If taking cubes of chicken and other things chosen for their ability to hold up in a deli case and suspending them in a thick dressing of mayo and seasonings is the winter coat of chicken salad, this is the cardigan, which is to say, I hope everyone is as happy to see it as I am. I live for cardigan weather.
While I don’t have any tremendous gripe with traditional chicken salad (yes, even with mayo; I save my contempt for curry powder and raisins), I have forever had little love or tolerance for white meat. The archives here are thick with my referring to breast cutlets as pressed sawdust and worse; it could never be argued that I don’t know how to form an opinion. Thus, it surprises nobody more than me that I want to eat these everyday for the rest of my life, or at least the next month, and all it took was shifting the way we usually emphasize ingredients.
Here, inspired by Sqirl’s chicken salad — which gazing at does exactly nothing for my Los Angeles longing — a roasted bone-in, skin-on (for maximum flavor and minimum dryness) is torn into mid-sized shreds and tossed with a light vinaigrette before adding a great pile of thinly sliced cucumbers, radishes, celery, scallions and herbs — this is much more a salad with chicken than it is a a chicken salad with other things. As beautiful as the Sqirl version looked, favas are nowhere to be found yet in NYC, and even if they were, generally after going through the effort to prep them, I want them to be the main event. Instead, I focused on the kinds of spring vegetables readily available no matter what your growing situation is. Laziness motivated me to ditch different dressings for different vegetables; cravings caused me to tip this into Deb’s happy place with dark pumpernickel toasts, horseradish creme fraiche, dill and chives. Together, this was the kind of dinner we tore into and missed dearly when it was finished — hooray.
One year ago: Carrot Graham Layer Cake
Two years ago: Whole-Grain Cinnamon Swirl Bread
Three years ago: Lentil and Chickpea Salad with Feta and Tahini
Four years ago: Raspberry Coconut Macaroons
Five years ago: Spaetzle
Six years ago: Bakewell Tart
Seven years ago: Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Cornbread
Eight years ago: Caramel Walnut Upside-Down Banana Cake and Chicken with Almonds and Green Olives
Nine years ago: Lighter-Than-Air Chocolate Cake, Bulgur Salad with Chickpeas and Roasted Red Peppers
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: The Perfect Manhattan
1.5 Years Ago: Latke Waffles
2.5 Years Ago: Frico Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
3.5 Years Ago: Crackly Banana Bread
4.5 Years Ago: Apple and Honey Challah
Spring Chicken Salad Toasts
Inspired by Sqirl’s chicken salad
2 to 3 large toasts; could be dinner for 2
1 large skin-on, bone-in chicken breast (about 12 to 14 ounces)
About 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 small cucumber, such as a Persian variety, halved, thinly sliced
1 small celery rib, sliced thin
3 radishes, quartered lengthwise, sliced thin
1 scallion, sliced thin
1 tablespoon chopped dill, chives or parsley, or a mix, for garnish
3 tablespoons creme fraiche
1 1/2 teaspoons prepared horseradish, liquid drained off a little, plus more to taste
2 to 3 thin slices rye, pumpernickel or another dense health bread, toasted
Heat oven to 425°. Place chicken on a small rimmed baking sheet and rub with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast until golden brown and cooked through, about 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool, then remove skin and bones and shred meat into bite-sized pieces.
Place shredded chicken in a medium bowl and toss with 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper until evenly coated. Add cucumber, celery, radishes and scallion to salad and toss to combine. Adjust salt, pepper and vinegar to taste.
If you need horseradish crème fraîche in your life — I know I always do — combine crème fraîche, horseradish and a couple pinches salt in a small dish and stir to combine.
Heap salad on 2 to 3 toasts (i.e. more on 2 or less on 3). Dollop with horseradish creme fraiche, if using, and garnish with herbs.
Do Ahead: Chicken can be cooked 2 days ahead; cover and chill. Shred just before using.