To have good chicken salad, you need to start with tasty chicken. In my humble opinion, that means roasting the chicken not poaching it. I don’t care how silky the texture might be when you’ve brought no flavor to the party.
To start the process, I keep an eye out for the sales on chicken breasts and look for those with the rib bones and skin. At a local grocery store, I found some for .99 cents a pound.
I brought them home and put them in a marinade. As I needed to use up some lemons that were starting to look funky, I juiced those and then tossed in some garlic, rosemary and olive oil. They need to marinade for at least an hour but they can be left in it for eight to twelve hours.
I roasted the breasts after balancing them on fingerling potatoes on baking sheets. This serves to cook the potatoes and keep the bottom of the chicken from getting soggy. For this preparation, I started the oven at 500 degrees F to help crisp the skin. After putting the chicken in, I immediately dropped the temperature to 325 degrees F. After 30 minutes, I switched the pans to even out cooking and then rotated them after another 30. Depending on the size of the chicken parts (and if they have bones), they should be getting close to done at 90 minutes. Baste the chicken every time you open the open door and pull them out when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. These were very big breasts, so they took two hours.
Enjoy a breast or two for dinner with the potatoes and allow the rest to cool completely. Strip off the skin and pick the meat from the bones. At this stage, I do a rough chop and put two cup measures into sealable freezer bags for storage.
For the chicken salad:
2 cup cooked chicken breast, chopped
2 stalks celery, diced
1 sweet pickle, finely chopped or 1 tablespoon of sweet pickle relish
1/4 cup pecans, chopped
1/4 cup mayonaise
salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients together in a medium sized bowl.