Often, I find (to my shame) that store-bought or restaurant versions of certain foods taste better to me than the version I make at home; the substitute doesn't taste the same (or nearly as good). McDonalds cheeseburgers and fries, HelluvaGood bacon horseradish dip, Bird's custard, and a couple of different pasta sauces all taste better than the homemade substitutes I have tried. I attribute this to the use of addictive substances in the store version, but I try not to say it too loud, since I don't want them to sue me.*
Yes, I know. I apparently have the palate of a cardboard box. But I am proud to say that there are two thing I have never found that can hold a candle to the version I make: Guacamole, and chicken salad. Boston Market used to have an extremely close version of the salad, but they stopped making it (probably because it had fifty million calories a pound, but who cares? It was good). Good as it was, it still wasn't as good as mine. As for guacamole? Forget it. I've had some nice enough ones in restaurants, but don't ever buy a grocery store version unless you sincerely enjoy the flavour and texture of library paste.
My salad recipe started life as a tarragon-walnut chicken salad, but as I'm so-so on nuts in salad, the walnuts were the first to go. I tweaked it several times after that, and since I'm a nice person (as far as you know), I'll give you guys the recipe.
Crack Chicken Salad
(disclaimer: I am not responsible for any heart attacks incurred by consuming this salad.)
1.5 (or two, if you like a slightly meatier salad) pounds of boneless chicken breast or chicken tenders
4 - 5 sticks celery, washed and diced
1.5 cups sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
.5 cup mayonnaise
Mix 1 cup sour cream and 1 cup heavy cream, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit on the kitchen counter for one or two hours. Put the chicken into a glass baking dish (it doesn't matter if they overlap slightly), and pour the cream mixture over them. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.
Pull out a mid-sized bowl. Once the chicken is done, spoon all the thick cream mixture out from the chicken, and put in the bowl (this is important). Save the thin creamy broth for making soup - it's killer (and freezes pretty well). Put the chicken on a plate, let cool, and dice into small pieces (however small you like it).
Add the rest of the sour cream and the mayonnaise to the bowl with the cooked cream mixture and blend until smooth. Add tarragon, and salt and pepper to taste (I like lots of salt). Put the dressing in the 'fridge, and put the diced chicken in the fridge to cool. Do not mix them together yet.
Give it about two hours, then mix the chicken and the celery and dressing together. Taste, and add more tarragon or salt, as desired (like I said, I like lots of salt). Cover, and let sit in the 'fridge for at least three hours.
There's an even more decadent version I've made that used batter fried chicken cut up with the batter still on, and diced avocados. Don't bake the chicken, omit the tarragon and use just half a cup of the sour cream/heavy cream mix instead of the plain sour cream. This version will kill you if you're not careful, but it's worth it.
It should go without saying that there is not a planet in the universe on which this salad is low-calorie. I make it maybe three times a year.
(I can feel your arteries hardening.)
*McDonald's, I swear this is a joke. Please don't sue me.