This is chicken salad for the mayonnaise-hating crowd — although even if you happen to think mayonnaise is perfectly delightful, this is a nice alternative. It's got crunch, color, and a tangy Dijon vinaigrette. Plus, it goes really well with some slices of bacon. Just sayin'.
I like to roast bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, and then shred the meat. It's easy, and the skin keeps the meat moist and flavorful. But if you've got some leftover meat from a roast chicken, some grilled chicken thighs, or any other chicken dish, this is a great way to use it up.
And, of course, no one says you have to make this into sandwiches. Serve it alone or over some lettuce if you'd like.
While I didn't grow up eating it, sometime during or right after college I fell in love with chicken salad. Chicken salad on whole-wheat bread with lettuce and tomato was a constant staple in my lunchtime routine. But the chicken salad I knew and loved was a version blended with thick mayonnaise, sliced almonds, celery, and raisins. Nothing else was even a consideration.
It's taken a while, but I'm glad I finally expanded my horizons on this front. Elizabeth's version of Italian chicken salad is light, with fresh, punchy flavors — from the vinaigrette and fresh parsley — that make it a lot more exciting. I also love the extra kick of crunch and saltiness from the bacon — perfect addition.
A simple red wine vinaigrette does a stand-up job of tying all the ingredients together into one cohesive salad. There's not a lot of it, but that's the point. It's meant just to lightly wet the ingredients and hold them together.
- Kelli, July 2015
Italian Chicken Salad
Makes 5 1/2 to 6 cups; serves 6
- For the chicken salad:
2 1/2 pounds
bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (2 large or 3 medium)
Freshly ground black pepper
diced celery (from 2 medium stalks)
thinly sliced roasted red pepper
slivered almonds, toasted
thinly sliced red onion (from 1/4 medium onion)
Handful chopped fresh parsley leaves
hearty Italian or peasant bread
- For the vinaigrette:
red wine vinegar
Freshly ground pepper
Make the chicken salad: Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 425°F. Place the chicken on a rimmed baking sheet. Rub some olive oil over the chicken and season all over with salt and pepper. Roast until the chicken is cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes. The skin does not need to brown; you just want the meat to cook through.
Set the chicken aside on the baking sheet until cool enough to handle. Shred the meat and discard the skin and bones. (You should have about 3 1/2 to 4 cups of shredded chicken.) Place in a large bowl, and drizzle the chicken with a bit of the juices from the pan just to keep it moist. Add the celery, red pepper, almonds, onion, and parsley.
Make the vinaigrette: Place the vinegar, sugar, mustard, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and whisk to combine. While whisking continuously, pour in the olive oil until combined. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the chicken salad and toss to coat.
Make the sandwiches: Place 6 slices of bread on a work surface. Divide the chicken salad over the bread and spread into an even layer. Top each sandwich with 2 slices of bacon, then close the sandwiches with the remaining bread slices.
Using precooked chicken: If you don't want to cook chicken breasts, substitute 3 1/2 to 4 cups shredded rotisserie chicken.
Storage: The chicken salad can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.