Cold salads are perfect for a hot day, but can be enjoyed in any season. Heartier than most vegetable salads but not too heavy, chicken salad makes a healthy snack or complete meal and is not difficult to make. This versatile salad can be as plain or as festive as you want it to be. You can add or omit ingredients as you wish, to customize chicken salad for your own tastes and any occasion.
Place chicken breasts in a 4-qt. saucepan. Cover with water (they should be completely covered for even cooking). There is no need to thaw the breasts first if they've been in the freezer.
Add a pinch of salt (about 1/2 tsp.) and bring to a rolling (large bubbles) boil. When the water has started boiling, turn the heat down a little to bring it to a simmering (small bubbles) boil for approximately 20 minutes--or until the chicken shows no pinkness in the center (use a fork or knife to test one).
Remove from the pot and place on a plate. Stick a meat thermometer in the breasts-- according to the USDA, for safety's sake, they should have reached an internal temperature of 170 degrees Fahrenheit.
Let the chicken cool on the plate for 5 to 10 minutes to prevent burning yourself. Transfer the chicken to a clean cutting board, and cut the chicken into 1/2-inch squares. Put the cut-up chicken in the refrigerator to further cool down.
Clean the cutting board (or use a different, clean one). Wash celery stalks under clean running water. Place them on a cutting board and dice them. You can cut them into as large or small pieces as you'd like, but smaller pieces will blend more easily in the salad.
Place the diced celery into a glass bowl. Add the cooked chicken to the celery and 2 tbsp. of mayonnaise. Mix it in well with a serving spoon. Add more mayonnaise, 1 tbsp. at a time, until the consistency is to your liking. At this time you can also add other ingredients if you choose (for example, hard-boiled egg, pickle relish, paprika or other seasonings).
Cover with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator. Refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour before serving. If time is running out, you can speed this up by putting the bowl in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes.