Sonoma chicken salad

Sonoma chicken salad by the james kitchen
Sonoma chicken salad, a photo by the james kitchen on Flickr.

 

And what to do with all the chicken leftovers? If you haven’t got any, you might want to cook an extra chicken (or grill some breasts) just for this chicken salad. I do not know anything about the origin of the name, several other recipes by this moniker use grapes which is quite logic since Sonoma is of course the beautiful wine country in California. Anyway, we used to buy the salad at Trader Joe’s (Whole Foods has a different version though for me the honey is a bit much) when we used to live in the Bay Area and the name stuck.

Sweet cranberries and pecans add a taste of the States, savoury celery brings crunch and the admittedly rich but tart & fruity dressing unites all of these flavours. Great with a few raw vegetables on the side to pick at, it unfolds its potential as prime picnic fare. Especially, when served with soft, dark malted bread and all the California sights at your doorstep to choose for lovely picnic spots (not that I ever took food into the big National Parks, the idea of wild bears ripping the roof of the car like the lid of a tin of sardines freaked me out quite a bit…).

Since we are about 5681.515 miles away right now we had to come up with our own recipe for this salad to transport us back to the balmy weather (Sunnyvale, says it all, I think), the toasted-wood smell of Redwood trees & the crescendo of strong waves crashing onto the beach at Half Moon Bay and our favourite, less crowded spot at Montara. As I said, this is great picnic fare and if you are in the area, here are a few suggestions for hikes & great scenic drives.

If you are further away (something like 5681.515 miles but who is counting), pack your hamper, crank up the underfloor heating and unfold your blanket. That this salad goes very well with a lovely white wine from Sonoma goes without saying.

 

Sonoma chicken salad
serves 6
The measurements are a little on the vague side here since most of the ingredients are to your own preferences and it is best to find your own mix: if you prefer pecans to cranberries, add more of those and fewer of these. My advice is though to go for roughly the same quantities with a little more chicken and celery.

Cold leftover chicken or cold grilled chicken breasts (around 450g or 1 lb)
2 handfuls dried cranberries, unsweetened
pineapple juice
3-4 celery ribs, diced
2-3 handfuls whole pecans
½ cup (ca. 120ml) mayonnaise (add less or more to taste or substitute a part by sour cream or yoghurt, if you want to make it a little less rich)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
salt & pepper

Macerate the cranberries in pineapple juice for about 20 to 30 minutes until they have plumped up a little. Keep the juice for the dressing. Pick over the carcass of your leftover chicken or chop the grilled breasts into bite-sized pieces. Add them to a bowl along with the cranberries, celery and pecans. Make the dressing by combining mayonnaise, cider vinegar (see if you need a little less or more depending on the kind of mayonnaise you are using, the sauce should have a tart apple-y taste), some of the reserved pineapple juice, poppy seeds and season with salt & pepper. You want to have quite a runny dressing for the chicken and other ingredients will suck up quite a lot of liquid while the salad rests. Mix with the chicken & co. and let the salad rest for about 1 to 2 hours for the flavours to meld & mingle. Adjust the seasoning and add some more pineapple juice if necessary. There is of course a lot of tasting required while the salad rests, naturally.

 

Auf deutsch: Sonoma Hühnchensalat
für 6 Personen, lecker für ein Picknick im Freien oder auch im Wohnzimmer.
Die Mengen der Zutaten variieren, man kann die Mischung nach eigenem Geschmack gestalten, so z.B. wenn man lieber Pekannüsse als Cranberries mag, nimmt man davon mehr und vom anderen weniger. Ich versuche ungefähr nach Augenmaß gleiche Mengen zu nehmen, aber ein wenig mehr Huhn und Bleichsellerie hinzuzugeben.

Kaltes Hühnchen oder gegrillte Hühnchenbrust (ca. 450g)
2 Handvoll getrocknete Cranberries, ungesüßt wenn möglich
Ananassaft
3-4 Stangen Bleichsellerie, in Würfel geschnitten
2-3 Handvoll ganze Pekannüsse
½ Tasse (120ml) gute Mayonnaise (weniger oder mehr nach Geschmack, man kann auch einen Teil durch saure Sahne oder Yoghurt ersetzen um das Dressing etwas weniger reichhaltig zu machen, ich würde keine light-Produkte verwenden)
1 EL Apfelessig
2 EL Mohnsamen
Salz & Pfeffer

Die getrockneten Cranberries für ca. 20 bis 30 Minuten in Ananassaft einweichen, den Saft aufbewahren. Hühnerfleisch von der Karkasse ablösen falls Sie etwas vom Brathähnchen oder Suppenhuhn übrighaben oder die gegrillte Hünchenbrust in mundgerechte Stückchen schneiden und zusammen mit dem Bleichsellerie, den Cranberries und den Pekannüssen in eine Schüssel geben. Aus der Mayonnaise, dem Essig (mehr oder weniger Essig hinzugeben je nachdem was für eine Mayonnaise verwendet wird, das Dressing sollte schon etwas Apfelgeschmack und Säure haben), etwas von dem Ananassaft, dem Mohn sowie Salz & Pfeffer eine relativ flüssige Salatsauce herstellen, da die Zutaten einige Flüssigkeit aufsaugen werden. Die Sauce mit Huhn & Co. mischen und für ca. 1-2 Stunden ruhen lassen, damit sich die verschiedenen Geschmäcker miteinander verbinden können. Dann abschmecken und wenn erforderlich noch etwas mehr Ananassaft hinzugeben. Natürlich ist es absolut notwendig, daß der Salat während der Ruhezeit regelmäßig probiert wird – dies nur falls Sie jemand fragt.

 

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