This week was a bit unusual in the lunch department because I made tuna salad sandwiches one day, and chicken salad sandwiches another day. (Unusual because we don't do a lot of non-pb&j lunch sandwiches in general.) And this alignment of the sandwich stars, because of the juxtaposition, got me thinking about flavor repertoires.
I mean, the staple around which the two are based -- not very different. Both water-packed tuna and skinless cooked chicken white meat are high in protein and quite low in fat. Both tend to be a little dry and not terribly flavorful, though tuna performs a little better than chicken there (and does anyone else think that canned chicken tastes a little bit like canned tuna?). Both come from cans (although I had a poached chicken breast to work with yesterday) and so are suitable in pantry-backup-type meals that can be whipped up on short notice.
Possibly as a result of these similarities, the (tuna OR chicken)-salad sandwiches that I tend to make have a lot in common. I make them from items I almost always have on hand, which yields a nice synergy with (tuna OR chicken)'s pantry-backup capabilities. Both recipes contain mayonnaise, which takes care of the leanness and dryness, carrying flavors and improving the mouthfeel -- generally making the culinary experience much more satisfying. And both recipes contain minced celery, with its subtle, fresh bite and pleasing crunch that can yield to the mushy chewiness of chicken or tuna.
But my tuna salad and my chicken salad taste completely different from each other. Besides the tuna or chicken, the mayonnaise, and the celery, and besides salt and pepper, my salads always contain the following:
- minced onion
- chopped hard-boiled egg
- chopped dill pickles or pickle relish -- lots of it
- chopped apple
- curry powder
And you know what, I never ever ever swap them. I never make curry-raisin-apple tuna salad. I never make egg-onion-pickle chicken salad.
I can't think of any reason why chicken wouldn't work with the onion-egg-pickle trinity. I can't think of any reason why tuna wouldn't work with raisins-apple-curry. And yet, in my imagination, it is not even worth trying.