My husband teases me that I think the epitome of a summer lunch is chicken salad in a tomato cup served al fresco. This started when we took one of our first road trips to Savannah, GA and I ordered exactly that at an outdoor cafe on a perfect summer’s day. These days I’m hesitant to order chicken salad since it’s usually loaded with high fat mayonnaise (and rarely made with organic chicken).
This recipe solves the problem beautifully. Poached chicken (organic if you can!) is shredded and mixed with light mayo and just a teaspoon of olive oil for richness. You can certainly serve this as a sandwich, but if you’re looking to recreate buy Savannah lunch, get some fresh tomatoes, split them into quarters, leaving the very bottoms intact so they open like flower petals, and add a scoop of this salad to the middle. Place that on some butter lettuce leaves. Add a tall glass of iced tea or a chilled glass of rose and you have the perfect summer lunch indeed…
Healthier Classic Chicken Salad
adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper
2 teaspoons canola oil
1/3 cup light mayonnaise (Hellmann’s is the best)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
2 ribs celery finely chopped (optional – I’m not a fan of celery in my chicken salad)
2 scallions, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley or tarragon
1. Pat the chicken breasts dry and season lightly with salt and pepper. Heat a 12-inch nonstick skillet and the canola oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook on one side until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Turn chicken over and add 2/3 cup of water. Cover and reduce the heat to medium. Simmer another 6-8 minutes longer until cooked through. Remove from skillet and let cool slightly. Shred or chop as desired. (This can be done ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator.) A great tip I just learned is to run the slightly cooled chicken through your stand mixer with the beater attachment (e.g. Kitchen Aid) – it shreds the chicken for you perfectly!
2. In a large bowl whisk the mayonnaise, lemon juice, olive oil, celery seed, and 1/4 teaspoon each, salt & pepper, until smooth.
3. Stir in the chicken, celery, scallions, and parsley or tarragon until well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste and let sit at least 15 minutes until the flavors have blended.