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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Coronation Chicken

My friend Sally Jackson sends me terrific recipes from time to time. Last week it was what she calls the world's best gazpacho--I think she's right. She's also right that it will feed Cox's Army. I ate it all week (will post another time). But yesterday I made Coronation Chicken Salad. Sally told me it was developed for Queen Elizabeth's coronation in 1953, but I questioned that because it calls for rotisserie chicken, which sure wasn't around then, and cilantro, which I didn't hear much about until the last fifteen or twenty years. Sally sent me this documentation, but she agrees that the original dish probably used roasted or boiled chicken.

Constance Spry, an English food writer and flower arranger, and Rosemary Hume, a chef, both principals of the Cordon Bleu Cookery School in London, are credited with the invention of coronation chicken. Preparing the food for the banquet of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, Spry proposed the recipe of cold chicken, curry cream sauce and dressing that would later become known as coronation chicken. The British origins are evident in the use of curry, red pepper, and mango, all tastes which the Brits undoubtedly got from India in the days of the worldwide British Empire. I’ve never cooked with mango before—or eaten it. I’m almost ashamed to admit this, but it is so good. A new and welcome discovery for me.

Words of caution: I halved this to serve three and had plentiful leftovers, even after my guests had second helpings. And I scorched the curry sauce the first time I made it; had to redo it. I’m never good at reduction sauces—too impatient—and I did this at too high a heat, forgetting the sugar in the apricot jam. The second time around I cooked it much slower and stirred almost constantly (how I long for a gas stovetop!). You’ll also see some ingredient changes I made.

And a final word: it isn’t as much trouble as it looks like.

 Coronation Chicken Salad

 2 Tbsp unsalted butter (I used salted and couldn’t see a problem)
1 large shallot (the second time I didn’t have a shallot, used garlic)
1 large red hot chile, seeded and minced (I hate to work with peppers and used cracked red pepper and not too much)
2 tsp. curry powder
2 Tbsp. tomato paste (buy it in a squeeze tube, like toothpaste, so you don’t waste the rest of a can)
2/3 c. dry white wine
2/3 c. chicken stock or low-sodium broth
¼ c. apricot jam
½  c. crème fraiche (I used part sour cream, part yogurt)
1 large mango, peeled and cut into ½ inch dice
4 scallions, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Tabasco (I omitted)
Two 3-lb. skinned rotisseries checks—leg met shredded, breast meat sliced
¼ c. sliced almonds
¼ c. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Pinch of sugar
8 c. finely shredded Boston lettuce
Cilantro leaves for garnish

In a small skillet, melt butter. Add shallot and chile and cook over moderate low heat until softened. Stir in curry powder and cook over higher heat until fragrant. Stir in tomato paste, add wine and boil until reduced to three Tbsp. Add the stock and apricot jam and boil over moderately low heat, stirring almost constantly. I found it best to reduce the stock a bit by itself and then add not quite as much jam as the recipe calls for. Reduce to ¼ c. Transfer curry sauce to small bowl and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until chilled.

Whisk mayonnaise and crème fraiche (or substitute) into curry dressing. Fold in mango, scallions, lemon juice, and cilantro. Season with salt, pepper and Tabasco if using. In a medium bowl, toss the chicken thigh and leg meat with half the curry dressing. Refrigerate one hour.

Toast the almonds—the recipe says small skillet but I used a toaster oven. Keep a close eye on them. Let cool.

In separate bowl, mix oil, lime juice, mustard and sugar; Season with salt and pepper. Toss over shredded lettuce. Transfer lettuce to a platter. Top with leg meat and then sliced breast meat. Spoon remaining curry sauce over the salad (I had too much and didn’t use all of it.) Garnish with almonds and cilantro. Serve with pride. A great summer cool meal.


  1. Thanks for the coronation chicken recipe.
    I'll create one for sure, my kids are gonna like it :)
    If you don't mind, can you submit your coronation chicken photo in ?
    It's a food photography site full of all DIY food pictures from members around the world. submit by yourself and let me know when you did, so I can share it.

  2. Jenny, I hate to admit that one of my failings is forgetting to take pictures of the food I cook. Saturday night I was so busy trying to serve guests and cope with a power outage that there was no picture of the chicken. I bet, however, you might find picture online.
    Hope your kids like it a lot!