Chicken Grape Salad

When John and I first moved into our house here in Seattle, the backyard had essentially been abandoned for 2 months (with the exception of a visit from our realtor’s team of gardeners. That’s service– “I’ll call my gardeners.”) The grass was yellow and sharp, the vegetable patch overgrown with tomatillos, and there was this sad, droopy vine hanging off of the shed. John eagerly took on the yard work (me? I can’t grow anything well unless it’s mold) and has worked miracles.

As evidence of his miracle work– the following summer John came rushing into the house with a tiny bunch of little green beads. “We have a grapes!” That sad growth creeping along the shed was a grape vine! We eagerly ate the grapes only to spit them out since they were so heinously sour. But with each summer, the grape vine has gotten stronger and now looks like this:

Aren’t they pretty? This is how they were looking one fall day this past year when John came in with a giant bowl full of those purplish red little wonders and said, “Your challenge? Make something delicious with these.” Hey, I think that’s a fair tradeoff- you grow something beautiful in our garden; I’ll make something delicious.

The grapes were perfectly sweet- pop one in your mouth and it exploded with juice but with a lightly floral flavor and the slightest hint of acid. I ended up folding these into a chicken salad spiked with some toasted pecans and little slivers of tarragon and fresh arugula. The slight acidity of the grapes and the peppery spice of the arugula cut through the creamy, tangy dressing. The anise from the tarragon and the juice of the grapes brought a sweetness that paired perfectly with the nutty, buttery crunch of the pecan pieces. I stuffed this salad into sandwich rolls for a dinner one night, but used the leftovers in a simple scoop on butter leaf lettuce for lunch later in the week when the salad was even better after the flavors had a chance to meld together. The one thing I’d like to try when revisiting this salad in the future– roast bone-in chicken breasts for the meat instead of poaching the boneless, skinless ones I had available to me at the time. I think roasting would still allow for the same moist chicken meat that I had here, but it might be a tad more flavorful.

  • 2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (3 halves)
  • 2-3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups small seedless purple grapes (champagne grapes would probably work well)
  • 2 tbsp fresh tarragon, chiffonade
  • 1 cup arugula leaves, chiffonade
  • 3 tbsp pecan pieces, toasted
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • salt and pepper
  • butter leaf lettuce leaves or sandwich rolls

Set the chicken in a shallow pan and add enough chicken stock to cover them. Cover the pan and cook over medium low to medium heat– basically you’re looking for the liquid to be just below but not quite simmering. Poach for 15-20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from the stock and when cool enough to handle, cut or tear the meat into 1/2 inch thick chunks. Set in the fridge to chill thoroughly. (If roasting, slather some olive oil all over some skin on, bone in chicken breasts  and sprinkle with course salt and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees for about 20-30 minutes or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part without touching bone reads 160 degrees. Cool and remove skin and take the meat off the bone before cutting.)

Mix together the mayonnaise and yogurt. Fold in the chicken, arugula, pecan pieces, and grapes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Make sandwiches by stuffing the salad into lightly toasted baguette sandwich rolls or serve in 1/2 cup scoop size on a bed of crunchy lettuce.

CSA Count: 2

Arugula, butter leaf lettuce

Garden Count: 1

Grapes (don’t now what kind.)

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