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Weekend Recipe: Chicken Salad with Bacon and Tomatoes

Chicken Salad with Bacon and Tomatoes
America's Test Kitchen

Most chicken salads are made with creamy, mayonnaise-based dressings. But store-bought mayo isn’t part of the paleo diet, so America's Test Kitchen decided to take a different approach for their recipe and make a flavorful, vinaigrette-style dressing and incorporate some simple paleo-friendly mix-ins.

Bacon seemed like a good place to start; its smoky, savory depth complemented the mild chicken breasts perfectly. We used the bacon in two ways: We cut it into small pieces, which we crisped and added to the salad for a crunchy textural element, and we used the bacon fat as a base for our dressing. Mixing the bacon fat with some extra-virgin olive oil lent the dressing a silkier texture. Aromatic shallot and garlic as well as some tangy apple cider vinegar and Dijon mustard rounded out our vinaigrette. Finally, we stirred fresh cherry tomatoes into the salad for acidity and mild sweetness. For perfectly tender, juicy meat, we poached chicken breasts in 6 cups of salted water, which acted as a brine to keep our chicken moist as the water slowly heated to 170 degrees. We then removed the pot from the heat and let it stand covered for about 15 minutes, allowing the chicken to cook through slowly and gently.

Chicken Salad with Bacon and Tomatoes
Serves 4 to 6

INGREDIENTS

Kosher salt and pepper
4 (6- to 8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
4 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra as needed
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Pinch cayenne pepper
12 ounces cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 celery ribs, minced
¼ cup chopped fresh basil

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INSTRUCTIONS

To ensure that the chicken cooks through, use breasts that weigh no more than 8 ounces and pound them until they are 1 inch thick. Make sure to start with cold water in step 1.

1. Dissolve 1/4 cup salt in 6 cups cold water in Dutch oven. Cover chicken with plastic wrap and pound to even 1-inch thickness.

2. Submerge chicken in water. Heat pot over medium heat until water registers 170 degrees. Turn off heat, cover and let sit until chicken registers 165 degrees, 15 to 17 minutes. Transfer chicken to paper towel–lined baking sheet. Refrigerate until chicken is cool, about 30 minutes.

3. Cook bacon in 12-inch skillet over medium heat until crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towel–lined plate; set aside. (You should have about 3 tablespoons fat in skillet; if not, add extra oil as needed to equal 3 tablespoons.)

4. Add shallot to fat left in skillet and cook over medium heat until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer mixture to large bowl and let cool slightly. Whisk in oil, vinegar, mustard, cayenne and 1/4 teaspoon salt until combined.

5. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Add chicken, tomatoes, celery, basil and crisp bacon to dressing and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve. (Salad can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.)

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