Plenty of cookbooks have recipes for the “ultimate” this and “best ever” that.

So, when I received a review copy of Ann Hodgman’s “Beat This! Cookbook,” which promises that all 100+ recipes are the “absolutely unbeatable knock-’em-dead” best, I didn’t take it seriously.

Then I started flipping through it.

Well, OF COURSE the Many-Splendored Guacamole and the White Chocolate-Raspberry Tart are going to be good. Come on.

I needed to try one of Hodgman’s recipes for something I hate.

With a passion.

Like chicken salad.

I’ve always had a special hate in my heart for chicken salad, because it’s made of lies. You take a bite and think you’re chewing chicken, but then it turns out to be a grape. Or a softened pecan. Or, deliver me God, part of a hard-boiled egg.

Not my kind of mystery.

However, Hodgman’s Chicken Salad for Company is a chunkier, more colorful chicken salad than any I’ve ever seen, with bite-size pieces of poached chicken breast mixed with strips of red bell pepper, steamed broccoli florets and crumbled thick-cut bacon. So, there’s no chance of “mystery bites.” What you see is what you get, and the gettin’s good.

The salad is dressed with a thick, creamy blend of sour cream, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, raspberry vinegar and fresh dill. It’s tangy and slightly fruity, brightening the flavor of the salad and adding that something-something that other people won’t be able to pin down.

Yeah, it’s a winner.

I’m sure Hodgman calls this chicken salad “for company,” because the steps involved require different pots, pans and techniques (e.g. poaching the chicken, steaming the broccoli, frying the bacon), but it’s well worth the effort. It’s fresh and cold, creamy and crunchy, with just the right amount of bite and zing. Pretty irresistible, really.  And that’s from a (former) chicken salad hater.

Makes you wonder just how good that guacamole could be.

Chicken Salad for Company

To save on calories, you could cut down on the bacon, use light sour cream and/or mayo, or replace the sour cream with Greek yogurt.

Courtesy of Ann Hodgman’s “Beat This! Cookbook”

Serves 8

  • 3 whole, boneless chicken breasts (1 1/2-2 pounds), poached and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into julienne strips
  • 2 large heads broccoli, cut into florets
  • 12 slices thick-cut bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
  1. Combine the poached chicken with the red pepper in a large bowl.
  2. In a vegetable steamer over boiling water, steam the broccoli for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it just starts to get tender. Add it to the chicken, and mix it in gently.
  3. Mix in the crumbled bacon.
  4. Whisk together the sour cream, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, raspberry vinegar and dill. Pour the dressing over the chicken and vegetables, and mix well. Chill the salad for at least 2 hours before serving.