Chicken Salad In Tart Shells

Chicken salad is such a simple dish, but there are probably hundreds of different recipes for it. I want to show you my variation of it. I add the traditional onion and celery to it, but since I don’t like raw onions, I steep it in boiling water for a little bit, to take some of the oniony harshness out of it. See, there’s ways to make food behave the way you want it too. I like to add fresh cucumber too, since it gives the salad more crunch and also makes the salad taste fresher and lighter.

I have also found a really cute way of serving this salad for elegant meals, such as a bridal shower or tea party, etc., by serving the chicken salad it in small phyllo dough tart shells. They are sold already baked, so there’s no extra fuss. You can find them in the freezer section, next to pie dough or puff pastry.

I like to use chicken breast for chicken salad. However, it’s CHICKEN salad – any part of the chicken will work. You can also roast chicken thighs, or use leftover chicken or buy a rotisserie chicken at the store. You should have about 4 cups of chopped, cooked chicken.

If I am roasting the chicken breast, I like to brine it.

Why should you brine chicken?

  • Chicken, especially chicken breast, is a very lean meat, which makes it very easy to overcook. If the chicken is dry to begin with, you’ll have to add gobs of mayonnaise to make it the chicken salad moist. Dry, rubbery chicken =  Not good.
  • Brining is a way to add lots of flavor to the meat. As the chicken is soaking in the brine, the salt is penetrating all the way to the center of the meat, not just the outside. You can add other flavorings to the brine. I like to add some garlic. You can add some apple cider, crushed black pepper, thyme, rosemary, lemon peel, etc. Delicious!

How does brining work?

As the chicken soaks in the brine, the salt denatures the protein and allows the salt to enter the meat. As the chicken cooks, it loses moisture, but since it absorbed an excess amount, it still retains some of the moisture and stays nice and juicy. (And keeps the flavors too.) Surprisingly enough, there will only be about 1/8 of a teaspoon of salt per serving, so you don’t have to be nervous that you turned the chicken into a salt lick.

Dissolve the water in the salt and add the garlic and the chicken, meat side down, so that the meat is submerged in the brine. Let it stand for about 30 minutes. Isn’t that easy? It seriously takes about 3 minutes to do it. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Drain the brine solution and dry the chicken on a paper towel. Place on a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the chicken reaches a temperature of 165 degrees. (When I make roasted chicken breast for dinner, I brush it with butter or oil at the end and increase the temperature, to make it crispy and golden. I think it’s a crime to eat roast chicken with flabby skin, but for our purposes here, it’s going to get discarded anyway, so I don’t bother with trying to make it look pretty.) Set aside until it’s cool enough to handle and then chop it pretty finely. Or however you like it. It’s your salad:). While the chicken is cooling, prep the rest of the ingredients.

Finely chop the onion and pour enough boiling water to completely cover the onions. Let it  stand for about 10 minutes. Drain through a sieve, rinsing with  cold water. This is such a cool trick to take the bite out of raw onion. I don’t like the taste of raw onions, and letting it steep in boiling water partially cooks it, but it still has some of the crunch left. Not the best picture, but you get the idea. Lightly beat one egg in a bowl, adding a pinch of salt and pepper. Heat a nonstick skillet, add about a teaspoon of butter or oil. Add the egg, tilting the pan so that the egg covers the whole surface, just like when you’re making crepes. Cook for about a minute on the first side and about 30 seconds on the second side. Repeat with the rest of the eggs. Stack the egg crepes on top of each other and roll them up tightly. I usually do half at a time. Slice it very thinly into little egg noodles. Run your knife through the egg strips the other way too. You don’t have to cut them too small, since the eggs will break more as you toss the salad together. Julienne the cucumbers and finely mince the celery. 
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, adding the mayonnaise, mustard and freshly ground black pepper. 
Scoop out portions of the chicken salad into each tart shell. You can make the salad 1-2 days in advance. Store refrigerated. Don’t fill the tart shells until you are ready to serve them, because they will get soft with the chicken salad in them. This chicken salad is delicious served as a sandwich on a croissant, between slices of bread, or wrapped in lettuce leaves or as a wrap in a tortilla. 

Chicken Salad In Tart Shells
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Serves: 45-55 tart shells
Ingredients
  • 2 chicken breast halves, on the bone, skin on (or 4 cups cooked, chopped chicken)
  • 2 cups water
  • ⅛ cup salt
  • 3-5 garlic cloves, smashed
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 2-3 small cucumbers, julienned
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 celery stalks, minced
  • ⅓-1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1-2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • salt, ground black pepper, to taste
  • fresh herbs, chopped, optional (parsley, chives, dill, etc.)
  • 3-4 packages(15 tarts in each) phyllo dough tarts
Instructions
  1. Dissolve the water in the salt and add the garlic and the chicken, meat side down, so that the meat is submerged in the brine. Let it stand for about 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Drain the brine solution and dry the chicken on a paper towel. Place on a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the chicken reaches a temperature of 165 degrees.
  3. Set aside until it's cool enough to handle and then chop it pretty finely.
  4. While the chicken is cooling, prep the rest of the ingredients.
  5. Finely chop the onion and pour enough boiling water to completely cover the onions. Let it stand for about 10 minutes. Drain through a sieve, rinsing with cold water.
  6. Lightly beat one egg in a bowl, adding a pinch of salt and pepper. Heat a nonstick skillet, add about a teaspoon of butter or oil. Add the egg, tilting the pan so that the egg covers the whole surface, just like when you're making crepes. Cook for about a minute the first side and about 30 seconds on the second side. Repeat with the rest of the eggs.
  7. Stack the egg crepes on top of each other and roll them up tightly. I usually do half at a time. Slice it very thinly into little egg noodles. Run your knife through the egg strips the other way too. You don't have to cut them too small, since the eggs will break more as you toss the salad together.
  8. Julienne the cucumbers and finely mince the celery.
  9. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, adding the mayonnaise, mustard and freshly ground black pepper.
  10. Scoop out portions of the chicken salad into each tart shell.

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