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The Secret Ingredient (Curry): Coronation Chicken Salad

[Photographs: Kerry Saretsky]

I am writing this from London, and I can attest that the trappings from the Royal Wedding are far from faded. Instead, remnants dangle all over the city—triangular Union Jacks strung together wiggle in the wind with the smiling shot of the happy couple superimposed. Commissioned china, postcards, even rude greeting cards with obvious stand-ins in compromising positions are everywhere.

Here's another British royal relic, which, even though it was created well over 50 years ago for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, is similarly still alive and kicking around London: Coronation Chicken. At its most basic, it's a cold chicken salad based in a curried mayonnaise. Most recipes call for fruit—I don't like the fruit, so I've made some adjustments. It's the kind of classic recipe that my English boyfriend's nan used to whip up with Bakewell Tarts before she passed away—a real stalwart of British tradition. This dish is retro fabulous.

I first came across Coronation Chicken unknowingly, at a sandwich shop in Cambridge when I spent my seventeenth summer there studying Shakespeare. After all that Shakespeare, what I wanted was something unpretentious, like chicken salad—even if that chicken salad was dubbed "coronation." I loved it because it included all the pillars of comfort: crusty bread, shredded meaty chicken, creamy mayo, and then out of nowhere, curry. It was a sensation, because out of something so common came something just exotic enough to make it special. I ordered that sandwich almost every day for the whole summer. That version didn't have fruit either. And I never got tired of it.

This is my version: shredded cold rotisserie chicken breast, curry mayonnaise, fresh cilantro, and crunchy, summery celery. Throw it together in a big bowl, and let it sit, if you can, overnight. Then stuff it into a whole wheat baguette, devour it, and shout "God Save the Queen."

About the author: Kerry Saretsky is the creator of French Revolution Food, where she reinvents her family's classic French recipes in a fresh, chic, modern way. She also writes the French in a Flash series for Serious Eats.

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