To poach or to roast? That is the question when it comes to cooking chicken for chicken salad. Many would argue that roasting imparts a more concentrated flavor, but Anna Pump, author of this week's Cook the Book selection, Summer on a Plate, favors poaching. Not only is it simpler, it makes the meat moist and succulent.
Today's recipe is for a version of chicken salad made all the more vibrant and seasonal with the addition of fresh basil. Chopped celery and sliced grapes add sweetness and crunch, all while keeping the green theme.
A customer favorite at Loaves & Fishes, this recipe is easy to double for a crowd and would make a spectacular lunch paired with tomato-corn salad and bowls of chilled vichyssoise.
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- For the chicken
- 2 large whole chicken breasts (about 2 pounds), skin and bones removed
- 1/2 red onion, sliced paper thin
- 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
- 1 1/2 cups seedless green grapes, halved
- For the basil cream
- 1 clove garlic, sliced
- 1 1/2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves, rinsed and patted dry
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 small head red leaf lettuce, leaves separated, rinsed, and dried
Place the chicken breasts in a large saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the breasts. Drain and cool.
Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and place in a large bowl. Add the onion, celery, and grapes.
For the basil cream: combine the garlic, basil, and lemon juice in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Add the mayonnaise, salt, pepper, and sugar, and pulse a few times to blend. Pour over the chicken and mix well to coat all.
Distribute the lettuce among four serving plates. Top each with a scoop of the chicken in basil cream and serve.