I have a confession to make. I don’t like chicken breast. I especially dislike the boneless, skinless kind. Scandalous, I know, but despite its popularity in our culinary culture, I’ve just never taken to it. I know chicken breast is a healthier, low-fat option, but I don’t really care. It is ubiquitous and boring and blah! Oh sure, I’ve choked it down many times at numerous weddings, dinner parties and banquets, but usually only in order to be polite, or because I was very, very hungry. Even then, it had to disguised by some kind of tasty sauce or hidden in a bowl of pasta. There is only one way that I can honestly say that I actually enjoy eating chicken breast, and that is in a fruity, nutty, mayonnaise-laden chicken salad.
One thing I do love, however, is homemade chicken stock. And for that, you need the whole chicken, breast and all. If I’m making a regular chicken soup, I’ll usually dice up the chicken and toss it back into the stock with some vegetables and pastina or rice. If not, I’ll save it to make chicken salad for lunches and an occasional quick weeknight dinner. Since the breast meat doesn’t have a lot of flavor on its own (in my opinion), you can add almost anything to a chicken salad and come out with a successful dish.
There are several really nice chicken salad recipes in my repertoire that my family enjoys. All are easy and take little time to prepare, assuming I’ve already got some cooked chicken on hand. One of my favorites is this Tutti Frutti Chicken Salad, which is filled with herbs, fresh and dried fruits, nuts and of course, a creamy mayonnaise-based dressing. You can use any combination of fruits and nuts that you like, and it always turns out great. You can also adjust the quantities to your heart’s content. This time, I used grapes, pineapple, dried cherries, pecans and walnuts. I really like this salad with dried apricots, mango, apples, mandarin oranges and almonds as well. Whatever floats your boat is fine. I would recommend that you do use fresh tarragon, if you can find some. It gives the salad a lovely hint of anise flavor. Though, when I can’t get tarragon, I often substitute some fresh parsley, dill or cilantro and it is still delicious.
I like to serve my chicken salad in big, juicy, hollowed out tomato, pineapple boat or avocado half. It makes the beginnings of a darn good sandwich too!
So tell me, how many of you REALLY like chicken breast? Come on and spill. You can be totally honest. And if you do like chicken breast, what is your favorite way to eat it? You never know. Though I doubt it, one of you might actually convert me!
Tutti Frutti Chicken Salad
4 split (2 whole) bone in chicken breasts, cooked (boiled, poached or roasted) and cooled
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1-2 tablespoons champagne or white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup fresh red or green grapes, halved
1 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup diced pineapple
1/2 cup diced red onion
- Remove chicken meat from bones and dice into 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch chunks. Set aside in a large bowl.
- Place the pecans and walnuts (or whatever nuts you’re using) on a baking sheet and toast in a 350 deg. F. degree oven for about 7 to 8 minutes until slightly golden. Set aside to cool. (You can skip this step and just use the nuts as is, but toasting gives the nuts a nice, rich flavor.)
- For the dressing, mix the mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, tarragon together in a small bowl. Taste, and add salt and pepper accordingly.
- Add the nuts, fruits and onion to the chicken. Pour the dressing over the chicken and toss well.
- Serve it any way you want to.