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Tarragon Chicken Salad with Pecans and Figs

chicken salad sandwich

A couple weeks ago, I had a chicken salad sandwich at Oddfellows (my office) on Capitol Hill.  I ate lunch at 10:30.  That's a mom for you.  I had gotten up early and done a million things already, so it surely felt like lunchtime.  At the counter placing my order, none of the breakfast things fit the bill.  Across the menu board, in the Lunch column, I saw the chicken salad sandwich.  Perfect.  And it was. When it came, I shoved my laptop aside, tried not to scarf it, and enjoyed the big sunlit room and all the chatter around me.  Before motherhood, lunch by myself didn't feel as much like going to Disneyland.

Incidentally, Oddfellows has a rare combination of counter service (which I love) and incredible table service (water, coffee refills, general attentiveness) once you're seated.  I've never come across another place quite like it.  And they are so friendly, which isn't something I can say for lots of Capitol Hill establishments where I immediately feel like a frumpy Mom walking in, like someone's announcing, "THIS GIRL ISN'T AN ARTIST AND HER IDEA OF A GOOD TIME IS TO GO TO BED EARLY!"

Even though it was hot yesterday and we were supposed to be living it up at the beach, I puttered around the kitchen most the day while Yancey paid attention to the kids.  Our house stays surprisingly cool and the kitchen seemed much more inviting than the blazing hot deck.  It's good for my Thai chile plants, though. Bethany raised her eyebrows a little bit (in a kind way) when I told her I was growing chiles.  Not an amateur thing to do in the Pacific NW, but they are producing beautifully and I'll pick my first ones this week.  That feels like Disneyland, too.

For dinner, we had some of this salad with bread, crackers,fresh veggies, olives, fruit, bits and pieces from my puttering. Loretta had three helpings of a little cabbage slaw I made, stuffing big handfuls in her mouth and asking for more while she did it.  I don't know what got into her.  If that's not Disneyland for a mom, I don't know what is.

with crackers

Tarragon Chicken Salad with Pecans and Figs
This makes a rather large batch.  Once you taste it, you'll be glad.  Have I mentioned I'm feeding a firefighter? (hah!).  This is for him to eat all week.  You can sub hazelnuts or almonds for the pecans and use halved red grapes instead of dried figs or leave the fruit out all together.  I didn't use grapes because I wanted something sturdier, something I could pull out of the fridge 3 days from now and not worry about slimy grapes.  And the figs were really delicious in it.  You can eat this in sandwiches or or crackers or, my favorite, put on a scoop on a big old plate of greens and drizzle a little olive oil over the whole thing.

5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 shallot, finely minced
3/4 c. mayo (+ 1 Tb. of cream if you like to loosen it  a little)
salt and pepper
juice and zest from one lemon (or less to taste)
3/4 c. toasted pecans, finely chopped (put pecans on a baking sheet in a 350 oven for 8-9 minutes-watch carefully!  Remove when evenly browned all over.)
1/3 c. dried figs, finely chopped
1 bunch fresh tarragon, finely chopped (or less to taste)

To poach chicken, put a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Drop chicken breasts in, bring to a boil again, then simmer for 12-15 minutes until cooked through.  Drain in a colander and let cool.  After they've cooled, cube them.

Dump everything else in the bowl with the cubed chicken and gently mix.  Add more of anything to taste.

Reader Comments (17)

Any ideas for tarragon substitutions? I'm not a fan, too licorice-y for my taste buds.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterpds

Fresh rosemary, Italian parsley. Rosemary will be a lot stronger than the tarragon, so you definitely don't need as much. Or you could leave the herbs out all together...

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersarahmk

I was thinking a little lemon thyme or oregano might be nice. Wonderful recipe, never thought to use figs can't wait to test it out.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

Awesome. We have rosemary in spades here. Thanks!

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterpds

Side note: I just want to thank you again for this blog. I can't say that I've made every dish, or even a third of them. But I can say that my attitudes about food are shifting. The way I shop, the fresh foods I keep, the pantry items are all slowly shifting. I feel more adventurous (particularly in baking), more free to screw something up, and more apt to try something again because I know that it can be done.

My family thanks you for lemons and cakes and crostadas and hoisin and cilantro. These small changes have made a big impact in both health and flavor. Thank you muchly!

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterpds

Kudos to the spouse for giving you a day to putter sans kids! This looks sooo good. Where do you buy dried fruit? Dried figs and apricots (my fav) are expensive in my 'hood.

July 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBeth R&V

I buy dried figs and apricots at Trader Joe's--a 12 oz. little tub of dried mission black figs at TJ's is around $3.99. And they last me a long time. Sorry to rub it in if you don't have a Trader Joe's!

July 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersarahmk

Yeah! I am so happy to have been a part of this.

July 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersarahmk

It' s 10:42 am here and I really don't care to eat now lunch like this sandwich!!

July 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterpontch

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I was reading my new Sunset this morning and saw that your blog was mentioned in the August 2009 issue. I love Sunset, and am especially glad that they know a good thing when they see it. Congratulations!

July 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDeidra

Anything with figs is great..I can't wait to try!

July 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

Thanks, Deidra! Yes, I'm so happy about that shout-out from Sunset and am even happier you noticed :)

July 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersarah

i'm finally catching up (although i'm going to quickly fall behind again as my class takes precedence over EVERYTHING in my life) and noticed your 'eyebrow raising' comment. well, i take it ALL back! you must have known that it was going to be like a saharan summer. now that we have a green house, i have a cayenne pepper that i could go out and pick right now if i wanted to. what?! also, i am now embarrassed about the chicken salad i brought along on our camping trip. good grief. but, i do have tarragon growing in my garden (i could give you a start if you want) and chicken salad (new and improved) is now on my menu. :)

July 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbethany

Don't be ridiculous. Did you notice how voraciously I wolfed your chicken salad? I love your chicken salad. And I'd love a tarragon start. Like we've talked about before, all the starts I get from you go nuts. We are enjoying our raspberries.

July 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersarahmk

Thanks for the chicken-prep plug. I'll try it once it cools down --- the thought of spending any time over a stove/oven - esp. with boiling water (i.e. high humidity) repels me right now! I'm excited to try this! Will let you know how it goes. Ciao!

August 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

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