A couple of weekends ago, we hosted a garage sale with a couple of friends. We needed to plan a lunch that could be made in advance or be quick and simple. I ended up preparing crockpot pulled pork that, to be honest, was just ok. It did the job, especially when paired with barbecue sauce and the simple coleslaw from Whole Foods. The family-sized coleslaw came free with the purchase of a rotisserie chicken, which I bought so that I could make the second item on the menu that weekend: Cranberry-Walnut Chicken Salad.
Side tangent: it had been a long time since I purchased a rotisserie chicken. Whole Foods is out of the way for me, and the rotisserie chickens sold at my nearby grocery stores are either not humanely raised or they are too expensive. The ones at Whole Foods are inexpensive ($8, and as of right now, they are $6 on Sundays plus with a coupon that expires at the end of August, you can get a free family-sized side to go with it!), flavorful, humanely raised, and seasoned with ingredients that I recognize. I highly recommend them.
The chicken salad is the perfect cold, fresh-tasting meal at the end of a hot day. It's is full of flavor, slightly sweet from the cranberries, best when made in advance, and can be customized to fit whatever you have in your pantry and garden.
Use rotisserie chicken for a great depth of flavor, or just poach some chicken breasts if that's all that you have in hand. You can substitute pecans for walnuts or red onion for the shallot. You have the option to substitute a big range of vinegars, and choose essentially any herb that you have growing in your garden. I used a little of every herb in my garden: chives, thyme, basil, mint, parsley, dill, rosemary, and cilantro. The only thing you may not already have on hand are the dried cranberries and celery.
Cranberry-Walnut Chicken Salad
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes approximately 6 servings
- the meat from one whole rotisserie chicken, cut into 1/2 inch pieces; or, about 4 cups chopped cooked chicken
- 1 cup toasted, roughly chopped walnuts
- 1 cup diced celery (approx 2 ribs)
- 3-4 tablespoons finely chopped shallot (or substitute 2 tablespoons of finely chopped red onion plus 1 clove of garlic mashed into a paste and then combined with the mayonnaise)
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 2/3 to 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 3-5 tablespoons cider vinegar; or use champagne, white wine, or tarragon vinegar (start with 3 tablespoons and add more to taste)
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped herbs or herbs mixture ( fresh tarragon or herb or your choice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (potentially more, depending on how salty your chicken is)
- 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
Combine everything together in a large bowl. If you have time, let it sit for at least an hour before serving. This is best when made a day in advance so that the flavors can marry, though it's also good when eaten immediately. Serve with crackers or in a pita with lettuce. We were excited to enjoy lettuce from our garden!