Chicken, radicchio, pickled raisins, and walnuts is one of those rare combinations of ingredients that adds up to so much more than the sum of its parts. This salad has seen several incarnations, each attempt really just served as an excuse to consume big bowls of "crunchiness" for dinner each night after night. The first involved the often hard-to-find Deglet Noor dates, which I pitted, julienned, and used in place of the raisins in the recipe below (if you have access to good fresh dates, I highly recommend this!). I tried it with feta and without (on the notion that everything tastes better with feta). I tossed some almonds out and some walnuts in. Each time I’ve composed this delicious dish, I increased the amount of fresh herbs -- sprinklings turned into handfuls of torn mint, parsley, and cilantro, until eventually they were a substantial part of the composition, rather than mere background colors. —Michelle McKenzie
Test Kitchen Notes
WHO: Michelle McKenzie is a professional chef from San Francisco.
WHAT: A sweet and bitter salad for a brown bag lunch or a quick and satisfying weekday meal.
HOW: Make a simple vinaigrette out of Meyer lemon juice, shallots, and extra-virgin olive oil in a large bowl. Add the meat from two roasted chicken breasts, pulled into bite-sized pieces, radicchio, and generous handfuls of torn parsley, cilantro, and mint. Toss with lightly-roasted chopped walnuts and raisins, pickled in a honey vinegar mixture for garnish.
WHY WE LOVE IT: The pickled raisins in this salad are revelatory -- sour, plump, and sweet -- and even better when tossed with the juicy chicken, toasty walnuts, radicchio, and herbs. The only alteration we made was to add more lemon juice to this nearly-perfect salad. —The Editors
For the salad:
chicken breasts, preferably bone-in with skin
extra-virgin olive oil, divided
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
lemon, preferably Meyer
medium shallots, finely diced
small heads radicchio, Chioggia, or Treviso, thinly sliced
pickled raisins (see recipe below)
For the pickled raisins:
1 1/2 cups
fresh bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoons
In This Recipe
For the salad:
Preheat the oven to 425° F. Rub each chicken breast with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, or until golden brown and just cooked through. Remove chicken from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Pull the meat apart into large bite-sized pieces and set aside. (Note: Cooking time on chicken breasts will vary. If you are using bone-in breasts with skin, for instance, they will cook faster; start checking after 20 minutes.)
While the chicken cooks, spread walnuts on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and roast for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Roughly chop walnuts, toss with walnut oil and a pinch of sea salt, and set aside. (My husband refers to my method of tossing walnuts in walnut oil as "cheating," but never complains as he eats them straight out of the bowl on my chopping block -- they are so good!)
Add the zest and juice of the lemon to a large bowl. Add a pinch of salt, a pinch of freshly cracked pepper, and the diced shallot. Allow the shallot to marinate in the juice for 5 minutes. Add the remaining olive oil in a slow and steady stream while whisking constantly.
Add the chicken, walnuts, radicchio, raisins, herbs, and a large pinch of salt to the vinaigrette. Toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
For the pickled raisins:
Add all ingredients to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and allow the mixture to simmer until the liquid reduces by half, about 10 to 12 minutes. Let the mixture cool completely, then add the entire mixture to an airtight container. Refrigerate raisins in the pickling liquid for up to 3 days; strain before using.
Michelle McKenzie is the author of Dandelion & Quince: Exploring the Wide World of Unusual Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs. Her second cookbook, The Modern Larder, is due to arrive in fall 2018 and will introduce home-cooks to a raft of new, flavor-packed pantry staples - e.g. shiso, ndjua, Job's Tears, and dozens of others - and incorporate them into over 200 wholesome recipes.