Citrus Chicken Salad

The past few weeks I’ve been working on Whidbey Island.  Afterward, I’ll ride my bike into town and have a snack at The Star Store, a fantastic grocery-deli-wine-clothing shop.  If you’ve ever been to the island, you know about Star.  It’s the shop for all things fun.  On a sunny afternoon, I head in for a snack.  They had a great paprika chicken salad that got me thinking it was time to revisit this dish.  Originally, I set out to make a Spanish-inspired recipe, which this sort-of is and sort-of isn’t.  The final product is more of a nod to all those along the Mediterranean.  It’s light, bright and tangy.  The Spanish-version may come soon.. stay tuned.

Foodie Note:  You can use Marcona Almonds, found in specialty shops and upscale grocery stores, instead of making your own. They are quite pricey (FYI).  Also, if it’s too hot to fire up the oven, use a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken.  These are saltier and fattier, so don’t add salt to the dressing until you’ve tasted the final product.


Serves Four

Ingredients:

2 chicken breasts, skinless/boneless, about 1 1/3 Lbs
1/2 cup blanched almonds
1/4 cup currents
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
salt/pepper

Orange-Sherry Dressing:

1 orange, juiced 
zest from 1/2 the orange
1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/2 shallot, finely chopped
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 375*F.  Prepare chicken: split breasts lengthwise (also called ‘butterflied’).  A butcher can do this for you.  Spread chicken open in greased baking dish, rub 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt/pepper into chicken (all sides).
2) Cover raw chicken with foil and bake in top third of oven for 15 minutes.  Uncover, flip chicken breasts, bake on same rack for another 15 minutes.  A thermometer should read 165*F; let rest in refrigerator while you make the almonds.
3) Prepare almonds:  In a non-stick pan, heat oil to low-medium and add almonds.  Cook about 7 minutes, stirring/tossing to brown.  Sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon kosher or sea salt.  Let cool on a plate.
4) Roughly chop almonds.
5) Mix dressing ingredients together.  Cut cooled chicken into small 1/2″ chunks, add to a large bowl.  Add almonds, currents, parsley and dressing.  Toss together.
If you want to make in advance, add almonds the day of serving so they are super crisp.   This salad marinates extremely well.  Don’t be afraid to make enough to last a few days.
Keywords: Chicken salad, orange sherry vinaigrette, Marcona Almonds, Star Store, Whidbey Island
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