Tarragon chicken salad makes me think of ladies lunching, sweet tea and Jackie O sunglasses. I can keep going: pink-and-green flowered Lilly Pulitzer dresses, white gloves, martinis before dinner. Maybe that’s because tarragon chicken salad has classic associations with leisure and privilege.
Or you might shy away from it, possibly considering the dish too stodgy for the Twenty-first century, but the truth is a classic tarragon chicken salad is plain luscious. Light, juicy, tangy and satisfying — it is a simple preparation packed with intense flavor and texture from the addition of crisp apples and celery. I’ve found it in a dive deli, on a cruise ship and on the golf course. Put it on a sandwich, roll it up in a tortilla, enjoy on a bed of lettuce, spoon on crackers or cucumber slices for appetizers — it doesn’t matter how you present it. Tarragon chicken salad is a classic for this reason: if prepared right, it tastes fantastic, no matter where you find it. And when you do, I’ll bet it’ll make you smile.
Classic Tarragon Chicken Salad Recipe
2 whole chicken breasts
32 oz chicken stock (Kitchen Basics is good)
3 stalks celery, halved and sliced
1/2 bunch scallions, trimmed of tops, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
1 Jazz or other tangy sweet apple, cored and diced
3 T fresh tarragon, leaves stripped from stems. Discard stems and mince leaves
1 T white wine vinegar
3 T mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste
Pour chicken stock into large skillet and add chicken breasts. If stock doesn’t cover them, add water. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cover. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink throughout. Let cool in broth until you can safely touch it without scalding yourself. Remove chicken to cutting board and dice into one inch pieces. Discard broth. Place in medium bowl and refrigerate covered at least one hour before proceeding.
Add celery, scallions, apple and tarragon to chicken. Mix gently.
In small bowl mix white vinegar and mayonnaise.
Add mayonnaise mixture to chicken and stir gently to coat salad. Salt and pepper to taste.
Serve immediately or chill until ready to use. Salad keeps well, refrigerated, for up to three days.
Lunchtime nibbles and savory treats call for sparkling wine, according to wine educator, Stephanie Davis. Whether it’s ladies or gents, warm or cool weather — it doesn’t matter. She recommends a pairing with Franciacorta from Italy. With a taste all its own, you’ll find it unique, fun and remarkably food friendly. It’s not Champagne, but neither is the price. Stephanie says this bottle pairs particularly well with smiles.
Contadi Castoldi Brut, Franciacorta, $22/bottle.
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Award-winning author Emily Kemme writes about human nature, illuminating the everyday in a way that highlights its brilliance. Follow her on her blog, Feeding the Famished, https://www.facebook.com/EmilyKemme, or on Twitter @EmFeedsYou . Life inspired. Vodka tempered.
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