Blast from the Past: Chicken Tarragon Salad


If I could only keep a handful of cookbooks, "The Silver Palate Cookbook" and "The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook" would be among them.

With some embarrassment, I remember visiting my youngest sister at her home in New York many years ago where I took the subway and a couple of buses for the journey to the actual Silver Palate, pictured so charmingly on the cover of the Silver Palate Cookbook.

In my California enthusiasm I told the man behind the Silver Palate counter how excited I was to be there, that I had both cookbooks, and how I loved so many of the recipes, especially the Tarragon Chicken and the Challah and ...

"Yeah," he said. "What do you want?"

Oh. Kaaaay. I bought a couple of the famous Lemon Bars and split.

I've had both books for nearly 30 years, and the love is showing. The bindings are split. And some of the more popular pages are stained and splattered.

In fact, to find my favorite recipes, I need only hold the books open and the pages  magically flip to dishes like Tarragon Chicken, which is exactly what I wanted to share with you today.

I'll print the recipe, below, but today, I'm using it as a guide. Normally, the recipe starts with raw chicken and ends with a Tarragon Chicken mixture ready for a bed of lettuce leaves, or for a filling between croissant halves or stuffed in a pita envelope.

But I discovered about 15 years into making the Tarragon Chicken that the recipe worked nearly as well with cut-up, already-cooked chicken, skipping all that fuss with creme fraiche (you're welcome).

For an added convenience, buy a cooked rotisserie chicken, found at nearly every grocery store.

But have you noticed some of the prices of these chickens? When they climb into the $8, $9 and $10 range, I have a hard time justifying buying them. After all, it's possible to buy a whole chicken and roast one at home.

Thursdays at Tops changes everything. Every Thursday - just Thursday - Tops Market in Redding and Weaverville offer two roasted whole chickens for $10 ... yes, $5 each.

If I buy two chickens, I can have one to serve for a dinner, and use the other for recipes, whether it's for tacos or salads or soups or, as we're doing today, saving some for Tarragon Chicken.

But the two-for-$10 chickens are a weekly special. I notice in this week's ads Tops Market Hot Grocery Specials includes IGA flour and IGA sugar, two for $4, and Challenge Butter two for $6. These are baking staples, which you'll need for holiday desserts and breads.

Finally, there's still time to order your Diestel all-natural, locally raised turkey from Tops Market, or the ready-made, deli-prepared complete Thanksgiving dinners by calling the Tops Market Weaverville store at 530-623-2494 and Redding 530- 241-1391.

But for now, I'm turning my attention to Tarragon Chicken. I think you'll like it. It's a keeper.

Tarragon Chicken Salad

Boneless whole chicken breasts, about 3 pounds
1 cup Creme Fraiche or heavy cream (or sour cream thinned with a little milk)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch-long pencil strips
1/2 cup shelled walnuts
1 tablespoon crumbled dried tarragon
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Arrange chicken breast in a single layer in a large jelly-roll pan. Spread evenly with creme fraiche and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until done to your taste. Remove from oven and cool.

Shred meat into bite-sized pieces and transfer to a bowl.

Whisk sour cream and mayonnaise together in a small bowl and pour over chicken mixture.

Add celery, walnuts, tarragon, salt and pepper to taste and toss well.

Refrigerate, covered, for at least 4 hours. Taste and correct seasonings before serving.

4 to 6 servings.

From The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Shelila Lukins

This recipe sponsored by Tops Market in Weaverville and Redding.

Click here to receive weekly emailed Tops Market ad specials.

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Click here to order a sandwich online from the Redding Tops Market.

Click here to order a sandwich online from the Weaverville Tops Market.
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.


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4 Responses »

  1. I always thought that looked like a great recipe, but - baking the chicken in creme fraiche? Messy and kind of dumb, I thought. This sounds great!

    And yeah - my Silver Palate New Basics Cookbook is falling apart badly too.

  2. My Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook is a sticky, greasy mess and I wouldn't part with it for anything. I tend to cook much lighter than I used to , though, so these days I'll use the book more for inspiration and to generate ideas.

    As for the chicken - I've cooked it in heavy cream for chicken salad and it really adds a richness to the dish. Low or non-fat yogurt is a nice substitute.

  3. I have two dog eared ,stained copies of these. I cant say I use them much any more, but I still love the. Pretty much sounds like a New York Deli reply Doni. By the way this program wouldn't take my name which is why I am suddenly bopbylee72

  4. Hi Doni. When I saw "Tarragon Chicken" my curiosity spiked. The reason: about 5 years ago Trader Joe's sold a totally prepared tub (single serving) of "Pasta Tarragon Chicken Salad" (served cold). I enjoyed it so much that I "reverse-engineered" it and believe that it's real close to theirs. Before I could compare it to their original they dropped the product - about 6 years ago.It's a standard in our family - about 4-6 times/year. Let me know if you'd like a copy.
    Many thanks


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