I love a classic chicken salad so was really keen to try this when I spotted it online recently. And it is a particularly lovely salad but … the problem with chefy type recipes is, not that they’re difficult but that there’s a lot of steps to things, not to mention the washing up afterwards. So I didn’t use the food processor to make the mayonnaise as I couldn’t cope with washing everything, used a whisk instead and got a bit of an upper body work out for about ten minutes (if you had a mini processor that would be perfect but I didn’t have one of those at the time).
Two things in this recipe I haven’t attempted before; poaching chicken and making my own mayonnaise. The former worked out far better than I anticipated – the chicken flavourful and tender, leaving behind a lovely stock which I froze because I knew I’d find a use for it later (for some reason I could never get my head around chicken being anything other than golden and crispy. I’m over that now). The mayonnaise was easy (I won’t lie though, using the food processor would be easier) and it was really cool to see it turn from a vinaigrette into a thick, creamy sauce – but that’s science, you can’t beat it!
Taking all that out of the equation though, this salad was light, delicious and well worth the little bit of effort – the fresh herb mayonnaise, crisp green beans, warm tender chicken and crunchy toasted walnuts all competing with the sweet bite of red grapes.
4 cups chicken stock
500g skinless, boned chicken breasts
60g walnuts or pecans
250 green beans, topped, tailed and halved
200g seedless red grapes
1 small curly lettuce, washed and spun dry (or whatever greens you can find which are nice)
Crusty white bread rolls to serve
A big handful of basil leaves
2 egg yolks
2 x 20ml tblspns white wine vinegar
1/2 tspn Dijon mustard
150ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.
Bring stock to simmer over medium heat in a heavy based, large saucepan. Add whole chicken breasts and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and set aside with lid on for 20-25 minutes.
Roast nuts in oven for 5-7 minutes or until fragrant – chop roughly then set aside.
Remove chicken breasts from the poaching stock and shred or slice into bite sized pieces.
Blanch green beans in a pan of boiling water for a minute, drain in colander, then pour over cold water from the fridge to stop the cooking process. Rinse under cold water from the tap for 30 seconds.
Place lettuce in a large salad bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients then pour over the dressing to your liking (we ended up using all of it). Mix with salad servers (or your very clean hands if you’re game).
Rinse basil then squeeze dry and drain on paper towel. Chop finely.
Add egg yolks, vinegar, mustard and lemon juice into medium sized bowl and whisk until combined. Still whisking, add olive oil in thin stream and whisk until thickened and a creamy, pale yellow colour. This might take around ten minutes and if you aren’t keen, use your food processor as per the original recipe. Stir through basil until combined.
Serve salad with crusty bread.
. Allow the poaching stock to cool, then sieve into a container and freeze for future use. I used it for my quinoa, white bean and spinach soup recently and it was lovely.
. Make the basil mayonnaise a couple of hours in advance and keep in the fridge. Before use, remove from the fridge to return to room temperature and whisk briefly if needed (I haven’t done this but don’t imagine it would be a problem).
Adapted from: Gourmet Traveller