June 24, 2012

Chicken Salad with Cherries


I love a good chicken salad- but a really good one- with high quality fresh chicken and a lot of other wonderful ingredients, including some fresh fruit.  I was recently inspired by the beautiful fresh cherries that are in stores right now, not only are they gorgeous, they are absolutely delicious, too!  I like chicken salad that has grapes, so I thought, why not cherries?!  The result is terrific- we took it to the beach for a picnic with some friends!

Chicken Salad with Cherries
1 cup chopped celery
25 cherries (red), pitted and cut into small pieces (a little less than 2 cups once chopped)
1/2 cup walnuts, roasted at 350 degrees for 12 minutes, then chopped
1 8 oz. can on water chestnuts, drained, rinsed, then chopped
1 3/4 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (roughly 3 halves)
1 cup mayonnaise (Duke's first choice, Hellman's second)
2 Tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 1/4 tsp curry powder
sea salt
freshly ground pepper

I made this in stages, leaving the chicken for last.  First, I got my cherries ready.  We have a cherry pitter, do you have one of these?  I think, although I am not 100% sure, that you can also use your cherry pitter to pit olives, although I would assume the olives have to be on the larger side.  Anyhow, this is one of those things that you register for for your wedding and then you are surprised at how much you actually use it!  I can still remember who got our cherry pitter for us and it's nice, you think about them when you use it, I really, really like that about registry gifts (or gifts in general), it's a sweet way to feel connected to your friends and family community.

Anyhow, go ahead and pit your cherries.  I will warn you, though, this will be a messy process.  They spray!  I would recommend wearing an apron or something black when you pit them, otherwise, I have no idea if cherry juice comes out of clothes easily...  Once they are pitted, cut them into small pieces.  Go ahead and chop the celery and water chestnuts as well.  Why roast the walnuts, you might ask?  It really improves the flavor.  You don't absolutely have to, but give it a try and you might agree the flavor is a little more lovely.

You may add all the ingredients together except the chicken, we'll need to prepare the chicken before we add it to the salad.  Once the other ingredients are combined, refrigerate them while you prepare the chicken.  I cut each chicken breast half into three pieces, but cut horizontally, like a deck of cards, instead of into three strips.  This gives you flatter pieces with more surface area, the purpose of which is to get more flavor onto the surface area.  Heat some olive oil in a pan on the stove over medium to medium high heat.  My stove probably is medium high heat even at the medium setting, it's just a crazy, crazy stove.  It's an old Viking and when the burners first light, it is seriously like a fireball- keep all loose hair and clothing away!  It's a little nerve wracking...  Anyhow, while the oil heats in the pan, put ample amounts of freshly cracked black pepper and sea salt on the chicken.  You really only have to do one side while they are waiting on the cutting board, you can then place them salt and peppered side down in the pan and then while in the pan complete the other side, neat huh?  You'll most likely need to cook them in 2-3 batches, depending on the size of your pan.  Cook them all the way through and you'll notice there is some very nice browning on the outside, this is what you want.  Add more olive oil as needed during the cooking of the batches.

Make sure your chicken is cooked thoroughly, if not and you don't want to put it back in the pan, just finish it in the microwave so it's safe.  Go ahead and chop the chicken into small pieces and incorporate into the salad.  Taste, and add salt and pepper as needed.  Also, if your curry powder is either kind of old or not too strong, adjust that as well.  If you're nervous about that flavor to begin with, start with a 1/2 tsp and work up to an amount that you like.

We LOVE this salad on either cranberry pecan bread, which is sold at most whole foods, and, if you are near a Le Pain Quotidien, their whole grain raisin bread is also a delicious option.  I am sure plain white bread would also be delicious and would really let the chicken salad shine.

Our lovely beach picnic this morning included my pimento cheese, served with celery sticks and club crackers, yum!  The pimento cheese recipe may be found in this post, link below:

http://ladolceduchessa.blogspot.com/2012/03/celebrate-spring-with-fruit-tea-and.html

Our cherry pitter is from Williams Sonoma:

http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/oxo-olive-and-cherry-pitter/?pkey=e%7Ccherry%2Bpitter%7C1%7Cbest%7C0%7C1%7C24%7C%7C1&cm_src=PRODUCTSEARCH||NoFacet-_-NoFacet-_-Top_Wide_Agrarian%20-%20copy-_- 

I can also not say enough good things about a sunscreen we started using recently, it's Kiss my Face sunscreen sun spray lotion, spf 30.  Here's my usual beef with sunscreens- some of them have the consistency of toothpaste and it's literally impossible to get them successfully on a squirmy toddler.  I don't particularly like the spray kind- I mean the aerosol cans, I don't like the smell and I feel like I am going to asphyxiate while I apply it.  This is a spray, but not an aerosol spray, and it's consistency is pretty liquid, so it spreads evenly.  Finally, and perhaps the most important, it dries and soaks into the skin pretty quickly, so your total time sunscreening is greatly reduced.  I am so over waiting for my sunscreen to dry!  Anyhow, we're really fair and we've been very happy with this sunscreen.  You can get it at whole foods or order it from drugstore.com:

http://www.drugstore.com/kiss-my-face-sunscreen-sun-spray-lotion-spf-30/qxp164734?catid=184136

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