Somehow I made it to my mid-20’s without ever assembling a chicken salad. But our (now regular) Sunday lunches, an increasingly busy schedule that has forced me to think ahead about our meals, and my growing boredom with my go-to chicken recipes sent me on a quest to find a delicious and easy chicken salad recipe.
Much as I love cozy winter cooking, I’m also ready for something fresh, crunchy, and light – something to remind me that spring may actually come someday.
When I was little, Mom would make a yummy tarragon-chicken salad for luncheons and baby showers, so I knew that tarragon needed to be a key ingredient in my recipe. Last week, when I set out on my quest to find a good recipe, I quickly realized that a lot of chicken salads (Martha Stewart, Pioneer Woman, Simply Recipes) were all quite similar, with only slight variations. Apparently chicken salad is not an exact science. So enjoy this recipe, but be brave. Play around with it and make it your own!
Tarragon Chicken Salad (with a Cayenne Kick)
2 lbs chicken breasts
3 tbl. pepper
1 tbl. salt
1/2 cup fresh tarragon, loosely packed or 1/4 cup dried tarragon flakes
6 stalks of celery
3/4 cup of sliced or chopped almonds
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 sour cream
1 tbl. lemon juice
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Preheat the oven to 375. Slice the onions. then layer them on the bottom of a 9 x 13″ baking pan. Blend the pepper and salt together into a small bowl. Butterfly and or cut the chicken pieces to ensure that the pieces are similar and bake evenly. Pat the chicken breasts dry and rub the pepper/salt mixture into each breast until the breasts are covered generously. Place the chicken breasts on top of the onion layer. Spread the tarragon evenly on top of the chicken. Bake for 30 minutes or until chicken is slightly over-done.
While the chicken bakes, chop the celery into fine small pieces. In a large measuring glass, mix the mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper. In a bowl, blend the celery, almonds, and cherries into the creamy mixture until the ingredients are well-mixed.
When the chicken is done, allow it to cool completely. Chop all of the ingredients of the pan (onions and chicken) into fine pieces (about 1/4 inch square). Blend the chopped chicken and onions into the creamy mixture in the bowl. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight before serving.
4 Tasty Variations to Try
#1 – Replace the cherries with tart, crisp chopped apples. I did this on the second try and can attest that the apples were equally delicious.
#2 – Replace the sour cream with Greek yogurt for a healthier option.
#3 – Instead of almonds, use chopped pecans or walnuts.
#4 – Replace the tarragon with rosemary for a deeper flavor.