About twenty minutes from my house there is a bakery that makes decent bread. But in DC traffic some days it can be more like forty minutes, and it is definitely not worth the drive just for that. The chicken salad there, on the other hand, is a different story. Piled high on chewy chiabbata with a fluffy bed of watercress, it actually elevates that quality of the bread just by association. It is not unheard of for me to drive many miles out of my way just for that sandwich.
I do not normally seek out chicken salad, or really prefer it as my sandwich of choice, by on happenstance ordered it one day while perusing the bread menu at this bakery. It differs from most versions in that it is especially creamy, without tasting overwhelmingly of mayonnaise. It also has an intriguing undertone of dijon mustard that cuts through the richness with a soft acidity and tang. At first I didn’t realize there was a secret ingredient to this salad until I tried to recreate it at home.
Despite a generous amount of mayonnaise and several spoonfuls of mustard, I couldn’t quite get the consistency or flavor to duplicate the bakery version. After taking a long, hard glance around the fridge for possible additions, I stumbled on some plain yogurt hidden on a bottom shelf. Instantly I knew that this would thin out the consistency, add creaminess and also enhance the pleasant tang from the mustard. For more texture and flavor I also folded in some sliced grapes, roasted pecans and chopped celery. A few pinches of fresh tarragon, salt and pepper pulled everything together.
While this salad suits any type of bread just fine, it is also quite nice on a bed of greens with deliciously sweet summer melon sliced alongside.
1 whole chicken, roasted
1/2 C mayonnaise
1/2 C plain, whole milk yogurt
2 Tbsp dijon mustard
1/4 C roasted pecans, roughly chopped
1/2 C grapes, halved
1/4 C chopped celery
1 Tbsp fresh tarragon, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
juice from 1/2 of a lemon
When the chicken has cooled, remove the skin and take all of the meat off the bone. Chop the meat into a medium dice and add to a large mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.