I’ve never really been a big fan of chicken salad. Mainly because it’s always loaded up on mayonnaise and has too many veggies, and grapes, and you know how I feel about savory and sweet combinations. I’ve never been a fan. So I was somewhat hesitant to try out this recipe, but as I was flipping through Amber Wilson’s gorgeous cookbook, For the Love of the South, I came across this recipe and the photo alone made me want to make it immediately. It’s the simplest of chicken salad, flavored with just a bit of salt and pepper, fresh herbs and what really makes it over the top, is the homemade mayonnaise. I love that this isn’t really served as a sandwich at all, but you can if you want to, rather it’s served on crostini to really hone in on that appetizer/snack feel to it. A little Creole mustard and a few cornichons round out everything so nicely in the park. The good news is that it’s super easy to make for yourself, but the bad news is that it’s super easy to make for yourself, and having this on hand in the fridge 24/7 seems a little crazy.
Let’s start by seasoning some chicken thighs very simply with salt and pepper on both sides. Then sear, skin side down, in a very hot cast iron skillet with a bit of sunflower oil. Once the skin is golden and crispy, flip the chicken over and transfer the skillet to a preheated 425 degree F oven to continue cooking for another 25 to 30 minutes.
**Note: We’re using bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs because they have the most flavor. Breasts dry out too quickly, so I like using thighs instead. I also like to use bone-in, skin-on because it keeps the chicken juicy and helps retain all that flavor.**
Meanwhile, let’s work on the mayonnaise for this chicken salad. We’re making it from scratch, which is what really takes this dish to the next level. In a small bowl, stir together the fresh lemon juice and white wine vinegar. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the egg yolk, salt, sugar, mustard, and 1 tablespoon of the vinegar-lemon mixture. Whisk for a few seconds until light and frothy.
**Tip: I’m using Creole mustard because that’s what I had on hand, and because I love the flavor, but feel free to use Dijon mustard or a whole-grain mustard instead!**
While the machine is running on medium, add half of the oil in a very low steady stream. You don’t want to rush this process or else the mayonnaise will separate and the oil will pool. Don’t rush it. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon of the vinegar-lemon juice mixture. Then add in the remaining oil in a slow steady stream once more. After the oil has been added, continue to beat for one minute longer, or until the mayo has thickened and is pale in color.
Transfer the mayo to a jar, or bowl, and cover tightly. Allow to chill in the fridge until ready to use.
**Tip: This can be made up to a week in advance. Just wrap it well in plastic wrap or with a tight fitting lid and store in the fridge for up to 1 week.**
Once the chicken has reached 165 degrees F, remove the skillet from the oven and transfer the chicken to a plate to cool. Then reheat the skillet, chicken drippings and all, over medium heat. Once hot, add the bread slices, in a single layer, and toast on both sides until golden brown and crispy.
**Tip: Toasting the bread in the chicken drippings gives it the most unbelievable flavor. You don’t want to skip this step because I guarantee you, it makes the entire dish. The bread soaks up all that flavor!**
Once the chicken has cooked, and cooled enough to handle, remove the skin and bones and discard. Then shred the chicken meat with your fingers, transferring to a bowl.
Add 1/2 cup of that chilled homemade mayo, fresh lemon juice, parsley and tarragon and stir until well combined. Season with a bit of salt and pepper.
At this point you can cover it with plastic wrap, or transfer to a jar and keep it in the fridge until ready to eat. It’s keep in the fridge for 3 days. It’s the perfect snack to keep on hand.
**Tip: If you do make this salad ahead of time, don’t toast the bread with the drippings and just toast it regularly right before you plan on serving it.**
I love the simplicity of this dish, because the chicken salad doesn’t have an obscene amount of ingredients. It doesn’t need them. The homemade mayo really takes it over the edge and brings out the most flavor out of the chicken.
Serve the salad with toasted bread slices, Creole or grainy mustard on the side, for slathering on the bread, some cornichons. They’re just pickled baby little pickles and the vinegary bite from the pickles compliments the richness of the salad so well.
This is a great recipe to keep on hand when you’re wanting a quick snack, or when you want a simple, yet delicious lunch or dinner. Just make the mayonnaise ahead of time and keep it in the fridge just waiting for your to make this salad. One batch of homemade mayo is good for about 3 times this recipe. It’s a good thing to keep in mind. Also, if you’re wanting more Southern recipes, please go check out Amber Wilson’s For the Love of the South!
- 4 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs
- Kosher salt
- Fresh cracked black pepper
- 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
- ½ cup Homemade Mayonnaise
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
- 1 baguette, sliced on a diagonal
- 3 tablespoon grainy Creole mustard
- ½ cup cornichons
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 egg yolk
- Pinch of kosher salt
- Pinch of sugar
- ½ teaspoon Creole, Dijon, or whole-grain mustard
- 1 cup sunflower oil
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Lightly season the chicken on both sides with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Coat a medium cast-iron skillet with the oil and set over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the chicken skin-side down, and panfry until the skin is golden and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Flip over and transfer the skillet to the oven. Roast until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees F, about 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate to cool. (Reserve the golden chicken drippings in the skillet for toasting the bread).
- Meanwhile, prepare the mayonnaise. In a small bowl, stir together the vinegar and lemon juice. In a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the egg yolk, salt, sugar, mustard and 1 tablespoon of the vinegar-lemon mixture. Whisk for a few seconds until the mixture is light and frothy.
- With the mixer on a medium speed, add the oil, in a slow steady stream, until you have added half of the oil. This is a very slow process, but you can't rush it. If you do, the mayo will break and the oil will end up pooling. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar-lemon mixture. Incorporate the rest of the oil in a slow, steady stream. Once all the oil has been added, whisk for another minute, or until the mayo is thick and pale in color. Cover with plastic, or transfer to a airtight container and store in the fridge for up to one week.
- Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and bones and discard. Then shred the chicken with your fingers and add it to a bowl. Stir in ½ cup chilled mayo, lemon juice, parsley and tarragon. Season with salt and pepper and cover with plastic wrap. Chill until ready to eat.
- Heat the cast iron skillet (where you cooked the chicken) over medium heat. Once hot, add the bread slices in a single layer. Toast on both sides until golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes. Serve the chicken salad, with the mustard, and cornichons. Enjoy!