Chicken salad with tarragon, toasted pine nuts and golden raisins

This salad was a big hit at our November 14th Open House dinner but even more of a hit with Belle. She loves it. She has been eating the leftovers all week – I made a lot, and she even loves the way it smells.

At first I thought about going for skinless, boneless chicken breasts but Belle suggested (and quite rightly) that bone-in and skin-on chicken wouldl add more flavour to the meat. To help convince me, she even offered to remove the skin and bones for me and shred the meat. Who am I to refuse help?

So I went with the bone-in and skin on breasts. Obviously, this was the right choice. The salad was simply delicious.

The stock in which I simmered the chickenThe stock in which I simmered the chicken

I made the chicken the night before and after Belle shredded it, I put it in the fridge. The next afternoon, I brought the chicken out to come to room temperature. This is a great party dish because you serve it at room temperature – one of the reasons we picked it.

I should also mention I used two pots to accommodate the six breasts I used, rather than the three in the recipe below, but that was necessary only because we were having so many people over. If you follow the recipe below, you will only need one pot.

Belle’s note: I was indeed happy to offer my services as sous chef for this dish; the chicken turned out to be very flavourful, and yes, it had the most wonderful chicken salad-y smell. I’m not kidding. I had a bowl of it at my desk the day after, and the scent of the dish was just divine! Ward was hesitant about adding the raisins (he isn’t a big fan of raisins himself), but I think they’re essential to the dish.

The following recipe is adapted from Oranges and Olives (a really splendid book about Mediterranean cooking).

Chicken Salad with Tarragon, Toasted Pine Nuts and Golden Raisins

2 carrots, chopped coarsely
2 celery stalks, chopped coarsely
1 medium onions, peeled and cut into eighths
4 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half
1 lemon, sliced in half
6 sprigs of fresh parsley
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1-1/2 tbsp black peppercorns
1-1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1-1/2 cups dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc is a good choice)
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
3 bone-in, skin on free-range chicken breasts
1/2 cup golden raisins, soaked in warm water for 15 minutes and drained
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted over medium heat
3 scallions, sliced thinly on the bias
1/3 cup fresh tarragon, chopped
1/3 cup Italian parsley, chopped
3 tbsp fresh chives, chopped
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp sea salt
freshly ground black pepper, coarse

Chicken

  1. Put 8 cups of water into a large pot and start bringing to the boil.
  2. Put carrots, celery, onion, garlic, lemon, parsley, thyme, peppercorns, salt, wine and vinegar and allow to come to a boil.
  3. Add the chicken breasts and reduce heat to simmer and cover.
  4. Cook for 30 minutes, remove chicken and allow to cool (you can discard the poaching liquid at this point – I know, it seems a shame. By all means, reserve it if you think you can use it for something else)
  5. Remove the skin and bones from the meat, shredding the chicken as you go.

Salad

  1. Mix the raisins, pine nuts, scallions, tarragon, parsley, chives, oil, vinegar and salt in a large bowl. Add the shredded chicken to the mixture. Toss well, so that the chicken is well-coated.
  2. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
  3. Serve at room temperature.
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