Sunday, April 11, 2010

Recipe: Chicken salad with tarragon, in two parts

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Part One

"I think I'll make chicken salad tonight," I said, thinking about the roasted chicken with smoked paprika left over from a dinner party a few days earlier. We were driving up toward Lancaster to see the California golden poppies in bloom, a spectacular display of orange hillsides in the otherwise barren high desert.

"Mmm, chicken salad," said Michael, eyes on the road, hands on the wheel.

"With tarragon?" said 11-year-old Emery from the back seat.

"Yes."

"Lots of tarragon?" he pressed. "Because I really like your chicken salad when it has lots and lots of tarragon."

Sigh. "Yes." In my head: Sorry, future wife. Feeding this one will be a challenge. Good thing he likes to cook.

"Tarragon chicken salad! Tarragon chicken salad!" sang the happy, bouncing tweenage boy in the back. And on we went to the poppy fields.

* * * * * * * *

Part Two

Roast chicken is a big part of my family's life. There's almost always some hanging around. After it's cooked and we've eaten our fill for that night, I pick the meat off the bones and put it in a plastic container in the refrigerator. Nothing goes to waste. The roasted bones and skin go into a pot with water for a rich, flavorful chicken stock. The meat goes into quesadillas, casseroles (like Mexican chilaquile casserole or chicken rice casserole), and this simple chicken salad.

I keep mine extremely plain because that's the way my family likes it, but feel free to dress yours up to suit your tastes. I would add celery if I were making it for myself, but it's one of my husband's great hates. If you use dried tarragon, know that the chicken salad will taste much better the second day.

Chicken salad with tarragon
  • 2 cups leftover roasted chicken, shredded or chopped (store-bought rotisserie chicken works well)
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, minced (optional)
  • 4 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp dried tarragon (or 2 Tbsp chopped fresh tarragon)
  • juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients well in a large mixing bowl. Refrigerate to let the flavors combine, at least 1/2 hour and up to two days.

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