Picnic Week: Trish Magwood’s Picnic Chicken Salad

Picnic Week: Trish Magwood’s Picnic Chicken Salad

The lovely and talented Trish Magwood was one of the first people we featured in our Quick Bite series where we talk to our favourite foodies. You can understand why – she’s an award winning cookbook author, started her own cooking school, had a hit tv show…. oh, and she has three kids! Her latest book In My Mother’s Kitchen is an SPC favourite. It’s full of great recipes but also tells stories of memorable family meals that inspired them. I love that it’s a mix of decades old recipes past down by Aunties and Grandmas and new ones that have been developed in Trish’s own kitchen. We’re lucky enough to share one of them with you this week. Just in time summer picnics, here’s a great sandwich idea. So, I’ll hand it over to Trish! – C.M. 

Picnic Chicken Salad

This salad harkens back to my early catering days with my old friend Foofie. At twenty-one we were catering weddings on Georgian Bay island rocks and in fields in the rain. This was always a summer lunch entertaining favourite—make-ahead, delicious and all-in-one easy to serve.

Serves 8


1 large round loaf of bread (such as a boule or Calabrese loaf)
1/3 cup (75 mL) mayonnaise
1/2 tsp (2 mL) curry powder
1/4 tsp (1 mL) paprika
3 cups (750 mL) cubed cooked chicken (about 3 breasts)
1 cup (250 mL) green grapes, halved
1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped celery
1/2 cup (125 mL) sliced almonds, toasted
1/4 cup (60 mL) thinly sliced green onions
1 sweet red pepper, diced
Salt and black pepper
Romaine Lettuce

How to

Slice off the top 2 inches (5 cm) of the loaf in one big piece and set aside. Hollow out the bread, leaving a shell 1/2 inch (1 cm) thick.

In a medium bowl, stir together mayonnaise, curry powder and paprika. Stir in chicken, grapes, celery, almonds, green onion, red pepper, and salt and black pepper to taste.

Line the bread bowl with lettuce leaves. Spoon chicken mixture into the bread. Replace the bread top. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until picnic time. (You can make the chicken salad the day before, and you can fill the bread half a day in advance.)

To serve, using a bread knife, slice the boule into wedges, so guests have ready-made sandwiches.

Kitchen Notes: In a pinch, buy a ready-to-go roasted chicken. Otherwise, roast boneless chicken breasts with a bit of salt and pepper, or do them my grandmother Bo’s way, the most tender and flavourful: in a large pot of water, gently simmer chicken breasts with chopped onion, chopped celery, celery leaves, peppercorns, a bay leaf and parsley until cooked through, 20 to 30 minutes.

1 bone-in chicken breast yields about 1 cup (250 mL) cubed chicken.

1 large boneless chicken breast yields a generous cup (250 mL) cubed chicken.

To toast almonds, heat a dry frying pan over medium heat and dry-toast the nuts for a few minutes until light brown, stirring frequently.

Variation: This chicken salad is also delicious served on a bed of lettuce or on grilled flatbread or crostini.

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