I’ve been talking about this salad for a few days now, taunting those of you who keep up with me on both blogs. World’s Best Chicken Salad, you may have scoffed. It’s chicken salad, and this one looks weird. How good could it be?
Well, let me tell you. It is, simply put, abso-fargin-lutely delicious. No way around that. It’s that good. The process might seem a bit involved, but it really is not that bad and can actually be put entirely together in less than 20 minutes if you’re impatient. If you take the long way and make sure the bacon is properly crisped, though, it is so worth it.
1 chicken breast
2-3 ribs of celery
dried Montmorency cherries
2 strips of bacon
Poach the chicken breast. When ready, chop into bite sized pieces.
While the chicken’s poaching, chop the bacon strips into small pieces; in a large, heavy bottomed skillet over low heat, render the fat out and crisp up. I usually do this way before I’m hungry (I start a few of my favorite recipes like this, including bacon fried rice), the smell making me hungrier as we go along. Once the bacon’s been on for quite a while and looks cooked through and crisp, drain it on paper towels to get rid of some fat and to really get those bacon bits crispy. (BTW, if you’re the kind of person who likes to plan ahead, you can totally do this part on a weekend, or while making another recipe that starts off this way, just store the bacon bits (after draining) in a jar in the fridge, automatic bacon bits always on hand to liven up salads or to use for whatever. Yumm…)
Dice the celery.
Mix everything together.
Voila. The World’s Best Chicken Salad. The smoky hints of the bacon echoing with the crunchy bites of almond, with the tart and sweet cherry popping in to say hi, against the creaminess (even though I didn’t use much mayo at all, just a slick to “wet” it a bit) of the mayo, with the chicken just a strong board to bounce all the flavors off. WOW. Say it with me: WOW.
A few notes:
I would have liked to use sliced almonds, but they were $5+ for 6 or 8 ounces at my local market, and not smoked. I always keep smoked almonds on hand, and I know I purchased my container for $3.50 for 12 or 16 ounces. The only way to slice them myself that I found online was to boil them, and that seems like not only would it change the texture, it certainly would have removed the smoked aspect of the almonds. As it was, the larger bites of almonds was fine since I kept the chicken slightly larger and it offset the almonds just fine.
The cherries are a new addition to my pantry: I went to Murray’s Cheese recently for a cheese class (post to come! stay tuned!) and discovered these tart little cherries, bursts of sweet yet tart in my mouth that paired deliciously with cheese. And wine. But they cost $5.99 for 6 ounces at Murray’s! When I happened to be at Trader Joe’s the next week, I saw they had two types of dried cherries, so I grabbed the ones that looked more like the ones I’d bought at Murray’s – the dried Montmorency cherries, which are darker than the Bing cherries. They taste almost exactly identical (I think any taste difference is completely in my head), and the Trader Joe’s ones were $3.49 for 8 ounces. Which would you buy? And yes, I used the cheaper ones in the salad and am reserving the more expensive ones for eating straight with cheese, hehe.
I think this is a perfect potluck salad – it’s a little fancy with its add-ins, yet simple enough to make and honestly, not that expensive. The almonds and cherries are probably the most expensive part of the recipe, with the bacon following, and then the chicken. Totally worth the price though – impress without going too crazy.
HAPPY EATING!!! and have a GREAT WEEKEND!!!