Back in the summer, I boasted to you that I am a chicken salad savant and that I have versions for every imaginable occasion and all seasons. This is my favorite fall chicken salad, full of the crispy, crunchy, bold flavors of the season. And yes, chicken salad is perfect in fall – it’s not just for summer anymore. And if you’ve got visitors in the house for the holidays, having a nice bowl of chicken salad in the fridge is a great help, for a ready lunch or a nice snack. And I love the autumnal russet, red, gold and brown colors.
This fall iteration of chicken salad has hearty roasted chicken, crispy apples, crunchy walnuts, smoky bacon, sweet cranberries all bound in a perfectly fall maple-tinged dressing. Roasting skin-on, bone in breasts gives you nice, rich flavor that stands up to the other bold components. And using dark, grade-B maple syrup boosts the maple flavor. I tend to prefer this version eaten with a fork, maybe over a few fall green leaves so I leave it a little chunky, but if you prefer it in a sandwich, cut your chicken and apples into appropriately sized pieces. This recipe makes about four nice-sized servings, but feel free to double or triple the recipe. And yes, this would be brilliant with leftover Thanksgiving turkey meat.
Maple Mustard Chicken Salad
2 large bone-in, skin on chicken breasts
½ cup mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons grade-B maple syrup
6 strips of bacon
½ cup walnuts
1 small tart red apple
¼ cup dried cranberries
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the chicken breasts on a baking tray lined with foil. Drizzle the chicken with olive oil, season generously with salt and pepper and bake until just cooked, about 35- 40 minutes. A thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat should register 165 degrees. Remove the chicken from the oven to cool, then remove the skin, pull the meat from the bones and shred or chop into bite-sized pieces. Place the chicken meat into a large bowl.
While the chicken in cooking, cut the bacon into small pieces and cook until crispy. Drain on paper towels and set aside. Toast the walnut pieces in a dry skillet, just until they release a nice nutty smell. Watch carefully as nuts can burn quickly. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard and maple syrup until smooth. Core the apple and chop into bite-sized pieces and drop into the bowl with the chicken. Pour over a little of the dressing and stir to coat. This will prevent the apples from browning. Drop in the bacon, walnuts and cranberries and stir to combine. Add the dressing as you go, a little at a time, until you get the consistency you like. I think this is the right amount of dressing, but you may prefer to use less. Taste the finished salad and add salt if you need it – the bacon may take care of this completely. Refrigerate for several hours to allow the flavors to blend. The chicken salad will keep in the fridge tightly covered for several days.
Serves about 4