedding reception using 2 lb de-boned chicken.Ingredients for Chicken Salad - IMG_5796_1Mary’s recipe includes just a small amount of onion; I used 1/4 of a small, white onion for a mild flavor. There is plenty of celery in the salad (1 1/2 stalks); it’s chopped finely so don’t be tempted to omit it; you don’t really identify a celery taste.onion and celery - IMG_5798_1

Use a food processor to chop the onion and celery finely. Scrape down the sides of the bowl so everything is finely chopped. It will become further pureed when the chicken is added.Food Processor Celery and onion - IMG_5802_1

The deboned chicken yielded 7 oz white meat plus the thighs or a scant 2 cups. Most rotisserie chickens are probably larger that this. The recipe uses lots of parsley — 10 sprigs — that’s about 1/3 cup. In the final recipe, I’ve reduced the parsley amount.Parsley and chopped de-boned chicken - IMG_5804_1

After the chicken is deboned, the white meat and parsley are added to the other ingredients in the food processor bowl. Pulse on and off until the chicken is finely pureed.Chopped Chicken in Food Processor - IMG_5807

For my trials today, I transferred the pureed chicken to four bowls and added a different dressing to each bowl. Usually, I would add the mayonnaise and seasonings directly to the chicken in the food processor bowl. This would result in the smooth texture of Calvin’s Chicken Salad. But today, I made four variations (left to right).

  • Hellmann’s mayonnaise with Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning, salt and black pepper,
  • Blue Plate mayonnaise with smaller amounts of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning, salt and black pepper,
  • Kraft’s Real mayonnaise and dry Hidden Valley Ranch Mix,
  • Cream cheese, Hellman’s mayonnaise, salt, black pepper and red cayenne pepper.

Chicken Salad Comparison - 1 - IMG_5821_1

Here is my neighbor taste testing Calvin’s chicken salad and the four variations. My two co-workers took the taste test, too. Dale took the job seriously!Dale Tasting Chicken Salad - IMG_5810_1

The disappointing news is that everyone said that I didn’t duplicate Calvin’s chicken salad exactly. The good news is that mine still tasted just fine. In fact, I had to hide the salad from my husband so that there was some left to take to work.

Of the four variations, I prefer the salad made with Hellmann’s Mayonnaise first and the variation that included cream cheese secondly. However, I suggest omitting the red cayenne pepper and using only black pepper in the cream cheese variation; or including only a dash of red pepper in the chicken salad.

Here is the first variation which is Mary’s recipe with her suggestions for ingredients and adaptions for quantities.

Mary Malone's Chicken Salad

  • Servings: yields 2-1/4 cups or 4 servings
  • Time: 15 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 1 large cooked rotisserie chicken (at least 1-1/2 lb)
  • 1/4 small white onion
  • 1-1/2 stalks celery, cut in 2″ pieces
  • 8 parsley sprigs
  • 1/4 cup Hellmann’s Mayonnaise or Blue Plate Mayonnaise (more if needed)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • scant 1/4 tsp Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning or seasoned salt (optional)
  • scant 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • Leaf lettuce leaves, tomato slices, parsley sprigs, olives, paprika for garnish, optional.
  • Assorted crackers or bread for sandwiches

Method and Steps:

  1. De-bone the cooked rotisserie chicken to obtain a yield of 2 cups (8 oz) white meat chicken from the breasts (use thighs if needed). Set aside. Use the remainder of the chicken for another recipe.
  2. Add onion and celery to food processor bowl. Pulse on and off several times until finely chopped. Occasionally scrape down sides of food processor bowl.
  3. Add parsley and reserved 2 cups white meat chicken to food processor bowl. Pulse on and off until finely chopped.
  4. Add Hellmann’s Mayonnaise, salt, Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning (optional) and black pepper. Pulse on continuous setting just until combined and finely pureed. If needed stir in additional mayonnaise by hand a tablespoon at a time. The salad should not be too soft.
  5. Serve on leaf lettuce leaves, garnish with tomatoes, parsley, olives and sprinkle with paprika, optional.
  6. Serve with crackers.
  7. Alternately, make sandwiches spreading bread with chicken salad as a sandwich filling.

Calvins Market Legendary Chicken Salad - 5 - IMG_5860_1

My favorite is to eat the salad with a ripe tomato and crackers. Yum.

References

Calvin’s Market at Bocage.   http://www.calvinsbocage.com/

Calvin’s Bocage Market.  www.yelp.com/biz/calvins-bocage-market-baton-rouge

Deli delight – A simple chicken salad sparks a followingDeli delight – A simple Chicken Salad sparks a following  //www.inregister.com/article/deli-delight-a-simple-chicken-salad-sparks-a-following

Calvin’s Chicken Salad, recipe? ://www.tigerdroppings.com/rant/food-and-drink/calvins-chicken-salad-recipe/29789268/page-2/  © 2015 TigerDroppings.com. All Rights Reserved

6 thoughts on “Calvin’s Market: Legendary Chicken Salad

  1. I ran into you at Calvin’s as you were entering the store and you gave me your blog’s name. Great write up. I can’t wait to try making this myself. I saw an eggplant rice dressing that I want to try too. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

  2. I grew up in Tara and my Mom has spoken with some of the folks/family that work there and I can tell you they do use Hellmans to make it. Not a major thing but if you are still experimenting with the recipe I can take that one variable out for you! thanks for sharing!

    Like

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