Chicken salad has long been an American staple, but it’s also a favorite in Brazil. Brazilian steakhouses, including Fogo de Chão, serve a variation of chicken salad on the salad bar.
Salpicão (sahl-PEE-kown), as it is known in Portuguese, typically features shredded chicken with shredded carrots and golden raisins in a mayonnaise dressing.
Of course, Brazilian cooks like to samba in the kitchen, so there are nearly as many versions of salpicão as there are colorful themed floats at a Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro. The website for the Brazilian TV network Globo features no fewer than 64 recipes for salpicão with main proteins ranging from chicken to salted cod fish to crab.
The add-ons also can get pretty creative, including canned corn, peas, pineapple and even shoestring potatoes, stirred in just before serving to remain crisp.
Instead of shoestring potatoes, we searched for a healthier alternative, choosing to make our own quick pickled red onions, a garnish that adds striking color to the sandwich and a sweet yet vinegary bite.
Light mayo with a squirt of lime further lightens the dish. (Some Brazilian recipes add heavy whipping cream for an extra creamy texture.)
Salpicão is typically served on two pieces of toasted bread, such as the Italian roll known as ciabatta.
▪ Shopping tip: To speed up preparation, purchase a rotisserie chicken that has been skinned, removed from the bone and cubed.
We used Italian ciabatta available at Costco and Trader Joe’s for our recipe analysis.
▪ Cooking tip: If time prohibits pickling red onion, substitute raw red onion.
▪ Serving ideas: You’ll end up with more red onions than you’ll need; try serving with grilled meats, egg salad, deviled eggs and more.
South American-Inspired Chicken Salad Sandwich
Makes 4 servings (Yield: 4 cups chicken salad filling)
1 medium red onion, sliced thin
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
3 cups diced, cooked boneless, skinless chicken breast (1/2-inch dice)
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup grated carrots
1 stalk celery, chopped fine
3 tablespoons chopped pickled red onion
4 small ciabatta breads
4 Boston lettuce leaves
To make the pickled onions: Place the sliced onion in a colander or sieve. Pour 3 cups boiling water over the onion and allow to drain well.
Place remaining ingredients in a 1-pint jar. Stir to blend well. Add drained onions to the vinegar mixture. Allow to stand for 30 minutes. Label and date the jar. Refrigerate and use within one month.
To make the chicken salad: In a small bowl, stir together mayonnaise, lime juice and cilantro; set aside.
In a medium bowl, toss chicken, raisins, carrots, celery and onion until combined. Pour mayonnaise mixture over all and stir to blend.
Split ciabatta breads and carefully hollow out some of the bread on both sides of each half. Preheat broiler. Place ciabatta halves on a baking sheet, cut side up, and toast under broiler. Remove.
Mound about 1 cup of the chicken salad on to the bottom half of the 4 ciabatta breads. Top with lettuce leaves and ciabatta tops. Cut in half and serve immediately.
Per serving: 354 calories (13 percent from fat), 5 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), 55 milligrams cholesterol, 51 grams carbohydrates, 27 grams protein, 586 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber.
Recipes developed exclusively for The Star by Kansas City-based professional home economists Kathy Moore and Roxanne Wyss.