Have you ever craved chicken salad without having any leftover roast chicken with which to make it? I have and rather than longing for it I usually decide to poach some chicken for the salad. I typically use bay leaves, peppercorns and a few whole pieces of the veggies in mirepoix to flavor the broth, but lately I've been thinking about which dishes might be good with tea. I recalled some lovely tea-poached chicken wings I'd had at a chain called Saint's Alp and the idea for tea poached chicken salad was born. To heighten the depth of the flavor profile I wanted to add toasted walnuts, which led to apples, which led to golden raisins, which (naturally) led to the addition of celery. This is essentially a tea-poached spin on Waldorf salad with chicken as the star. I enjoyed it alongside some homemade baked salt and pepper potato chips. If homemade chips aren't your thing I recommend kettle cooked chips alongside a sandwich piled high with this yummy salad!
And I have a hunch that tea might be the new gourmet flavor of the year. I certainly love its flavor in chocolate truffles--seriously, Earl Grey truffles are fabulous!
Tea Poached Chicken Salad
For the poached chicken:
3/4 lbs. organic skinless and boneless chicken breast
3 bags of black tea of choice (I used English Breakfast; I had it on hand)
2 cups water
1 whole clove (the sweet spice)
4 peppercorns, gently crushed
1/2 lemon sliced width wise
For the salad:
3 small celery heart stalks
1 honeycrisp apple, chopped finely and tossed in the juice of about 1/2 a lemon to avoid browning
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 large stalk outer celery stem, chopped into large-ish pieces
1/4 cup toasted walnuts*, minced
4 Tablespoons mayonnaise, homemade or store bought
1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a small pot, then remove from heat. Add tea bags and steep for 4 minutes. Remove teabags and set tea aside to cool.
2. While tea is cooling fit chicken snugly in a single layer in the bottom of a heavy-bottomed sauce pan. Cover with lemon slices and top with the tender celery stalks. Sprinkle pepper and clove around the edges of the chicken.
3. When the tea has cooled to room temperature add it to the pan with the chicken until it just covers the chicken. Bring tea and chicken to a boil, then mostly cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer for ten minutes.
4. When the chicken has been simmering for 10 minutes, remove pan from heat and allow the chicken to sit for another 15 - 20 minutes in the hot liquid.
5. Remove chicken from poaching liquid and pour liquid into a mixing bowl; try to avoid adding the solids from the poaching liquid, if possible.
6. Shred chicken between two dinner forks and add to mixing bowl with liquid. Allow this mixture to cool and the chicken to absorb more of the poaching liquid.
7. Squeeze the excess liquid off of the chicken before adding it to a larger mixing bowl. Add the salad ingredients and mix to incorporate. Serve on crusty bread.
I hope you enjoy this recipe and I welcome your feedback!
*To make toasted walnuts cook walnuts in a single layer on an ungreased cookie sheet in an oven preheated to 375 for 5 minutes, or until you start to smell walnuts in the house; remove promptly, because walnuts are easy to burn