2000s Recipes + Menus

Cilantro Almond Chicken Salad

Serves8 to 10
  • Active time:20 min
  • Start to finish:1 1/4 hr
Adapted from The Village TeaRoom, New Paltz, New York
July 2009
My new favorite chicken salad is from The Village Tea Room, in New Paltz, New York. Although you can make it with any cooked chicken (rotisserie, roast), for the cleanest-tasting, least-heat-producing version for your summertime kitchen, take a tip from chef-owner Agnes Devereux: Use chicken breasts and poach them. Devereux always goes for skin-on, bone-in breasts; the skin and bones impart more flavor to the meat, and the poaching liquid turns into a very useful broth for soups and sauces. For more about poaching and shredding chicken, see this helpful video.

Learn about the origins of this recipe in our series The Home Cook.

For poaching chicken

  • 4 large chicken breast halves (with skin and bone; 1 lb each)
  • 1/3 cup kosher salt
  • 1 small carrot
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1/2 celery rib
  • 4 parsley sprigs
  • 2 to 3 qt water

For dressing

  • 2 cups slivered blanched almonds (6 oz)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 to 1 fresh hot jalapeño, coarsely chopped, including seeds
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • 3 cups chopped cilantro
  • Accompaniments:

    mixed greens; roasted yellow, orange, or red bell peppers

Poach chicken:

  • Coat chicken with kosher salt in a large bowl. Let stand at room temperature, turning once or twice, 20 minutes.
  • Rinse salt from chicken. Put chicken in a large deep pot with vegetables, parsley, and just enough water to cover. Bring just to a boil, skimming froth. Immediately reduce heat and poach chicken at a bare simmer (water should tremble but not erupt in big bubbles), uncovered, 25 minutes (about 160°F on an instant-read thermometer). Remove pot from heat and let stand, uncovered, 20 minutes. Transfer chicken to a clean large bowl and cool. Reserve broth, letting it cool, uncovered, before chilling, covered.
  • When chicken is cool enough to handle, discard skin and bones and shred meat (you will have about 8 cups).

Make dressing wile chicken cools:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Roast almonds in a 4-sided sheet pan until golden and fragrantly toasty, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool.
  • With motor running, drop garlic into food processor and finely chop. Stop processor and add jalapeño, mayonnaise, sour cream, 1/2 cup lime juice, and 1 Tbsp kosher salt and blend until smooth. Add almonds and pulse until chopped. Add cilantro and pulse just to incorporate. Taste and season with additional salt and lime juice.
  • Combine chicken with dressing in a large bowl. Moisten chicken salad, if necessary, with a little reserved broth.
Cooks’ notes:
  • If the only chicken breasts you find are smaller, make sure to buy 4 lb and reduce the poaching time.
  • Chicken breasts will shred most easily and beautifully when freshly poached and cooled, so try to refrain from the temptation to cook and chill the breasts a day ahead before shredding.
  • Chicken salad keeps, chilled, 5 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.
  • Leftover broth keeps, chilled, 3 days, or frozen 3 months. It can be used in soups and sauces.
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