Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Ultimate Chicken Salad

Chicken salad has been popular in America since colonial times. According to food historians, the first American version of chicken salad was served by Town Meats in Wakefield, Rhode Island, in 1863. The original owner, Liam Gray, combined leftover chicken with mayonnaise, tarragon, and grapes. It became so popular, that the meat market was converted to a delicatessen! Sadly, Town Meats closed a few years ago.

For an excellent and dressed up version of standard chicken salad, try Tyler Florence's recipe for "Chicken Salad and Cranberry Brie Toast." It is absolutely delicious! Tyler recommends poaching a whole chicken for this recipe, and I agree! Not only is the chicken moist and fall off the bone tender, but you get the bonus of having a very tasty chicken stock to use later. (Might come in handy with Thanksgiving almost here!) This chicken salad is fantastic on its own; but, with the addition of cranberry sauce, apple slices, and brie, it is outrageously good! I like it open-faced (as I saw him do on his show), with a piece of buttered sourdough, a tablespoon of cranberry sauce, apple slices, chicken salad, and brie, run under the broiler to slightly melt the cheese, and garnished with parsley. This recipe is for sandwiches, so do whatever you like.

Chicken Salad and Cranberry Brie Toast

Makes 4 sandwiches.

For the Poached Chicken
1, 2-3 pound whole chicken
1 gallon water
2 carrots, cut in 2" pieces
3 celery stalks, cut in 2" pieces
1 onion, halved
1 head of garlic, halved horizontally
2 turnips, halved
4 fresh thyme sprigs
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
10 peppercorns
3 bay leaves

For the Chicken Salad
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
Kosher salt
About 1 cup mayonnaise
1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 celery stalks, small diced
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups shredded chicken meat, roughly chopped
8 slices sourdough bread, cut 1/2" thick (or 4 if you make it open-faced)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup cranberry sauce
1/2 pound brie
1 green apple, thinly sliced

For the Poached Chicken
Put the chicken in a large stockpot and cover with 1 gallon of cool water. Add the vegetables and herbs and bring the pot up to a boil over medium-high heat. Skim well; then simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes, skimming frequently as the oil rises to the surface. When done, remove to a platter and set aside to cool. Strain the liquid and reserve it for use as chicken stock. Shred the chicken meat and discard the skin and bones.

For the Chicken Salad
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Roughly chop the walnuts and then gently toast in a dry skillet over medium heat until they brown and are slightly fragrant. Season walnuts with salt once they are finished toasting. Add the walnuts, mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, celery, parsley, olive oil, and salt and pepper, to taste, in a large mixing bowl and combine. Fold in the shredded chicken and set aside while you prepare the bread.

Toast the bread in a hot oven until golden. Smear each piece with a little butter and then a tablespoon of cranberry sauce over 4 pieces of bread. Lay the 4 cranberry-smeared pieces out on a sheet tray and top each piece with 2-3 slices of thick-cut brie. Pop this back in the oven for a minute or 2 so the cheese is slightly melted and creamy. Remove from the oven and top with a few slices of green apple. Top with a scoop of the chicken salad and cover with the other half of the bread to complete the sandwich and serve.

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