Warm Chicken Salad

July 25, 2013

In Cooking from Every Angle, we hear from our fearless leaders: Food52 co-founders Amanda & Merrill.

Today: Merrill finds a way to make leftover roast chicken exciting.

Warm Chicken Salad from Food52

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There are few things more satisfying than a crisp-skinned roast chicken straight out of the oven, served with warm, salty pan juices. 

Since there are only two of us with adult-sized appetites in my house, we rarely manage to finish off even a small chicken at one sitting. Half of it invariably goes in the fridge, and I tell myself I'll figure out what to do with it tomorrow.

But then tomorrow comes, and the meat has cooled and tensed up, and the skin has become a rubbery shadow of its formerly crisp self. It makes me sad. It's nearly impossible to thoroughly rewarm a leg or a chunk of white meat without overcooking it, and you're never going to get that skin crispy again. Yes, the second night of roast chicken can be a real disappointment.

Some people love cold roast chicken (my father's idea of heaven is a cold chicken sandwich on white bread with butter), but I just can't get jazzed about it.


Years ago, my mother came up with an excellent solution to the leftover roast chicken problem, which I'd forgotten about until recently. On a pretty regular basis -- usually a day or two after we'd had roast chicken for dinner -- we would have what we called "warm chicken salad." You're probably picturing a standard chicken salad, with mayo and maybe some celery and red onion -- only warmer. This is not that, because that would be gross.

You start this chicken salad by making a dead simple vinaigrette: red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, olive oil, all whisked furiously together.

Perhaps you have some leftover boiled potatoes from your roast chicken dinner a few nights before. If you don't, boil a few until just tender and let them cool. Slice them into rounds.


Now comes the brilliant part. You heat some of the vinaigrette in a pan and warm the potatoes and bite-sized pieces of leftover chicken in the dressing, letting the oil crisp and brown both the chicken and the potatoes.

Crisping up chicken

To serve, spoon the warm chicken and potatoes over a bed of soft lettuces, which will wilt ever so slightly under the heat, with some more of the vinaigrette and a shower of chives. Never despair at the thought of leftover roast chicken again.

Warm Chicken Salad from Food52

Warm Chicken Salad by merrill

Serves 2

4 fingerling potatoes, scrubbed clean
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
3 cups red leaf or Bibb lettuce, cleaned and dried and torn into large bite-sized pieces
1 cup shredded leftover roast chicken (make the chunks as delicate or as rustic as you like)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photo by James Ransom

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I'm a native New Yorker, Le Cordon Bleu graduate, former food writer/editor turned entrepreneur, mother of two, and unapologetic lover of cheese.


Gristle &. August 7, 2013
We don't have a problem with leftover roast chicken here, but I most times poach turkey breast Sunday to use through the week, and this is a delicious dinner-use of it, instead of the almost exclusive lunch solutions we use it for.

Very delicious. We had it two nights in a row the first time I made it, and it's definitely gone straight into the weeknight rotation.
windysiprits July 30, 2013
This is brilliant. My go to for roast chicken leftovers is to make a Indian style curry, but it has lost its' charm. Dinner tonight, thank you!
Katie C. July 28, 2013
Do you think you could replace the chicken with leftover roast beef? My kids hate cold meat and I must say it doesn't really fry my burger either! Roast beef's a bit tricky to "shred" like chicken though...just thinly sliced instead?
taxidog July 28, 2013
Yum! I love to roast a chicken but the other two in the house won't touch it after that first meal. I can't wait to try this. Thanks for the tips Antonia...
JanetFL July 25, 2013
I use leftover roast chicken in this same type of salad but I've never thought of adding potatoes or warming the chicken and vinaigrette. Thanks for a great idea!
AntoniaJames July 25, 2013
Sounds like something similar to what I've done for years, but we more typically use the chicken in wraps. I make the vinaigrette the same night that I roast the chicken, making it in the pan with the remaining pan juices. In fact, I sit the roast chicken back in the pan, right after carving it for dinner on the first night, to collect more pan juices! I also store the chicken in a tempered (Pyrex) glass container, because the chicken gives off more juices overnight. I very briefly warm the chicken in the glass box to liquify the juices, which are added to the vinaigrette. This also makes the chicken easier to cut. The vinaigrette, by the way, is heavenly on a fried egg sitting on a piece of grilled artisan bread (ideally, my wild yeast sourdough). ;o)
Matilda L. August 7, 2013
That methodology sounds brilliant, AntoniaJames! I'll try that the next time I have roast chicken.