It's summer time, though you wouldn't know it with this wintry weather we are having here in Berkeley. Regardless of the temperature outside, during the summer season I cannot seem to eat enough salad. Around noon, I peer into the fridge and start to imagine a meal based on what we've got on-hand. Fresh cherries marinated in balsamic with toasted hazelnuts and goat cheese has been a new discovery. Or arugula, hard-boiled egg, and thinly sliced fennel is a standby. And almost any salad with avocado makes me happy.
We often have leftover roast chicken, a prime candidate for salad-making, and this tarragon chicken is one of our favorites. There are a few unexpected ingredients - fennel, shallots, and pine nuts - but otherwise the salad is a classic that always seems to be a crowd pleaser, working as a simple lunch or a great picnic.
Serve salad on a bed of butter lettuce or eat on a sandwich. We devoured ours on homemade gougeres. I'll have that recipe for you next week.
- 1 pound leftover roasted chicken, or chicken breast (with skin and bone removed)
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise (please try homemade... it will make you smile)
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1/3 cup finely chopped fennel bulb
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 1/2 tablespoons minced shallot (you could also use red onion)
- 1/3 cup crisp green apple, julienned
- 3 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
- salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- butter lettuce
- fresh bread or gougere
If you are going to make your own mayo, do so now and set aside.
Lightly toast pine nuts on the stove top. Of course you can roast nuts in the oven, but my mother-in-law converted me to using the stove top. You can keep an eye on the nuts, giving them a shake every few minutes to insure even toasting. When done, set aside.
If you don't have any leftover chicken and are going to cook chicken for this salad, here's what you do. Preheat oven to 350. Take chicken from the fridge. Generously salt meat. Heat an oven-proof skillet on the stove top at medium to medium high heat. Add a couple of tablespoons of butter to the hot pan. Place chicken in the bubbling butter. You don't want the chicken to get really browned, so check that the heat isn't too high. Very lightly sear each side of the chicken. Place the skillet in the oven to finish cooking. It should come out nice and tender.
While the chicken is cooking, prep the other ingredients. Peel apple and cut into julienne. Mince shallot. Finely chop fennel. Chop tarragon.
In a medium bowl, mix 1/3 cup mayonnaise, mustard, shallot, fennel, apple, lemon juice, and two tablespoons tarragon (save the third tablespoon for garnish). Set aside.
When the chicken is cooked and has rested for about 10 minutes to collect its juices, cut into small bite-sized chunks. Note: if you are using leftover roast chicken for this recipe, make sure the meat is room temperature before adding to the salad. Toss chicken and toasted pine nuts in with the other ingredients. Taste for seasoning. Feel free to add a little more mayo, lemon, juice or salt and pepper.
Scoop chicken salad onto bed of butter lettuce or a nice fresh roll. Sprinkle with additional chopped tarragon for garnish.