Tarragon Chicken Salad
We are a house divided when it comes to chicken salad. Some of us could eat it every night, and one of us wants to have nothing to do with anything that is mixed together and called “salad,” unless that’s lettuce.
But for the chicken salad lovers in our crew, there is one that tops them all: Tarragon Chicken Salad. Don’t get me wrong, we’re all for a good curried chicken salad, or something with apples or pecans or even mandarin orange segments. When we’re down to the wire, though, and we just want a good, basic chicken salad, this is it.
I started making Tarragon Chicken Salad so many years ago with some inspiration from the Great Good Food cookbook, which was the lower-fat follow-up to the classic The Silver Palate Cookbook. It was all very ’90s, and GGF, along with the rest of the world, was all about low-fat everything. So I loved using their “Low-Fat Blend” – a puree of no-fat yogurt and no-fat cottage cheese – as the substitute binder for the famous Tarragon Chicken Salad that originated with The Silver Palate, full of fat in the form of crème fraiche and sour cream and mayonnaise.
Times have changed, and today we know (do we?) that fat isn’t all as bad as they said it was 25 years ago. I’ve fiddled with this recipe so much over the years, swapping sour cream and yogurt in and out, but never bringing myself to go all-in with the crème fraiche. I finally settled on mayonnaise, mostly because I go on and off Whole 30, and there’s no dairy allowed on that plan (see The Whole Story). Don’t worry, though, we’re not big on goopy chicken salads, so this is as dry as you can get while retaining the creamy lure of a good chicken salad.
Other additions I’ve made: red grapes, scallions, nuts that have been toasted. Everything is amped up just a little bit. And it’s so much better than what you can buy in the prepared section at the grocery. So use this recipe as your own inspiration and make your own tweaks. It could become your go-to chicken salad, too.
3 cups ¼-inch cubes grilled, roasted or poached chicken (I buy pre-grilled from the prepared section at the grocery store – makes this crazy easy)
¼ cup mayonnaise
½ cup diced celery
2 scallions, finely chopped
½ cup toasted, chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons minced tarragon
1 cup halved, red seedless grapes
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
Put the chicken into a large bowl. Add the mayonnaise, celery, scallions and walnuts, and toss to combine everything. Add the tarragon, grapes and salt and pepper, and toss gently. Taste for seasoning – you may want a little more salt and pepper depending on how seasoned your chicken was when you started.
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