Jacques Pépin’s Trick for the Best-Ever Chicken Salad

Jacques Pépin chicken salad

We're big fans of Jacques Pépin for a multitude of reasons: his classic recipes are solid and foolproof; his calm, soothing cooking videos are some of our favorites; and we know that every time we read a Pépin recipe or watch one of his cooking demos that we'll learn something that we can use in the recipe he's cooking—and apply it to our wider cooking life.

The most recent example? His classic chicken salad, which he shared on the Rachael Ray show a few years ago. Per usual, Pépin uses common ingredients and techniques but manages to transform them into the best possible version of this classic dish. Here are the tips that we're using from this great recipe.

Related: How to Make the Perfect Classic Quiche, According to Legendary Chef Jacques Pépin (and His Mom)

Jacques Pépin's Tips for Tender, Flavorful Chicken Salad

Sure, chicken salad can be as easy as shredding up a rotisserie chicken and mixing in some mayo, but if you take just a little more time you can have a chef-worthy dish, plus a bonus meal.

Start on the stove. Nobody wants dry chicken in their chicken salad, so to make sure the meat stays moist Pépin starts this recipe on the stove. He puts some water, sliced leeks, chopped carrots some fresh herbs and a sprinkle of salt in a pot, brings it to a boil and lets the mixture simmer for about five minutes.

Cook it low and slow. After the water has boiled for five minutes, add two boneless, skinless chicken breasts to the pot and cover. Let the chicken boil in the water for about a minute and a half, then turn off the heat and let the chicken sit with the lid on for 20 to 30 minutes. As the chicken sits, it will poach in the hot broth, which will help keep the meat moist and will infuse it with the flavor from the broth.

Spice up your dressing. Sure, you can just add mayo and salt and pepper to your chicken salad, but Pépin likes to use a mix of mayo, mustard (Dijon mustard, naturally), red wine vinegar, olive oil and a little sriracha for heat. He also folds in some chopped chives, though pretty much any herb would be tasty.

Skip the chopping. Once the chicken in poached in the broth, Pépin shreds it into the bowl of dressing with his hands. He says that shredding the meat with your hands will make it more tender than chopping it with a knife. It also gives the dish a nice rustic yet elegant look, which feels quite French.

Have a little fun with it. The finished chicken salad is great as a sandwich or served on top of a salad, but Pépin likes to add a little flair to the plate by creating adorable chickens using sliced hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes and black olives. (Check out the video above to see the charming plating.) You don't need to do that at your house, but it's a good reminder that part of the joy of food is having fun with what you're making.

Turn it into dinner. When you're done enjoying your chicken salad, don't toss what's in the chicken cooking pot. As the chicken cooked it the water and veggies it created a delicious broth that's the perfect base for soup. Stick it in the fridge and simmer some noodles in the broth the next day for the perfect lunch or dinner.

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