Gioia’s Chicken Salad
Gioia’s Deli, St. Louis, MO
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
¼ to ½ cup chicken stock or water
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup finely diced celery
¾ cup finely diced red onion
2¼ teaspoons celery salt (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon Melissa’s Lemon Pepper Grinder
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup mayonnaise (Gioia’s uses Duke’s mayonnaise), more if needed
Notes: Although Gioia’s bakes the chicken breasts for this salad, you can use approximately 4 cups of chopped white meat chicken poached or from a rotisserie chicken.
The unique texture of Gioia’s chicken salad comes from baking the breasts in liquid, adding lemon juice and from hand mixing the pieces together. The methods allow the chicken pieces to soften and the mayonnaise absorbs better over all the pieces.
Although you can use any mayonnaise, Gioia’s uses Dukes, which contains no sugar, has a tangy flavor and a rich consistency. Once a southern cooking staple, it is now widely available in local grocery stores.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly coat the bottom of a baking dish with nonstick allow the air to circulate.
Pour enough broth or liquid into the pan to cover the bottom of the pan to a depth of ¼-inch. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until the internal temperature 160ºF. Remove from the oven to a cooling rack and let rest for 10 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165ºF.
When the meat is cool enough to handle, remove the chicken to a cutting board, discard pan juices, and cut into a ½-inch dice. Place diced chicken in a large mixing bowl. Add the lemon juice. Using gloves, toss the chicken with your hands to incorporate the juices throughout. Add the celery and onion. Whisk celery salt, lemon pepper and fresh ground pepper together and add to the bowl. Toss the salad with your hands to evenly incorporate all. Add the mayonnaise to the chicken mixture, and work it in with your gloved hands. The chicken salad shouldn’t be heavy and should just hold together. If needed, add mayonnaise in small increments to reach desired consistency.