Sara Leah Chase: Nantucket Serendipity 3 – Cranberry or Curried . . .

Sarah Leah Chase

Cranberry or Curried . . .

When I ran my Que Sera Sarah specialty food shop on the island, I used to make and sell 20 to 30 pounds of chicken salad every day. At times, I felt as if my life revolved around poaching seemingly endless 10-pound bags of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. This sad realization, in and of itself, was a motivating factor in my deciding to leave the day-to-day food business at the end of the 1980’s. On the cold and snowy day back in the winter of 1989 when I joyfully signed an agreement to sell my shop’s concept and equipment, I distinctly remember thinking I would never again make or eat chicken salad.

I was wrong. I soon came to realize that a well-made chicken salad is the culinary equivalent to the fashion world’s little black dress. Chicken salad will always be in style and will always be something I continue to crave year-round. For years I went back to making my shop’s tried-and-true Chicken and Grape Salad for my own pleasure and then my family’s enjoyment at least once a month . . . that was until I discovered the Cranberry Chicken Salad at Cowboy’s Meat Market in Bayberry Court. Frankly, I consider myself somewhat of a chicken salad snob, and I can honestly rave that Cowboy’s blend of tons of perfectly cooked Bell & Evans white meat chicken, plump ruby red dried cranberries, the faintest crunch of celery, and perfect amount of creamy mayonnaise, is fabulous!

I happened to mention my love of this Cranberry Chicken Salad to Gene Mahon as a potential Serendipity topic and he immediately confessed to being far more partial to Cowboy’s Curried Chicken Salad, saying it tastes like “candy.” Of course, I instantly went out and purchased a pint of the hitherto overlooked Curried blend. This Curried variation is laden with the same plethora of premium Bell & Evans white meat chicken and is further enlivened with hot but not-too-hot curry powder balanced by the candy-like sweetness of both red and green grapes and golden raisins. It is indeed one of the best curried chicken salads I have ever tasted.

Now this begs the question of whether the Cranberry Chicken Salad is preferable to the Curried Chicken Salad, reminiscent of the way it was once popular to ask certain men whether they wore boxers or briefs. While Bill Clinton may have given the most famous reply as President, I am opting to defer to Conan O’Brien (since we may not be hearing much from him over the next three years), who once told People magazine: “I like to wear briefs over the boxers.” Embrace the metaphor and treat yourself to a pint apiece of Cranberry and Curried Chicken Salad at Cowboy’s, and don’t overlook the Fully Loaded Potato Salad, if it happens to be in stock next to the chicken salads. All of Cowboy’s salads are a bit pricey at $10.99 per pound, but most definitely worth the splurge.

Serendipity was conceived by Sarah Leah Chase as an occasional blog-like addition to Mahon About Town to shed positive and enthusiastic light on culinary pleasures and surprises encountered during day-to-day, off-season island living. Sarah is a cookbook writer, culinary consultant, and longtime columnist for the Inquirer & Mirror.

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