I once read some advice that suggested in your lifetime you should learn to cook at least one thing really well. You may not know this about me, but I have long been searching for recipes on which I can make my mark. Little twists or even big curve balls that can set my way of doing it apart, but beloved enough that it becomes “Jessalyn’s Famous [insert food here]” and is talked about in hushed, reverent tones at family get-togethers. The dish that never risks having leftovers because it is devoured in one sitting. The dish worthy of a spot in a community cookbook and that a generation or two after me will try to decipher from a worn, cooking-splattered index card containing the magical formula in my angular handwriting.
Well. At least I have goals, right? I do have a strawberry-rhubarb pie that is well on its way to becoming that famous dish. More on that once strawberries and rhubarb can be located at the farmer’s market in just a few short weeks.
In the meantime, chicken salad may be the dish I try to perfect this year–the chosen one. I know, I know, not particularly fancy, classy, or gourmet. But often it’s the simplest, freshest foods that make us feel the most comforted, especially when we share them with others. Luckily, this version turned out impressively well!
Jessalyn’s Chicken Salad, Version 1.0 – Roasted Garlic & Rosemary
Yum Factor: Alex – 9.2, Jessalyn – 8
Serves 2 hungry people
– 1 head of garlic
Gotta roast the garlic! Chop off the top of the garlic head so that the cloves are exposed. Drizzle over about 1 tablespoon olive oil. Place on double layer of aluminum foil. Drizzle a little more olive oil. Close up the foil tightly so you have a little packet. Roast in the oven at 425F for 30 minutes and then lower heat to 325F for another 30 minutes or so. Remove. Once it’s cool, invert the garlic head and squeeze out the now softened cloves. Discard skin. Mash lightly with a fork.
You’ll also want to bake or obtain some focaccia. I topped mine today with olive oil and a sprinkling of kosher salt.
Poach the chicken:
– 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
– chicken broth
1. Place the chicken in a small saucepot. Pour in enough chicken broth to just cover. Bring to a boil on high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and put the lid on. Simmer 10-12 minutes, depending on thickness of meat.
2. Remove chicken from broth and let cool slightly. Shred with two forks.
Prepare the dressing:
– about 1/3 cup mayonnaise
– 1 – 1.5 tablespoons Dijon mustard
– the roasted garlic cloves paste from earlier
– 1/2 rib celery, diced
– 1 green onion, chopped fine
– 1 spring rosemary, chopped
3. Mix the roasted garlic cloves into the mayonnaise and mustard. Add the celery, green onion, and rosemary. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
4. Assemble the salad by folding in the shredded chicken to coat with dressing. Season lightly with salt and pepper as needed.
A few cook’s notes: First, I’m so glad I added the rosemary. Its earthiness helped balance out the strength of the roasted garlic and also complements the chicken well. The roasted garlic flavor was subtle, but increased in strength (in a good way) if one bite contained a larger portion of clove that did not get completely mashed into the mayonnaise. If you love roasted garlic, you might consider roasting more than one head in order to let that flavor take over even more. Speaking of mayonnaise, in the future, I might study up with Julia Child and try to make my own mayo. Alex even suggested maybe an herbed mayo, which I think could definitely have positive results. The flavors in this recipe just made sense to me! Roasted garlic and chicken are brilliant (proof positive here); rosemary and garlic yum; rosemary and chicken – lovely; it just worked.
If you’re a chicken salad fan, I’d be delighted if you’d give this recipe a try and let me know what you think. No time to cook right now? Then answer me this: what do you consider an essential ingredient for that special flavor in a chicken salad? Curry? Green onion? Apples? Grapes? Tarragon? Ranch dressing? Do leave a comment. I’d love to learn about your favorite chicken salad memories to capture and incorporate into my next version.
I’m looking forward to round 2! Alex, I might be onto something here. Hope you’re ready to eat lots of chicken salad!