This tarragon chicken salad with cranberries and hazelnuts, exploding with flavor and texture, easily kept my mind off the cupcakes and yeasted cakes I’ve temporarily sworn off. And it will yours too. I didn’t search for any recipe this time because I didn’t want to know if someone’s already done it. Sometimes, with the access we have online to practically everything, it can take a bit of the thrill out of thinking you’ve discovered something for yourself. Now I know tarragon chicken salad is nothing new. And I know somebody out there has put cranberries or hazelnuts with chicken. Maybe they even used an orange vinaigrette to dress it. And yes, once I publish this post I might very well google it… but until then I’m enjoying having put this together myself.
I can’t encourage you enough to try now and again cooking without recipes. It’s like driving without a GPS. We become so reliant on something outside of ourselves. When we can’t find the favorite cookbook or the transmitter is malfunctioning, we become paralyzed. We have to relish the ability to think for ourselves and navigate through the kitchen and on the road. Use your imagination… feel the thrill and anxiety of being lost for a minute and the satisfaction when you find your way on your own. Practice.
Granted there have been times where a GPS has really saved my ass, as has a recipe (or two or three for cross referencing). And baking is a whole other ballgame. All I’m saying… is just be a panster once in a while. See poll below.
But for now here is something to work from…
Print - Tarragon Chicken Salad with Cranberries - Please note this serves 6. Three of us had it for dinner one night and lunch the next day.
I’m starting off with a couple of graphic chicken photos. If you don’t like to think about how your skinless, boneless chicken breasts got that way, please scroll past the first couple photos :-/
Enter one raw German chicken. (not so scary right?)
You probably already know you will get much more bang for your buck buying a whole chicken and cutting it up yourself. I prefer to do this and freeze the hind quarters if I have room. But often, I can’t be bothered and buy prepped parts. Cut the leg quarters off by cutting the contours of the skin on the thigh then removing the entire corner at the joints. Then for the breasts, just stay close to the breast bone to take off each side. A sharp knife is essential.
Sorry if this is TMI… but here’s the other side.
I don’t always have the time, but today I took the carcass and did a quick stock- 1 l (4qt) water, 1/2 onion, 1 carrot, celery fronds, garlic clove, bay leaf and peppercorns. Just brought all the above to a light boil, then simmered for an hour, then let it sit. Used it last night for cooking basmati rice and ate it with the leg quarters.
I also bought 2 extra breasts. My freezer space is so very limited. I left the skin on because I do believe it gives it more flavor. A little olive oil, garlic, lemon, tarragon, salt and pepper and bake covered in foil at 400F/200C for about 35-40.
Remove from the oven and let it rest till cool. This chicken is so juicy it will require you to eat a bite or two pronto. Should I tell you now how much I love chicken skin? Please don’t hate me. Let’s just say you don’t need the skin in the salad. So do with it as you please.
While the chicken is cooking, prep your red pepper, celery, red onion and fennel. Roast the hazelnuts and chop fine-medium. I chop up the cranberries a bit too and mix them with the nuts so they don’t stick together.
Prepare the orange vinaigrette… I used fresh orange, lemon, olive oil, white balsamic and some of the juices from the chicken.
I chopped up about 8 hardy sprigs of fresh tarragon which yielded about 3T. But I add this at the very end. Leaves are just picked here.
I let my chicken cool, covered on the counter for about an hour and a half or two. I chose to shred it but sometimes I cut in into cubes. Put chicken, veggies, hazelnuts and cranberries all together and mix. Then pour on the vinaigrette and mix. Add the tarragon at the end and mix thoroghly.
I also made our first asparagus of the season and we’ve got beautiful new radishes at the market.
I still give these guys a little trim down south… (ok-now that we are becoming friends, you should know – I do have a raunchy sense of humor- grew up with one jazz musician and married another… what can i say?
First I cut the tough ends off- which you don’t have when eating fresh from the ground. One day again, I’ll be picking them from my own garden.
Hold the asparagus with the tip pointing towards you…
And gently move the peeler away from you…One of my prouder moments of holding the camera and pushing button with my left hand… Tripod is in my very near future. I just did about half of the stalk for tenderness and that little ‘hello I took a some extra care’. I didn’t take off every nodule within an inch of the top like we did in cooking school or you might see at a starred restaurant.
I tie the asparagus up in small bunches and blanch in boiling salted water. Once cooked, I gave them a cold water bath and only squeezed lemon on them. When you are looking for something a little different, check out this recipe from Rufus’Food and Spirits with mint and chili.
I plated the chicken salad on a bed of fresh watercress, corn salad (mache) and arugula and served it with the fresh asparagus, avocado and radishes. The sweet top little sprigs is cress that is sold in little 4 inch moist brown boxes in the supermarket.
Then added ‘guess here‘ after forgetting it in the first pics Don’t be distracted by that little piece of red pepper that chose to migrate as I clicked.
Enjoy healthy eating!
I would like to thank Simone at Simple Healthy Homemade for nominating me again for the Versatile Blogger Award. I’m getting there with a proper post for the next set of blogs to pass on to. Thank you!
And take a peak at the poll below with clips I took from writing.com.