Friday, June 22, 2012

Tarragon Chicken Salad

I  enjoy a good chicken salad.  However I tend to be a bit picky about it, I suppose.  I have a hard time ordering chicken salad at a restaurant, as often it is too mayonnaise-y or sweet or chunky...  I think everyone has their own idea as to what chicken salad is supposed to be like so if you order it out, you are at the whim of the restaurant, which may or may not be to your liking.  Not a sure thing.  So I tend to make my own chicken salad at home to quench that desire when it comes.  Meet Tarragon Chicken Salad.  

You start by poaching the chicken in a pot with parsley, thyme, onion, carrot, celery and chicken broth.   You might be thinking, "that is too much work!"  Give me a chance here.  There are benefits for poaching chicken.  First of all, it is something you can put on the stove and forget about for a little while.  And at the end, not only do you end up with great poached chicken, you also have some delicious chicken stock that you can then use for other purposes (or freeze in batches or future needs).  So you get two good things in one.  Plus, you are almost guaranteed to have nice, tender, juicy chicken.  I am sure it is possible to over-poach and dry out the chicken, but poached chicken overall is very forgiving!  Give it a try.  I think you will find it is far superior to the easy alternatives, like using a grocery store rotisserie chicken or cooking chicken breast in a skillet on the stove, and far easier than say roasting or smoking a chicken! 

Once the chicken is poached and COOLED, you can then shred it.  For me, this is a key element to chicken salad.  I don't like cubed chicken.  I prefer shredded chicken in my chicken salad.  This is a somewhat time consuming part so put some good tunes on the stereo, roll up your sleeves, and take out some frustration by ripping the chicken to bits!  Feel better?  Good! 

Add some celery, scallions, parsley and tarragon to the chicken.  The tarragon is what makes this chicken salad so delicious.  It makes the dish.  Yum.

In a separate bowl, whisk together some mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper and add this to the chicken.  Mix it all together and you have a delicious chicken salad!

How do you enjoy eating chicken salad?
I sometimes put it on an actual salad, or put it in a pita, or on some toasted bread with Havarti cheese...   I think it would be great in a carved out tomato or avocado...  Or just eat it by itself!

Tarragon Chicken Salad
adapted from Food Network

4 cups shredded poached chicken (recipe follows)
1 stalk celery, cut into 1/4 inch dice
4 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 1/2 tsp. finely chopped fresh tarragon
2 TB finely chopped fresh parsley
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp. strained freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a mixing bowl, toss the shredded chicken with the celery, scallions, tarragon and parsley.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper.  Add to the chicken and mix gently until combined.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  

Poached Chicken
10 sprigs parsley
2 springs fresh thyme
1 small onion, halved
1 small carrot, halved
1 stalk celery, halved
3 lbs. chicken breasts, on the bone, fat trimmed
5-6 cups chicken broth (low sodium)
Put chicken breasts in a medium saucepan, with parsley, thyme, onion, carrot and celery on top.  Cover with chicken broth so that it covers the chicken by at least 1/2 inch.  The amount of broth you use will depend on the size of your pot.  The pot in my photo was bigger than I really needed, so I ended up using a lot more broth.  Your pot ideally is big enough for the chicken to fit snugly in about one layer.  Bring the broth to a boil, then lower the heat to very low and cover.  Poach the chicken for 20 minutes or until firm to the touch.  Remove the pan from the heat, uncover, and cool the chicken in the liquid for 30 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and shred.  The remaining liquid is now chicken stock.  Remove the bones and skin, strain the broth, and store covered in the refrigerator for 3 days or freeze for later use. 


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