I love chicken salad. It’s a delicious lunch, snack, or even hors d’oeuvre, and it can be made from leftovers. Sure, if I’m making it for a fancy garden party, i’ll use fresh chicken and poach it in stock to make it as deliciously chicken-ey as possible, but especially in these quarentimes, when we’re all trying to make everything last a little longer, I make sure no leftovers go to waste. I make chicken salad with leftover roast chicken, spent pieces from making stock, leftover bits from trimmed pieces, almost anything there the flavor isn’t too overwhelming. Or if it is, sometimes I’ll make a wonderfully experimental mess of things. Kimchi chicken salad? Sure, why not.
Purists will argue that you should use chicken breast to make chicken salad. They’re wrong. If the point is to add flavor to the otherwise essentially flavorless chicken breast, sure. But if you want a chicken salad that’s tender not grainy, that has real flavor and body? Use chicken thighs.
This recipe is for my standard, my go to recipe. Rich bits of diced or minced chicken mixed with aromatics, crunchy pistachio nuts, and chewy sweet tart cherries, all bound together with a simple rich creamy mayo.
It’s one that can be made with leftover roast or poached chicken if you want. In this case, I’ll outline how to make it from scratch, poaching bone in thighs in flavorful stock, chilling it in an ice bath, and them preparing the chicken salad. If you’ve got leftovers, or want to use skinless thighs instead, go for it. It’ll be a little less rich, but no less tasty – and it’ll be faster, meaning it’s a great weekday lunch.
Chicken Salad with Pistachios and Dried CherriesCourse: SaladsCuisine: AmericanDifficulty: Easy
2 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs or 2 boneless chicken thighs
2 cups light chicken stock
1 medium shallot
1 large rib celery
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I prefer Duke’s)
1/4 cup shelled roasted pistachios
1/4 cup dried cherries
2 sprigs fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste
- Poach the chicken in chicken stock until cooked through, 20 minutes or more. If you prefer a finer textured chicken salad, cook longer.
- Remove the chicken from the chicken stock and allow cool completely, either in an ice bath or refrigerator. Reserve the stock for other use.
- When fully cool, remove the skin and bones if using bone-in thighs. Chop chicken into fine pieces. (see note.)
- Peel, trim, and dice the shallot.
- Trim, and finely slice or dice the celery.
- Mince the thyme.
- Combine chicken, aromatics, mayonnaise, pistachios and cherries. Mix well, taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper as needed.
- Transfer to a container and chill for 2 hours (See note.)
- I prefer finely textured diced chicken for this dish. You can adjust to your preference and use anything from large chunks to pulled pieces.
- You can eat the salad right away, however the flavor and texture will be best after a few hours in the refrigerator to allow flavors to melt and the salad to set up a little.