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To kick up your chicken salad, turn to your spice rack

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To apply some modern tricks to old-school chicken salad, we turned to our spice rack. Most spices boast an impressive portfolio of phytonutrients—often the very same compounds that give them such potent flavour.

Mild, creamy chicken salad was an ideal canvas. First, we found we could replace two-thirds of the mayonnaise with low-fat yogurt (and use less dressing overall) and still deliver enough creamy tang to keep everyone happy. To spice up our dressing, we added turmeric and black pepper.

Long used as a medicinal spice in India, turmeric is associated with many health benefits. Black pepper—commonly paired with turmeric—may boost the potency of turmeric, especially in the presence of a little heart-healthy fat.

With our dressing ready, we poached chicken breasts to perfection by heating them just until the water reached 170 F, then removing the pot from the heat and letting the chicken cook through slowly and gently.

For add-ins, we opted for dried cherries and toasted walnuts to provide crunch. Instead of a whisper of herbs, we stirred in 1/3 cup of parsley leaves (herbs, like spices, contain concentrated nutrients), which added a pop of green colour and an herbal back note. Two cups of tender baby spinach provided a fresh finish to our updated chicken salad sandwiches.

TUMERIC CHICKEN SALAD SANDWICHES

Servings: 6

Start to finish: 1 hour

Salt and pepper

2 (4- to 6-ounce) organic boneless, skinless chicken breasts, no more than 1 inch thick, trimmed of all visible fat

1 teaspoon cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

Pinch ground cinnamon

1/4 cup organic plain low-fat yogurt

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 garlic clove, minced

1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped coarse

1/3 cup fresh parsley leaves

1/4 cup unsweetened dried tart cherries

1 shallot, minced

12 slices hearty 100% whole-grain sandwich bread

2 ounces (2 cups) baby spinach

Dissolve 1 tablespoon salt in 6 cups cold water in Dutch oven. Submerge chicken in water. Heat pot over medium heat until water registers 170 F. Turn off heat, cover pot, and let stand until chicken registers 165 F, 15 to 17 minutes. Transfer chicken to paper towel-lined rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate until cool, about 30 minutes.

Combine oil, turmeric, and cinnamon together in bowl and microwave until fragrant, about 30 seconds; let cool slightly. In large bowl, whisk oil mixture, yogurt, mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt together until smooth.

Pat cooled chicken dry with paper towels and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Add chicken, walnuts, parsley, cherries, and shallot to bowl with yogurt mixture, toss to combine, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide chicken salad evenly over 6 bread slices, then top with spinach. Top with remaining 6 bread slices. Serve.

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