The Best Chicken Salad

by Meg Cotner on June 18, 2010

chicken salad on csa lettuce

Earlier this spring, I rediscovered chicken salad; I’m not actually sure why I had forgotten about it.  I used to love chicken salad sandwiches I’d eat from the deli while at grad school (the bread was always a little stale), but I wonder now what exactly was in those sandwiches…

I’ve made this particular chicken salad a half dozen times since May already.  It is just so good.  The list of ingredients isn’t extensive, which is probably why it works so well for my taste.  I’ve made a few adjustments, including making the mayonnaise from scratch.

mayo

I used the mayonnaise recipe from Nourishing Traditions and I love it!  I didn’t have any whey handy, so this mayo will only last a couple of weeks; I have plans to make lacto-fermented mayo soon.  I used a combination of extra virgin olive oil and expeller pressed organic sunflower oil, which are much better fats than the canola and soybean oil you’ll often find in commercial mayo.  I once made mayonnaise with all olive oil and didn’t really like it – it was too intense for me and didn’t taste much like mayo.

The mayo is also a wonderful yellow color, thanks to the excellent pastured eggs I have access to.

One of the predominate flavors in this chicken salad is tarragon, an herb I never paid much attention to.  I was never a real fan of it, but since I’ve been making this salad, I’ve become its champion.  I got a beautiful bunch of it in the first week’s CSA share, and was happy to use it in the chicken salad.  In fact, I pumped up the amount of tarragon, I love it so much.

I also switched out the original cranberries for apples.  I think the apples are so perfect in this salad, giving a level of sweetness that I think is absolutely delicious.  Apples and walnuts are a classic pairing, too.

topped with mayo

Chicken breasts work well in this salad (I poach them) but really any leftover chicken will do, be it roasted, grilled, or whatever.

chicken salad

Apple-Walnut Chicken Salad
Adapted from smitten kitchen, who adapted it quite loosely from Gourmet

4 cups cubed (1/2 inch) cooked chicken (about 1 3/4 lb), pastured if possible
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
1 celery rib, diced into small bits (1 cup)
2 or more tablespoons finely chopped shallot
1 apple, cored and cubed (no need to peel it)
2/3 to 3/4 cup mayonnaise (homemade is best)
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Toss together all ingredients in a large bowl until combined well.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

This post is participating in Fight Back Friday hosted by Food Renegade.

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{ 17 comments }

Christy June 18, 2010 at 9:18 pm

This chicken salad sounds so delish and simple – love it!
.-= Christy´s last blog ..Five Frugal Food Tips =-.

Judith June 20, 2010 at 6:46 pm

I’m definitely going to make this soon. Thanks for the fun idea Meg!
.-= Judith´s last blog ..Readers Want to Know…Introducing The Foodista Forum =-.

Meg June 20, 2010 at 9:44 pm

You’re welcome, Judith! Definitely let me know how you like it.

Thank you, Christy! It’s such a great recipe – I had some tonight for dinner in fact! Hard to get sick of it, as it is so yummy.

Adela June 23, 2010 at 12:24 pm

This is what I am making for dinner as soon as I can make the mayo. I am currently soaking the oats for granola!

Meg June 23, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Yay! Happy to hear it, Adela. I discovered a new way of making mayonnaise and will share that soon. It looks crazy easy.

This weekend I’ll pick up some raw kefir, and I plan to soak oats for granola, too! I haven’t been able to make granola lately, so I’m looking forward to this. And when I made the last batch, I didn’t account for the humidity in the air, so the granola wasn’t dried out as much as usual. This time I’ll leave it in the oven for a little longer to suck out more moisture. Hope you enjoy the granola! :)

Liz P February 1, 2012 at 11:47 am

Yum. Did you try the lacto-fermented Mayo? I had a serious mayo addiction before going WAP and having healthy mayo was one of my first priorities when I changed my diet (funny, b/c now it’s not a craving). Anyway, I love the NT mayo with whey, except that instead of just olive oil (can be bitter) or just coconut oil (hardens in the fridge) I do a 50/50 mix and it works fine and is delicious. Try it sometime.

Liz

Meg February 1, 2012 at 11:55 am

I did – it’s a great way to preserve mayonnaise. I’ve used a combo of olive and sunflower oils but always feel kinda bummed about the sunflower oil. Coconut oil could be cool… I hear bacon grease is also good. Then I thought… what about avocado oil with the olive oil! I want to try it. I love avocados.

Liz P February 1, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Wow, bacon grease mayo… wow again. I have a quart of lard in my freezer. Maybe 50% lard mayo? :-) Avocado oil sounds interesting. Is that a legit oil? I don’t see why not?

Meg February 1, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Lard mayo would be interesting! I have read on some paleo/primal blogs/forums that they’ve tried avocado oil. Some feel it is too strong, but I think it’s worth a try. Untoasted sesame oil might work. I will definitely try the coconut oil, too. It’s so good for you!

Liz P February 1, 2012 at 12:42 pm

What brand do you like? I’ve been using Nutiva, bc you can buy it in bulk from amazon or Queens Health Emporium– not in glass containers though. I have a friend who worked for Dr. Bronners and apparently their ccno is amazing and fair-trade, but it’s pricey…

Liz P February 1, 2012 at 8:14 pm

Tropical Traditions looks awesome! Hand made by family farms. I was about to order, but then I saw they heat their coconut oil. Doing research on whether all companies do this.

Liz P February 1, 2012 at 10:20 pm

Tropical Traditions looks great. Geeking out a little, but should ccno be raw? Or can it be raw? I never thought of it until I started searching. Some brands claim they are unheated, others say that is impossible. I texted my friend who worked for Dr. Bonner’s ccno for an answer.

Meg February 3, 2012 at 4:45 pm

When you talk about raw/cooked do you mean cold pressed vs. other extraction methods? Did your friend at Dr. Bronner’s have any insights into this issue? Thanks for bringing this element to my attention.

Liz P February 4, 2012 at 3:44 pm

Hi Meg, Here’s what I’ve got after a little research. Apparently coconut oil CAN be extracted raw, though it is unusual, there is raw coconut oil on the market (not many brands and they are expensive). It appears that most ccno is processed with heat extraction, not in any trans-fat way, but just that at some point, the coconut flesh is heated. Is this for sanitizing or for simplicity–I don’t know. My friend confirmed that Dr. Bronner’s is heat treated, too. SO, I’ll keep asking around, but until I read somewhere that the raw version is nutritionally superior, I’ll just buy Trop Traditions or Nutiva.

Honestly, I’m surprised this doesn’t come up more often, given the popularity of ccno!

Liz

Liz P February 1, 2012 at 10:21 pm

Crap, why did I post twice and out of order? Sorry!

Meg February 1, 2012 at 2:38 pm

For coconut oil? I often buy Barleans and have used Spectrum, but right now I’m using Tropical Traditions, which I like a lot. It’s a jar I received from them to try. It’s served me well.

Meg February 7, 2012 at 8:24 am

Thanks for the info, Liz! Very interesting. I imagine a raw version is nutritionally superior, but could see how that would be expensive. I’ll have to look into Nutiva, too. Many of the real foodies I know really like using the Tropical Traditions.

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