the moveable feasts

Spanish-Style Chicken Salad with Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette

with 11 comments

spanish-style chicken sandwich with roasted red pepper vinaigrette

I wouldn’t judge you if you took a look at that big sloppy mess of reddish-looking chicken piled on top of a piece of bread and thought in your head that no, this is not one of those recipes that I will be making any time soon. Let’s both be honest and admit that it’s not the prettiest thing to be posted in the food blog world. And even if it were pretty, we have to face the fact of what it is: chicken salad. Chicken salad, fancied up a little bit with some sort of Spanish twist (however contrived).

But really, when was the last time you made chicken salad, let alone ate it? The only chicken salad I had been familiar with–however theoretically that familiarity is–is the classic mayo-based salad filled with halved grapes and candied pecans. Not the most enticing thing I think, at least to me. I used to think chicken salad was a meal that just wasn’t in my cards.

diced roasted red peppers

Cook’s Illustrated started to change my mind about that when they set out to develop a series of chicken salad recipes that weren’t weighed down by mayonnaise but were instead fresher and lighter, with bolder flavors. One variation of chicken salad they ended up developing featured a roasted red pepper vinaigrette base. This, along with the fact that I had a 16-ounce jar of roasted red bell peppers in my cupboards just waiting to be used, was enough for me to enter what I had once considered the forbidden land of chicken salad.

(As a side note, yes I did use pre-roasted, jarred red bell peppers in this recipe. Even though bell peppers are in the height of their season right now. I needn’t express my guilt as a self-proclaimed food-loving and food-trend-following person. Because, to be honest with you, the ease factor outweighs any sort of guilt I feel. If you want, you can of course roast your own bell peppers. Instructions can be found here.)

the components

So I made the chicken salad. And, lo and behold, I liked it. A lot. A lot of credit goes to the roasted red pepper vinaigrette itself—I have leftovers of it in a little jar in my fridge just waiting to be used on salads, or used as a dip for even more toast (still haven’t broken my toast habit). But I think I like it best with the chicken. Something about the acidity of the vinaigrette with the fattiness of the chicken. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs, which I think I prefer in the case of shredding it up to be eaten cold as a salad. But you may of course use white chicken breasts, if you’d like. Besides that, the other little goodies in the salad–more diced roasted red bell peppers, green olives, and sliced almonds–round out the chicken salad part of the meal. Because, after all, what would a cold chicken salad be without some token crunchy and tasty add-ins?

I am now somewhat pleased to say I might be a chicken-salad convert. I have dreams of packaging it up for a picnic where it’d be piled on top of bread and eaten in the sun. This of course is probably not ever going to happen, but you know, a girl can hope. Still, I consider it a win to be able to sit down for dinner and eat some cold chicken salad and for it to be actually pretty enjoyable. I’m even tempted to press my luck and try out some other chicken salad recipes. The Thai-style variation with a spicy peanut dressing offered by Cook’s Illustrated is particularly calling my name. If I ever get so bold to continue on and try that, I’ll let you know.

sprinkle with parsley and almonds
I ate it in a sandwich

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Spanish-Style Chicken Salad with Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette 
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
Serves 4 to 6

I poached the chicken for the salad, just because I thought it was the easiest way to ensure tender and juicy chicken. You may, of course, cook your chicken any way you’d like, though. Or just get a store-bought rotisserie chicken, as the original recipe suggests.

Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
5 ounces (about 200 grams) roasted red bell peppers, diced (about 2/3 cup)
1 big clove of garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs
1 shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
2 medium ribs celery, sliced very thin (about 1 cup)
5 ounces (200 grams) roasted red bell peppers, diced (about 2/3 cup)
1/2 cup chopped green olives
small handful of parsley leaves, chopped
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

First, make the vinaigrette. Puree oil, 2/3 cup roasted red bell peppers, garlic, salt and a few big pinches worth of fresh ground pepper in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a glass jar with a lid; set aside.

To prepare and cook the chicken, fill a deep 12-inch skillet with water until the water level reaches about 2/3 the way up in the pan. While you’re at it, throw in a good 1/2 teaspoon or so of salt in the water to flavor it. Bring water to a steady simmer over medium heat. Once simmering, carefully place the chicken in the liquid so that it’s fully submerged and allow to poach, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked through. This will depend on the cut and size of meat you have, but for chicken breasts this should take between 15 to 20 minutes, and around 12 or so minutes for chicken thighs. Remove from broth and set aside. Once cool enough to handle, shred the chicken meat into pieces about 2-inches long (discarding any fat or sinewy pieces if necessary). You should have about 5 cups of shredded chicken, more or less. Transfer to a bowl.

Add the shallot, celery, 2/3 cup of red bell pepper, green olives and parsley to the chicken; loosely stir to combine. Add about half the vinaigrette and toss to combine. Depending on how much chicken you have, you may want to add more or less vinaigrette. I’d just keep adding the vinaigrette in tablespoons until the chicken is dressed enough to your liking. Taste for salt and pepper. Sprinkle with almonds, and serve.

Written by Amy

September 19, 2012 at 10:39 pm

11 Responses

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  1. On the contrary Amy, I think I’m gonna make that for lunch this week. Look’s savory !


    September 22, 2012 at 7:54 am

  2. Gawd, this looks wonderful! so beautiful! :)


    September 22, 2012 at 9:02 am

  3. First, what do you mean it’s not photogenic? That last shot of the sandwich is begging me to take a big bite. Great colors and flavors in this chicken salad…soooo much better than grapes and pecans!

  4. I don’t think this looks boring – it looks and sounds delicious, simple, fresh and tasty. Yum.


    September 22, 2012 at 1:56 pm

  5. What an amazing salad!

    Savory Simple

    September 23, 2012 at 6:19 am

  6. Admittedly, I kind of have a weakness for good old-fashioned chicken salad if it’s done right (can’t actually remember the last time it was, though), but this variation on it sounds really good and looks pretty enough, if you ask me.


    September 23, 2012 at 3:54 pm

  7. Hey, I like that mayo based chicken salad with pecans and grapes! I love your writing. I can just imagine you saying the whole thing. And I love roasted red peppers so I’m going to try this too!

    Sheryl Mills

    September 23, 2012 at 7:12 pm

  8. Who wants to roast peppers anyway ;) Jars all the way! I’ve been using them for years.


    September 24, 2012 at 2:06 am

  9. Love the twists in this chicken salad recipe! And I actually think it looks quite pretty with the bold red and green. I have some leftover chicken in my fridge and this might just be the perfect solution!

    Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe

    September 26, 2012 at 11:57 am

  10. Agree with fritz, it looks deeelicious. I prefer dark meat myself… can already imagine how juicy and delicious the salad tastes. I will have to make this, REALLY (and I mean it!) and I will probably use jarred bell peppers as well.

    Beautiful photos too!

    Linda Xiao (@thetarttart)

    September 28, 2012 at 2:45 pm

  11. I’ve been making a lot of chicken stock recently, which leaves me with an entire boiled chicken that I can never decide what to do with. This chicken salad is the answer! Hooray!


    October 11, 2012 at 5:15 am

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