Appetizers, Dinner, Poultry, Snacks

Contessa Chicken Salad

It's a Miracle!

Did you eat Miracle Whip when you were a kid? Because I did. A lot. I vividly recall having a conversation with my doctor at one point about what kind of sandwiches I liked to eat. My cute response of Miracle Whip and Cheese on White Bread really didn’t seem to impress him very much. Whatever. If I was eating something other than Kraft Dinner, my mom was happy. I was beyond picky as a child. We’re talking plain pizza, plain cheeseburgers, no ketchup, and definitely not nasty mayonnaise.

I was actually such a strong defender of Miracle Whip that when I was in college I got into a heated argument with someone I didn’t even know while out sailing with my cousin and some of her friends. This person claimed that mayonnaise and Miracle Whip tasted exactly the same. I begged to differ. Loudly. In my defense I was most likely sleep deprived, dehydrated, and probably drinking at the time so let that be a lesson to you all. Don’t mess with Erin and her food when she’s in a bad mood.

Until a few years ago I still used Miracle Whip in chicken salad, much to the horror of many. But slowly I started to come around and now I’m a proper “grown-up” with proper mayonnaise in my fridge. So when Ina Garten ordered me to use “good mayonnaise” in her Contessa Chicken Salad, I managed not to let her down. I know in food blog land we’re always making sweeping claims that this dish or that bread is “the best thing ever.” I think we’re all pretty much immune to adjectives and “foodie speak” at this point, but at any rate I’m going to implore you to try this recipe. Just once. It’s really very very good and I can definitely see how they used to get away with selling it for the ridiculous amount of $20 a pound at the original Barefoot Contessa Store.

Contessa Chicken Salad (Originally published by Ina Garten)

2 split (1 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on (1 1/2 pounds) (Note: I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts. It’s all good!)
Good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup pecan halves
1/2 cup walnuts halves
1/2 cup good mayonnaise (Note: I used light mayo)
1/2 cup sour cream (Note: I used light sour cream)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves, divided
1 cup green grapes, cut in 1/2
Lettuce leaves, for serving
(Note: I gave in to temptation and bought some really good bakery made white bread. Mmm…white bread.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.Place the chicken breasts, skin side up, on a baking sheet and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Set aside until cool.

When the chicken is cool, remove meat from the bones and discard the skin and bones. Cut the chicken into a 3/4-inch dice.

Meanwhile, place the pecans and walnuts on a separate sheet pan and toast in the oven for 7 to 8 minutes until golden. Set aside to cool.

For the dressing, mix together the mayonnaise, sour cream, 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Fold in half the chopped tarragon leaves.

Place the diced chicken in a bowl, add the pecans, walnuts and grapes. Pour the dressing over the chicken and toss well. Sprinkle the remaining chopped tarragon leaves on top, and serve on a bed of lettuce leaves.