March 11, 2015
A long time ago I was watching an episode of the Barefoot Contessa and she was making chicken salad. You know, preparing for one of her fabulous picnic lunches at the beach with her guy friends or playing bridge with the boys, drinking champagne cocktails and eating homemade blinis with smoked salmon… I want to be her. Who wouldn’t love her life? Anyway, she was making chicken salad and had this genius method to make the chicken. Whole bone-in chicken breasts, rubbed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted in the oven on a sheet pan. Perfect every time. I stole that method for my chicken salad here.
I’ve seen many chicken salad recipes that call for poaching the chicken. I just can’t deal with the chicken simmering in water thing. Smelly, but happy memories of the apartment building my great-grandmother lived in has me scarred. For some reason it always smelled like boiled chicken. Is that a Jewish thing, boiling chickens? Oy Gevalt!
I also don’t always love the rotisserie chickens pre-made from the grocery store, though I know they can be a great shortcut. So this is my solution… successful every time, from scratch, super simple chicken salad. You can make chicken this way to toss in salads, like a cobb salad or chicken Caesar salad, or for any other recipe that calls for cooked chicken breast.
- Drizzle of olive oil
- 4 bone-in chicken breasts (about 2lbs)
- Kosher salt & pepper
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1/4 cup light mayo (please use Hellman’s)
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan skin side up. Loosen the skin gently on each breast and tuck a small sprig of thyme under the skin.
- Drizzle a little olive oil over each one and sprinkle kosher salt and pepper on each breast. Using your hands, rub it evenly all over the chicken.
- Place the sheet pan in the oven on the center rack and roast for about 35-40 minutes depending on how big your chicken breasts are. I use a meat thermometer and check them at 30 minutes. They are done when they reach 165 degrees.
- Once the chicken is cooked through, remove the sheet pan from the oven and set it aside allowing the chicken to cool completely.
- When they have cooled, remove the meat from each chicken breast, discarding the bones and skin. Cut the meat into large bite sized pieces.
- In a large bowl, place the cubed chicken with the mayo, chopped parsley and Dijon mustard. Stir well to combine and season with salt and pepper.
July 8, 2014
I’m resurrecting this recipe. I posted it a couple of years ago (with much less enthusiasm) and made it again last week for dinner, sparking my memory and love for the Niçoise salad. It’s the best salad ever! Of course if you don’t love tuna, olives and anchovies you might want to give it a pass, or you can just pick around and eat the potatoes and green beans. Creating perfect forkfuls that include a tidbit of each element of the salad, stacked artfully and dipped in Dijon tarragon vinaigrette is a scrumptious bite of heaven. Sigh.
As proof the Nicoise is my true love, I can easily rattle off a list of restaurants where I’ve ordered it. One of my favorites is from Rue 57 in New York City, followed closely by the Hotel de Russie in Rome. Given the opportunity to eat awesome Italian food in Italy, I picked this salad (no regrets). In fact, I ordered a Niçoise salad twice during our Italy trip. There’s something about the fresh tarragon, salty anchovies and olives with potatoes and crispy green beans, it’s irresistible to me. One of the things I love about Rue 57, is they let you choose between canned tuna or fresh tuna. I prefer canned tuna for this salad. Save that fancy fresh tuna for sushi. Pommes frites and a Bloody Mary with a Nicoise Salad? I’d be satisfied if this was my last meal. We’ve been watching a lot of Orange is the New Black and I have prison on the brain. So for the moment, consider “last meal” to be my death row reference. For the record, I’d never survive prison, even if they let me work in the kitchen. Oy Vey!
Rue 57, NYC
Brasserie Les Halles, NYC
Florence, Italy (can’t remember the restaurant)
Hotel de Russie, Rome
This is my adaptation of the Niçoise salad. Change it as you wish, just make one! I have to say that as good as this salad is, the salad dressing is fantastic! It will last for a few days in the refrigerator, and it’s really good on sandwiches or even to dip veggies in for a snack. Don’t let a drop go to waste!
FOR THE SALAD (Serves about 4)
- 1 small head red leaf lettuce, torn or cut into ribbons
- 12 or more cherry tomatoes, halved
- 4 hard-boiled eggs, halved
- Half a small red onion, thinly sliced in half moons
- 1/2lb green beans
- 12 or so baby red or gold potatoes
- Generous handful of nicoise olives (you can use kalamata if you can’t find nicoise olives)
- 2 cans solid white tuna packed in water, drained
- 1 can anchovies in oil, drained
- 2 tbsp capers, drained
- Fresh tarragon chopped, 2 tbsp or more if you’d like
DIJON TARRAGON VINAIGRETTE
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 clove garlic, halved
- 2 shallots, quartered
- 3 tbsp Dijon mustard
- Kosher salt & pepper to taste
- Pinch of sugar
- 3 tsp chopped fresh tarragon
Throw all the dressing ingredients in a food processor except the tarragon. Process until emulsified and smooth. Pour into a bowl and add the chopped tarragon, stir together. Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.
For the salad:
- To blanch the green beans, bring a large pot of water to a boil and fill a large bowl with ice and water, set it next to the stove (see above). Drop the green beans in the boiling water and allow to cook for just 2 minutes. Using a strainer, remove the green beans from the pot and place them into the ice water bath to seize the cooking and keep their bright green color. I lay the green beans on a paper towel to dry.
- Throw the potatoes in the same pot you used for the green beans and boil until tender, 10-15 minutes depending on their size. The potatoes are perfectly cooked when they feel tender when pierced with a fork (not a knife). Drain the potatoes and toss with a little kosher salt & pepper and some chopped tarragon, set aside and allow to cool.
- Assemble all the ingredients for the salad on a large platter. Sprinkle some chopped tarragon and capers over everything. I always serve the tuna and anchovies on the side, along with the dressing.