The holidays can be a busy time. I needed some cooked chicken for a recipe, but did not have time to prepare the chicken, so I had my husband pick up a pre-cooked chicken at the local Piggly Wiggly.
After I’d used half of the chicken in the intended recipe, I was left with the other half. I remembered that I’d saved a feta chicken salad recipe to try, because I am always looking for new and interesting variations on the basic recipe.
We’d made a trip to the Northern Panhandle earlier in the month, where we picked up items that we don’t readily find here. A trip to Federico’s, an Italian market in Steubenville, Ohio, is always on the agenda. We scoop oiled and brined olives from open containers. We buy assorted imported pastas, pre-made cannoli shells, Polish ham and cheese, farmers’ cheese and Bulgarian feta (also called Sirene).
Since 2002, feta has been “a protected designation of origin product” in the European Union.
Legislation states that only cheeses produced in a traditional manner in certain areas of Greece can be called feta, although similar brined cheeses made in other countries are still referred to as feta. Some companies outside the designated areas now call their cheese “feta-style.”
The United States has not accepted EU’s protected status, so the feta that is purchased here may not have been produced in Greece. Sirene cheese is usually called Bulgarian “feta.”
Feta is made from whole sheep’s milk or a combination of sheep and goat milk. It is then cured in a salty brine. It has a crumbly texture. Bulgarian Sirene Cheese can be made from a combination of goat, cow and sheep milk and there are no regulations regarding the proportions of each.
We like Bulgarian feta. It is saltier, firmer, grainier, and has a more assertive taste than Greek feta. A slight lemony flavor can often be detected.
Feta and feta-style cheese contains numerous probiotics. It has significant amounts of vitamins A, B-12 and K, plus iron and magnesium. It is lower in fat and calories than many aged cheeses, and it is a good source of calcium.
We often associate feta with Greek salads, but feta cheese is great to use in hot dishes, too, because it never fully melts. I like to use it on pizza. Just a small amount of feta can elevate a dish to the next level. It certainly made a difference in this basic chicken salad recipe.
Feta Chicken Salad
1½ cups diced cooked chicken
1 celery stalk, diced
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
¼ red onion, diced
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 ounce feta cheese, crumbled
1 teaspoon fresh dillweed, chopped
Pinch salt and pepper
Combine chicken, celery, eggs and red onion in a serving bowl. In a separate bowl, stir together mayonnaise, sour cream, feta cheese and dill. Pour over chicken mixture. Stir to blend.
Taste and season with salt and pepper. (Some feta cheese may be very salty, so no additional salt is needed.) Refrigerate until serving time.