June 15, 2009

Ladies’ Lunch Tarragon Chicken Salad


Well, this is a first.

I so enjoyed this luscious chicken salad, that I accidentally polished it off before remembering to take a picture. Whoops. I guess I ought to tell you that it was especially creamy, with a nice crunch of walnuts and celery, a pop of sweetness from grapes, and shreds of chicken that were poached roasted to perfection.

Perhaps I should also mention that I endeavored to make mayonnaise for this dish, not once but twice, and here’s what I learned: when they say to use a room temperature egg, take heed. Otherwise, you will be looking at a food processor full of yellow oil swishing around and feeling like a fool. Especially if you wash it all out and try again, only with the same results. Sometimes there is something to be said for following directions.

This would be so pretty atop a bed of Boston Lettuce or on some super crunchy Wasa crackers with a salad on the side or tucked in between the halves of a split baguette — but I guess you’ll have to take my word for it, since I have no photographic evidence to speak of.

For a super quick fix and a no-cook supper, you could sub in leftover roast chicken for the poached chicken breasts.

Tarragon Chicken Salad
Serves 3-4

3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise (preferably homemade, but let’s be real)
1/2 cup purple grapes, halved
2 celery stalks, diced
1/2 cup walnut halves
1 tablespoon dried tarragon leaves or 2 tablespoons fresh

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a ceramic baking dish, melt butter in the microwave. Stir dijon into melted butter and add chicken to the baking dish, coating in dijon and butter mixture. Season with salt and pepper and roast until done, about 20-30 minutes. Once chicken is cool, shred into bite-sized pieces with two forks.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together sour cream and mayonnaise. Fold in chicken. Add grapes, celery, and walnuts, season with salt and pepper, and gently toss. Store in the refrigerator for a few hours until flavors have developed, seasoning with more salt and pepper, if necessary, before serving.

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  • michele rosenthal: I LOVE the picture you used…reminds me so much of some black and white photos of my grandmother Margaret. The salad sounds wonderful, I’m going to give it a try.6 years ago

  • Isn’t that picture marvelous. It’s from the always great LIFE photo archive.6 years ago

  • Adrienne: I make a chicken & wild rice salad thing with grapes and walnuts, but the tarragon sounds like a great touch. I’ll be sure to give it a try :) 6 years ago

  • Oooh, I think the wild rice addition sounds so divine, and without the mayo and sour cream, a lot healthier.6 years ago

  • Stephanie: I love chicken salad with grapes and walnuts! I’ve never attempted to make it myself, but this recipe sounds so good, I think I just might.

    Thanks for your inspiring posts!6 years ago

  • Rhonda35: Yum – sounds like a chicken salad I used to walk across town for when I lived in Philly. (Many moons ago!) Just wanted to correct one thing – the chicken is not poached; it’s roasted. Poaching involves liquid and is usually done on top of the stove. Still, I think it probably tastes amazing with the dijon flavor roasted into it. Can’t wait to try!6 years ago

  • Laura: I love your blog!
    You can save your separated mayonnaise with this trick. Get out your store bought variety (a generous teaspoon should do) and slowly, slowly whisk in your homemade mixture. Or you can make a “starter” with just one yolk and a bit of oil and proceed the same way.6 years ago

  • Karen: Yum! Great recipe. I will have to try this one…. maybe with store bought mayo though. I am not a wizard in the kitchen, so I will play it safe. The picture is priceless. I imagine the luncheonette counters were the bustling during lunch hour in those days. Looks like fun!6 years ago

  • Karen: Oops…. sorry for my grammar typo. Typing too fast this morning before the caffeine kicks in!6 years ago

  • Rhonda, Okay, DUH. Not only did I forget the picture, but I said “poached” when I meant “roasted.” A true Monday for you…

    Laura, Thank you so much for this tip! If it happens again, I’ll know just what to do.

    Karen, I have a bit of an obsession with those automats and lunch counters of yore. Actually, anything to do with midcentury secretarys bustling around in pencil skirts, pretty much has me, hence my love for Mad Men, Mary Cantwell, and The Best of Everything.6 years ago

  • Christine: Love, love, love chicken salad with tarragon! Now I want to eat some.6 years ago

  • Karen: I love the automats! I used to go there with my grandpa when I was a little girl.
    I am going to put The Best of Everything on my summer reading list.6 years ago

  • Yes, DO! And one of my absolute favorites, Manhattan, When I Was Young. So beautifully written. The Best of Everything is more juicy — more like Valley of the Dolls from the ’50s. :) 6 years ago

  • Adrienne: Well, I must confess, sometimes I add a little creme fraiche or sour cream thinned with red wine vinegar to my chicken and wild rice salad. You don’t need much to really punch it up!6 years ago

  • Heather Steele: I made this! (Or at least a version of it…) http://whatsthedealsteele.blogspot.com/2008/12/tarragon-chicken-salad.html It was GLORIOUSLY delicious. And the pictures made me happy to take, so next time you make yours, be sure to take pics of all your neat little piles of ingredients. There is nothing better for my OCD brain than organized little piles of chopped up ingredients.6 years ago

  • Heather: I love chicken salad. I recently had some Cherry Tarragon Chicken Salad that was unbelievable. I’ll use this recipe and substitute dried cherries for the grapes!6 years ago

  • Kim Walker: Just when I needed a little inspiration, along you come with this chicken salad. My father-in-law had brought me a bunch of tarragon, and I had no idea what to do with it. (I’m a thyme girl, myself.) This was delicious.

    Thanks.6 years ago

  • Lilly: Just made this last night after not cooking for a few months (not out of laziness, but because I wasn’t able to) and it was super easy! My husband ate it all up and I love my vegetarian version (made with Morning Star Chik’n patties) as well even though I couldn’t get the dijon in there.5 years ago

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