A Curious Chicken Salad

Anyone who has seen the 1970 movie “Five Easy Pieces” probably will recall the scene in which the character Bobby, played by then-unknown actor Jack Nicholson, wants to order just plain toast and the waitress says that it’s not on the menu.

Bobby then orders an omelet, plain, and a chicken salad sandwich on wheat toast, no mayonnaise, no butter, no lettuce. And a cup of coffee. After the waitress reaffirms his order and asks if there is anything else, Bobby then says all you have to do is hold the chicken, bring me the toast, give me a check for the chicken salad sandwich, and you haven’t broken any rules.

When the waitress asks if he wants her to hold the chicken, Bobby says yes, between your legs. It was a very humorous scene.

So, when I saw a recipe for chicken salad recently, you know where my mind went. The recipe for chicken salad comes from the Curious Plate in Mar Vista, Calif. It was printed in a story by Los Angeles Times food writer Noelle Carter. A reader had said it was the best chicken salad she’s ever eaten.

Here’s the recipe, which I hope to try soon, using one of the fabulous Hutterite chickens in my freezer.

The Curious Palate’s Chicken Salad
ROAST CHICKEN:
1 5- to 5½-pound roasting chicken
Salt
½ apple
½ lemon
A few sprigs thyme
1 garlic clove
2 bay leaves
5 black peppercorns
Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Season the chicken with 1 teaspoon salt, seasoning the inside and outside. Stuff the chicken with the apple, lemon, thyme, garlic, bay leaves and black peppercorns.
Truss the chicken and place it on a rack in a roasting pan. Roast the chicken until a thermometer inserted reaches 170 degrees, 1 to 1½ hours. Remove and set aside until cool enough to handle.
Peel the skin from the chicken and shred the meat. Cover and refrigerate until needed. The chicken can be made up to 2 days ahead.
AIOLI:
1 egg yolk
1 small clove garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¾ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup canola oil
In a food processor or blender, combine the yolk, garlic, black pepper, salt and lemon juice. With the motor running, drizzle in the oil to form the aioli. This makes about 1 cup aioli, more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe; the aioli will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 3 days.
PESTO:
½ cup chopped arugula
½ cup chopped basil
¼ cup toasted almonds
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
In a food processor, combine the arugula, basil, almonds and lemon juice. Pulse to puree the ingredients. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil to form the pesto. This makes about ½ cup pesto, more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe; the pesto will keep for up to 2 days, covered and refrigerated.
ASSEMBLY:
Shredded roast chicken meat
½ cup aioli, more if desired
¼ cup pesto, more if desired
¼ cup chopped roasted tomatoes
¼ cup chopped green onion
Salt and pepper, if desired
2 tablespoons sliced, roasted almonds
¼ cup dried cranberries
In a large bowl, toss the chicken meat with the aioli and pesto to coat. Stir in the tomatoes and green onion. Taste and adjust the aioli and pesto, and season to taste. Garnish the salad with the roasted almonds and cranberries before serving. This makes about 1½ quarts salad, which will keep for up to 2 days, covered and refrigerated.
Yield: Serves 8.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 307 calories, 37 grams protein, 5 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 15 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 118 milligrams cholesterol, 3 grams sugar, 508 milligrams sodium.

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