On Monday evening, I roasted a whole chicken. It turns out perfect every time thanks to my trusty instant-read thermometer and to the chicken dude who sells them to me on Sundays at the Hillcrest Farmers' Market--giblets and all. I buy whole chickens because they taste better. Actually, if you cook any meat or fish with the bones, it will taste better. I also buy whole chickens because I make my own stock. I freeze the bones and giblets until I'm ready to throw them into a pot of sauteed veggies (onions, carrots, and celery) and slow cook them into a perfect stock which is easy to freeze and use as I please.
The only problem with cooking a whole chicken, especially when there are only two of you, is that you have a bunch of leftovers and have to creatively think of new and hopefully exciting ways to prepare it each day. After eating chicken sandwiches for the past couple of days, I decided it was time to make a chicken salad. I am not a fan of the usual curried chicken salad that you will find on most tables. I like my chicken salad to be salty and sweet, tangy, and crunchy. This one is refreshing and light, perfect for any time of year and is oh-so-versatile. I like to eat it in red-leaf-lettuce wraps, on top of chopped romaine, on some fresh sourdough, in a grilled sandwich, or just by itself. I was inspired by this recipe from Gourmet except I didn't have all the ingredients, so I improvised.
Cranberry Walnut Chicken Salad
1-2 cups coarsely chopped chicken
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted if desired
1/2 celery rib, diced finely
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot or red onion
1/4 cup chopped dried cranberries
1-2 tablespoons Vegenaise (the grapeseed oil one with the purple top) or mayonnaise
1-2 teaspoons vinegar, you can use rice vinegar, white wine vinegar, or champagne vinegar
salt to taste
lots of freshly ground black pepper