In my humble opinion, there is no better lunch, particularly on a week day, than a really tasty Chicken Salad. Two months plus into quarantine with no Delta Lounge chicken salad foreseeable in the near future, I set out on a quest to make a reasonably healthy chicken salad. This Tarragon and Dill Chicken Salad gives the Delta Lounge chicken salad a serious run for its money and can be eaten during the work week in between e-learning, zoom and conference calls (as opposed to in between flights). My goal was to craft a recipe that I could make ahead of time on a weekend (or for me while multi-tasking on Monday afternoon) in order to minimize the time spent in the kitchen. Less time in the kitchen means more downtime for myself in the form of peloton rides and outdoor walks during my work day — necessary activities that bring sanity in these coronavirus, stay at home times.
A word about my chicken salad quest. It has been going on for a few weeks now, as I considered the necessary elements to include and then I had to have the proper ingredients in the refrigerator (not always easy!). I will confess that it does take a fairly long time to make, not in terms of active time, but overall time. But since I’m not going anywhere, that didn’t bother me. Hopefully, it doesn’t bother you either.
So first, the chicken. You can poach, bake or grill your chicken and there are a variety of recipes to be found for each of these options. Driven by a bit of laziness, I chose the bake option because well, it involved simply removing the 3 bone in chicken breasts from the package and putting a little oil and salt and pepper on them and baking them at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes. Bone in makes for juicier chicken. It’s a pain to cut it off the bone into little chunks after it finally cools, but I will take the extra work for the better salad. If you have boneless chicken breasts, you will need to adjust your cooking time to 25-30 minutes and your chicken will be a little chewier.
Now you’ve got your base meat. But we all know while the chicken is the base, its the rest of the fixings that elevate a boring chicken salad to a heavenly one. Here are my suggested additions: Fresh tarragon, fresh dill, chopped celery, chopped almonds, one small shallot, and chives. The fresh herbs are critical here. If you don’t like tarragon or dill, you should stop reading….
Next comes the mayo mixture. I had about 4 cups of diced chicken meat after I chopped it up. I opted for just a 1/2 cup mayo added to juice of a large lemon and about 2 tsp Dijon mustard. Many recipes would recommend that you add in a cup of mayo. I suggest for a variety of reasons — health being one of them and it grosses me out when chicken salads have too much mayo — you start with half a cup and add sparingly after that.
Now finally, while you will have the urge to eat the chicken salad immediately because it’s that good, resist. I mean you aren’t going anywhere. Let it sit for a few hours at least before you dive it so that the fixings can ooze into the meat. I must admit that this whole quarantine stay at home thing is getting a little old. While I don’t miss the commute or the constant air plane travel, I do miss the energy of New York City, the beauty of walking through Grand Central station and brainstorming with colleagues in person or in the Delta Lounge. I miss dinner parties with friends, cocktails outside where you sit next to each other not 10-20 feet apart. We got our boat in the water today while wearing our masks. Things are due to reopen next week slowly with outdoor restaurants and hair dressers by appointment. But the reality is it will be far from normal and not much of a change from the past two months. But At least I’ll have this Tarragon and Dill Chicken salad to eat, and you will too if you follow the recipe.
- 3 lbs chicken breasts bone-in and skin-on (You’ll need about 4 cups)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
- 2 celery ribs, chopped
- 1 tbsp chives, chopped thinly sliced
- 1 small shallot
- 2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp Kosher salt (start with 1/2 teaspoon, then add more, to taste)
- Freshly ground pepper
- Pre-heat oven to 350°F
- Rub the olive oil all over the chicken breasts and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until internal temp reaches 165°F using an instant-read thermometer.
- Remove the chicken from the oven and let cool. Remove the skin then pull the meat from the bones and roughly chop.
- In a large bowl, mix together the chicken, almonds, celery, chives, dll, & tarragon.
- In a small-medium bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, lemon, mustard, salt and pepper.
- Combine the chicken and mayonnaise mixtures.
- Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.
- Serve over greens, tomatoes and cucumber and add salt and pepper to taste.