The Best Warm Chicken Salad With Pan Drippings Vinaigrette
I love my cold chicken salad, but there’s something so right about crispy, steaming chicken plopped atop a pile of well-dressed bitter greens (radicchio, in this instance). Roasting chicken will also lend drippings to spare, and hopefully some browned bits on the pan that will be excellent for mixing into a dressing shaped with Dijon mustard and red wine vinegar. And while we’re roasting, some crisped winter squash can sub in for croutons to bulk up the salad. I’ve added fresh grapes and walnuts because we so often find those chunks bobbing about in cold, mayonnaise-bound chicken salads. They make great additions to a warm one, as do crumbles of pungent (in the best way) cheese like Gorgonzola. Feel free to mix up the fresh fruit, cheese, and nut options here to make your best warm chicken salad—or just the best one you can put together using what you have available.
Serves 4 to 6
- 2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
- 3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 delicata squash or other winter squash (except spaghetti squash), or 1 pound of cauliflower florets or sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch-wide wedges
- 1 cup walnut halves or other nuts (optional)
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 small head radicchio or chicory, or 6 cups baby arugula
- 2 cups green grapes, halved
- 1 cup crumbled Gorgonzola or blue cheese
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Rub the chicken breasts all over with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper. Gently slide your finger underneath the skin of each breast to detach it from the meat a bit (this will encourage the skin to crisp up in the oven). Place the breasts on a sheet pan, skin-side up.
Slice the delicata squash crosswise into 1/2-inch- thick rings (to easily remove the seeds, scrape a butter knife around in the cavity once you have sliced a couple rings). If you’re using a different winter squash, peel and cut it into small wedges about 1 inch thick. Put the squash in a large bowl and toss with about 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper. Arrange the squash in a single layer around the chicken on the sheet pan so that no pieces are touching. Roast for 40 to 45 minutes, flipping the squash pieces after 20 minutes and adding the walnuts (if using) to the pan for the last 5 minutes of roasting.
Remove the squash and walnuts from the sheet pan and set aside. Let the chicken pieces cool on the pan for a couple of minutes, then carefully remove the rib cage and any other bones and discard them. Transfer the meat to a cutting board, reserving any juices that have found their way onto the pan, and slice the breasts across the grain into roughly 1-inch-thick slices.
Pour the vinegar onto the sheet pan where the chicken had been. Scrape up any golden brown bits from the pan, then scrape the vinegar and any chicken juices and drippings on the pan into a small bowl; add any juices or bits from the cutting board as well. Add the shallot and mustard and whisk to combine. Whisk in the remaining 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Taste and adjust the seasoning with more salt, pepper, vinegar, or oil.
Tear the radicchio leaves into bite-size pieces and put them in a large bowl. Add half the dressing and toss to coat. Arrange the dressed radicchio on individual serving plates (or on a large platter for serving family-style) and top with the roasted squash, chicken breast slices, grapes, walnuts, and Gorgonzola. Drizzle with the remaining dressing and serve.
Recipe courtesy of “Sheet Pan Chicken: 50 Simple and Satisfying Ways to Cook Dinner.” Copyright 2020 by Cathy Erway. Photography by Lizzie Munro. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.