I love this salad. I used to make it at the gourmet bakery I worked at. It was just one of the dishes that the owner was famous for. But, in all truth, this dish is very simple.
I seem to gravitate towards simple, fresh recipes, where the true tastes of the ingredients flow through. What did I call it? Mom's Cooking with a flair?! Like a simple polenta infused with the flavor of lemon zest; a weeknight pasta dish with just a couple ingredients but heavier on the techniques that draw out the flavor of simple items like bread crumbs and capers (check out Lidia Bastianich's Lidia's Family Table for this one). Almost anything in Ina Gartner's fabulous cookbooks fit into this category for me, as well as many of Giada de LaurentiIs' Cookbooks.
And this salad. It is sumptuous on a bed of arugula leaves. You can add it to pasta. Stuff it into a pita. Or eat it cold from the fridge.
Tarragon-Orange Chicken Salad
4 Chicken breasts, thawed
1 C. mayonnaise, preferably of good quality (or homemade, like we used at the bakery----it takes it just one notch higher)
Fresh Tarragon----enough that when chopped it will equal about 1/4 C.
A fresh Orange, for the zest (I prefer organic for zest)
1/2 C. sliced or chopped almonds
1 T. Onion powder (or the real thing, finely chopped, if your kids will eat it)
salt & pepper to taste
Method: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the chicken breasts on parchment on a sheet-pan. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt, and fresh ground pepper. Roast in the oven until cooked through---begin checking at 12 minutes. Allow the cooked chicken to cool.
Meanwhile, strip the tarragon leaves from any tough stems and chop. Smell that aroma!
Once the chicken is cool, remove it from the parchment to a plate and discard the parchment. Sprinkle the sliced almonds onto the sheet-pan. Place them in the oven to toast----but watch carefully! They will be done in 5 minutes or so and they brown quickly! Allow to cool.
Chop the chicken into 1-inch dice. Place in a medium-sized bowl. Add the mayonnaise, the onion powder or fresh onions, chicken, tarragon and mix well. Add the almonds and the orange zest and stir just to combine. Check for flavors. Does it need salt? More zest? More tarragon? More mayo? You decide----that's the fun part of cooking! (Well, that and the gadgets)!
My children like this salad with black olives as they believe that anything tastes better with olives. I add them to the salad if I'm making it for pasta.