Dinner Tonight: Potato, Chicken, Green Bean, Egg, and Avocado Salad in an Herb Mayonnaise

There was no hope for brevity in titling this recipe—a salad can be made a thousand ways, and rarely is one transcendent or ubiquitous enough to merit its own name. Cobb salad is one; salad Niçoise—the grandfather of composed salads—another. This recipe didn’t land far from either of those trees, an elegant take from Tamasin Day-Lewis’s Good Tempered Food. "Composed" salads, as opposed to the “simple” or tossed variety with lots of leaves (which is what I’m used to calling a salad) are composed of carefully chosen ingredients—usually what’s in season—and are arranged elegantly for everyone to dig in to the varying flavors, textures, and layers. There’s usually a protein around, which makes them filling enough for a low-key light dinner.

Homemade mayonnaise can be made quickly in a food processor, or with a little arm muscle, in a mixing bowl. And there’s really no reason not to make it from scratch while waiting for the beans to cook through (and do let them cook through—as Day-Lewis says, there’s no reason for beans to be al dente). You could vary the herbs: Parsley is good for an overall herby flavor, but use it as a launching pad by adding chives or basil. The sharpness of chives would help counteract the overall richness of egg yolk and avocado, while the basil is a bit sweeter and mellow. Either way, this is absolute comfort food, especially if the potatoes and eggs are just barely warm.

Dinner Tonight: Potato, Chicken, Green Bean, Egg, and Avocado Salad in an Herb Mayonnaise

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Ingredients

  • For the salad:
  • 2 handfuls green beans
  • 3/4 pound small red or tiny new potatoes
  • 1 avocado, peeled and sliced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup leftover chicken (or 1/2 pound chicken breast, oiled and broiled in the oven for 3 to 4 minutes per side), shredded with a fork
  • 1 cup mixed greens (optional)
  • For the mayonnaise
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • About one cup oil, half sunflower half olive
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup herbs, mostly parsley

Procedures

  1. 1

    Bring a stockpot and saucepan (or other egg-boiling pot) full of salty water to a boil. Add the potatoes, whole, and cook until nearing fork-tenderness. Add the green beans and cook until just soft and the potatoes are also soft, but not mushy. Shock the green beans under cold water to arrest the cooking.

  2. 2

    In the meantime, pierce the broad side of each egg with a pin to allow air to release, and lower them into boiling water very gently. Cook 12 minutes for barely-hard yolks, 15 for fully hard-boiled. If necessary, broil the chicken breast with a little salt and olive oil.

  3. 3

    While everything is cooking, make the mayonnaise. In a food processor or blender, add the yolk, lemon juice, salt, and 1/4 cup oil. Turn it on and add the rest of the oil in a thin stream, and blend in the herbs. Alternatively, whisk the non-oil ingredients (including herbs) with a couple tablespoons of sunflower oil to create a good emulsion, then add the rest of the oil very slowly, whisking briskly, until the oil is incorporated and the texture is right.

  4. 4

    Peel and slice the egg in half, then those into thirds. Cut the potatoes into reasonable chunks. Both the egg and potato should have just a hint of warmth. Put everything on top of the mixed greens, if using, into a large, shallow bowl or dish, pour the mayonnaise over, and toss gently. Finish with lots of black pepper.

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