Wednesday, October 15, 2008

cranberry-walnut chicken salad

cranberry-walnut chicken salad

I often read comments and emails from people who talk about liking or wanting to make a dish but they can’t “because my significant other doesn’t like [insert ingredient]!” I have to admit, I am often perplexed. If they want to eat it, why don’t they just make it anyway?

But then I look at my own cooking repertoire, and I get it. It’s enough of a pain to make one dish some nights after a long day of work, but to make one only one of you wants to eat? There’s no logic in it. So, I shy away from Things Alex Thinks He Doesn’t Like, such as coconut (sigh), tofu (sigh) and well, this.

deb's chicken salad

There is only one chicken salad in the entire world that I like, and my other half? He hates it. Doesn’t like the cranberries, doesn’t like the walnuts and doesn’t know why anyone in their right mind would add such things to an innocent chicken salad. I made it one time three years ago, loved it and had yet to make it since.

But I drew the line last Thursday. At a table full of food I don’t like (lox, whitefish salad, please, just don’t get me started) I insisted that there be one thing I eat. And that it was made the way I think chicken salad should taste–crunchy, sweet and salty, juicy and tangy with no curry or tumeric or any of those ghastly things other people put in theirs. (See, I am as picky as my other half. It’s just that I get the final published word. Ha!)

deb's chicken salad

So, if your ideal salad sounds like my ideal salad, come, pull up a chair, sit down next to me. I made more than enough to go around.

Two years ago: Winter Squash Soup with Gruyere Croutons

Deb and Alex went to Paris and all I got was this lousy chicken salad! Yes, it’s true. Alex and I have flown the coop this week and are (hopefully) wandering around ancient cobblestone streets in a wine and butter-induced haze. Comment responses will be slow–if at all–this week, but I have fortunately been cooking up enough of a storm that you should never be left without your smitten kitchen fix! We’ll be back before you know it.

Cranberry-Walnut Chicken Salad
Adapted quite loosely from Gourmet

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

4 cups cubed (1/2 inch) cooked chicken (about 1 3/4 lb) (I like to brine mine first, then poach it in water for 15 to 20 minutes because I am completely neurotic about chicken getting dried out in any way.)
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
1 celery rib, diced into small bits (1 cup)
2 or more tablespoons finely chopped shallot
1 cup dried cranberries
2/3 to 3/4 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons tarragon vinegar, if you have it, or champagne or white wine vinegar works well, too
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon or herb or your choice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Really complicated directions: Toss together all ingredients in a large bowl until combined well.

I like to eat mine on top of chopped Romaine lettuce, or with toasted pocketless pita wedges.

Variations: Are almost endless, but this is particularly good with leftover Thanksgiving turkey and chopped pecans.


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