I’m not sure I’ve ever made the same chicken salad twice.
Too many variables. Chicken, of course, but poached or roasted or grilled or fried? Curry? Parsley? Cilantro? Tarragon? Heat? Something for crunch (celery, nuts, or fried noodles?). Something for sweet (grapes, raisins, craisins, berries, apples, or pears?). A little something to bind it all together (mayo, yogurt, sour cream, a combo?).
Thirty-two years removed from my high-school mathlete days, I’m still certain there’s a factorial joke in there somewhere. Chicken salad!
Anyhow, in between canning batches of blueberry jam last Thursday, I conducted a little refrigerator triage and found about a half pint of blackberries left from Monday’s CSA delivery. I’d been eating up the last handfuls from my own canes all week, so these from the co-op were looking a little weary – just a step or two away from syrup, really.
As I emptied the box into a bowl and sprinkled on a little sugar on to speed the process, I realized there weren’t enough of them to do much besides stir them into something else.
I set a couple chicken breasts to poach in a bath of water, white wine, and onions, and went down to the yard to grab some herbs. With the wine-y notes of the very ripe berries, I wanted something woodsy, so in addition to parsley, I snipped off a few sprigs of winter savory, thyme, and rosemary. A little of these pine-scented herbs goes a long way – especially when they’re fresh – so go light at first. You can always add more later.
Blackberry-Pecan Chicken Salad
Measurements here are approximate. I just eyeballed everything. Yield: 4 servings.
- 2 cups cooled, cooked chicken, pulled or cubed
- 1/8 cup celery, diced
- 1/8 onion, diced
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup Greek yogurt (I used 2%)
- a few springs of thyme, savory, and/or rosemary, finely chopped
- 10-14 ripe blackberries
- handful of pecan halves or pieces
- 2 tbsp sugar, divided
Lightly mash the berries and sprinkle in a tablespoon of the sugar. Let macerate for about 15 minutes. I prefer to leave some large berry chunks, but if you’d rather smash them fully, have at it.
In a non-stick skillet, over medium heat, toss the pecans with the remaining tablespoon of sugar. Stir frequently until the sugar melts and coats the nuts. While they’re still sticky, add a pinch of salt. Remove them to a flat surface (a sheet pan or parchment on the counter) to cool. Chop them into smaller pieces if you want.
Put the berries into a large mixing bowl. Whisk in the mayo, yogurt, and herbs. Add the chicken, celery, onions, and pecans. Toss to coat.
Serve over greens or on whole-grain toast.