Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Chicken Salad Song

I have a friend who loves chicken livers. She loves them so much that she composed a little ditty about them. It goes- chicken, chicken livers, chicken livers-and so on. Now, I can't say that I am equally enamored of chicken livers. In fact, I kind of hate them. (And believe you me, I have tried to love them. Oh, how I've tried). However, I do love chicken salad. Or rather, this chicken salad. Sometimes I even find myself singing-chicken, chicken salad, chicken salad.

Now, this chicken salad isn't going to change the way you look at chicken salad. It doesn't reinvent the chicken breast. No, this chicken salad is so classic as to be perfect. It stars chicken breast, gently poached, celery, red onion and mayo. Those ingredients are then punctuated with lemon zest and tarragon. It's perfect for summer. And indeed, I have been making it every summer for years now.  It's great as a main dish, and it's great in a sandwich. It's great all around. So without further ado, chicken salad. You may now burst into song.

Lemon-Tarragon Chicken Salad
Adapted from Bon Apettit, August 2001, via Epicurious

1 1/4 pounds skinless boneless chicken breast halves (about 3)

3/4 cup finely chopped celery

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
, plus a handful for the poaching liquid
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

1. Bring large saucepan of salted water (or chicken broth, if you so desire) to boil. Add a handful of tarragon sprigs and chicken breasts; reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until chicken is just cooked through, about 12 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate; cool.

2. Mix celery, 1/2 cup mayonnaise, onion, tarragon, lemon juice, and lemon peel in large bowl to blend. Cut chicken into 1/2-inch cubes; stir into mayonnaise mixture. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover; chill.)


  1. 7am. Have chicken, tarragon, red onion, lemon, mayo. No celery.
    7:20. chicken may have been in the water a bit too long. We'll see.
    7:30. little short on lemon juice, add a dash of vinegar.
    7:40. It looks just right and smells great. Cover and chill for dinner.
    9pm. Taste, add mustard and salt. Excellent!