Food & Drink

Ro Howe’s Recipes: Smoked Chicken Salad with Lemon Tarragon Mayonnaise

“Ohmy gosh, Jemma—I’ve been invited to a gals’ pot-luck get-together tomorrow and I have to finish my treatise on spotted dogs’ DNA traits, as well as pack the kids off for summer camp! HELP!! How am I gonna do this without losing my mind!?”

We’ve all been here—sometimes more often than we care to recall or admit. This is the time to perk up and have confidence in your shopping and preparation skills rather than your cooking skills, especially in the dreary drumbles of high-temperature humidity.

“Keep it simple” is the best answer—by winnowing down your recipe to minimize the cooking process and yet keep the “delicious” quotient high. Using a protein that has been enhanced through smoking, curing or pickling, preserving, or air-drying intensifies the flavor, giving you a dapper ding for your dollar and happy palate pirouettes!

Smoked chicken breast is packed with flavor, and because it is smoked over low temperatures with its skin attached to protect and baste the flesh beneath, it remains tender and succulent. You’ll find it at any butcher’s and all the good stores with a butcher section—Citarella, Whole Foods, Fairway, and the like.

The chicken relies on being presented in the very best textural, color, and nutritional garb and in an appropriately distinctive way. There is nothing more demeaning for a primary protein than to be embalmed in mayonnaise spludge that ruins the texture and flavor it is so important to preserve. Let the dressing or mayonnaise enhance and encourage its other accompaniments that will not suffer from being dressed in advance. There is nothing sadder than salad greens sprawled in desultory, damp disappointment of the bright perkiness that is their proper pride.

When you are working with ingredients that do not require cooking, your best shopping skills come into play. Be sure your arugula smiles back at you, the tomatoes are Fifth Avenue unwrinkled, and the cucumbers boldly priapic. Then preparation will be a gentle task; you will be in full control of sanity’s reins, and the potential stress-scream occasion will meander into pleasure as you will be free to apply your attention to the reason for the meal. And you will enjoy the company and conversations as well as the deliciousness.


Smoked Chicken Salad with Lemon Tarragon Mayonnaise


Yield: six portions as main course

Equipment: Medium saucepan, measuring spoons and cups, medium mixing bowl, rubber spatula.

Dressing for potato
8 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 tablespoons drained yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup minced tarragon
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 cooked Idaho potatoes, diced into half-inch pieces (approximately 2 ½ cups)
6 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions
1 cup small diced peeled celery
3 quarts loosely packed baby arugula
1 thinly sliced English cucumber
1 pint halved grape tomatoes
¼ cup rough chopped toasted pecans
3 smoked chicken breasts

For the dressing, combine mayonnaise, yogurt, zest, juice, and tarragon. Season with salt and pepper.

Combine potatoes, scallions, and celery. Add dressing in stages until coating consistency.

Remove skin from chicken breasts and slice thinly.

To assemble, place a cup of potato salad in the center of the plate. Surround with arugula, sprinkle with pecans, place halved tomatoes on arugula.

Arrange cucumber slices in wide circle over potato salad. Arrange sliced chicken within the cucumber circle.


Join the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • b. elliott July 8, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    I, too, love smoked chicken. Thank you for an elegant recipe, as always!