A Simple (and Delicious) Tarragon-Dandelion Chicken Salad
The subtle licorice-like sweetness of tarragon and the earthy bitterness of dandelion add a level of savory sophistication to this otherwise rudimentary salad. It is herbaceous, bitter, and bright, with a creamy consistency punctuated by the crunch of toasted walnuts and chopped celery.
Which is to say, it’s really everything a chicken salad should be. (It's also an excellent use of leftover cooked chicken, and equally great when made from scratch.)
A Simple (and Delicious) Tarragon-Dandelion Chicken Salad:
1 cooked split chicken breast + full leg, shredded (about 8-12 oz meat)
2/3 cup walnuts
1 cup finely diced celery (about 2-3 stalks)
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 cup finely chopped dandelion leaves, tough stems removed
1/2 cup finely chopped tarragon leaves
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley leaves
zest of 1 lemon + juice of half a lemon
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 375° F.
- If making with leftovers, skip to step 3. If making from scratch, season the chicken generously with salt and pepper. Roast on a baking sheet lined with foil for 30-35 minutes for the breast, or until an instant-read thermometer registers at 155° F and the juices run clear; and 45-50 minutes for the leg, or until an instant-read thermometer registers at 165° F and the juices run clear. Let the chicken cool completely before shredding, at least 10 minutes.
- Scatter the walnuts on a baking sheet lined with foil. Season lightly with salt and a light drizzle of olive oil. Toss to coat evenly and roast in the oven for 5-7 minutes, tossing once or twice, until fragrant and just turning golden. Remove from the oven and let cool. They will continue to cook as they rest, so make sure to remove them just as they start to change color as they can start to burn very quickly.
- Shred the chicken into thin strips along the grain into a bowl, and finely chop the cooled walnuts.
- Add the walnuts, celery, mayonnaise, dandelion, herbs, lemon zest, juice, salt, and pepper into the bowl with the shredded chicken. Mix with a large spoon until well combined and all the elements are evenly distributed. Taste and adjust seasoning. You should have a uniform salad that is herby, nutty, crunchy, and creamy.
Makes 4-6 servings
Takes from scratch: 1 hour 20 minutes
Takes from leftovers: 30 minutes
Serve: Serve over a bed of crispy greens (such as little gems), dress with olive oil, lemon, and salt, and top with pickled onion.* Or serve as a sandwich on ciabatta (or any nice rustic bread of your choice).
Store: The salad will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days from when the chicken was cooked.
*Pickled onions are easy to make and a delightfully tangy condiment to have on hand to add to salads, sandwiches, and tacos. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine 1 cup apple cider or red wine vinegar with 2 teaspoons of sea salt and 2 teaspoons of sugar. Stir to dissolve the salt and sugar and remove from heat. Peel and thinly slice a large red onion and pack into a large jar or bowl. Pour the warm vinegar mixture over the onion, stir to combine, and let sit for 30 minutes. Store in a jar in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. For additional aromatic flavor, throw in a couple of whole peppercorns and a bay leaf.
Cally Robertson is a Los Angeles-based chef and artist whose only rule of thumb in the kitchen is to cook seasonally and with economy, the goal being to get the most pleasure and use out of available ingredients. She is the host of Cally's Cafe, a pre-COVID-19 supper club, and a quilter of scraps and recycled fabrics.