Have you ever met one of those people who abhors mayonnaise? I have. I live with her. No matter how much I try to convince my partner, Kate, that mayo is one of the most wonderful substances on earth, she just doesn't want anything to do with it. That can pose a problem for mayo-heavy foods like chicken, tuna, and egg salad. Suffice it to say, we don't eat those things at our place.
But I recently did a bit of a fridge purge, and I somehow ended up turning our leftovers into a chicken salad she actually approved of (a fridge purge, by the way, is one of the greatest sources of recipe-idea inspiration). The key was that this chicken salad is mayo-free—an approach that's common in, say, France, but not so much here in the States.
Standing in for the mayo is what is essentially a vinaigrette (for more ideas on just how versatile vinaigrettes can be, read about my roast fish with tangerine vinaigrette). In this case, I used a bit of neutral vegetable oil with some toasted sesame oil for flavor, and then a healthy dose of white vinegar for a nice, tart kick. Backing up that vinegar's tartness is another sour ingredient: kimchi and some of its pickling liquid. The ratio I used here is has more vinegar than the classic 3:1 proportion of oil to vinegar you see in most vinaigrettes—for some reason the chicken tasted a little lackluster until I really pushed the acidity (the takeaway here is to know the rules, and then break them if you need to).
A generous grating of fresh ginger, toasted pine nuts (though sesame seeds work well too), scallions, and celery add plenty of freshness, zest, and crunch to the mix. It's not like any chicken salad you're likely to have seen before...which I know has made at least one person very happy.