Chicken Salad with Dried Cherries, Classic Roast Chicken

(originally e-mailed January 16, 2009)

Recipe Testers,

I just had a request for Roast Chicken. These recipes are from 2004 and 2005. They are some of my most copied recipes because they are simple home recipes that anyone can make. One recipe tester makes the chicken salad once a week. She said it is her husband’s favorite. You can use dried cherries or dried cranberries in the recipe. These are still in the first and second draft stage. It makes sense to make two roast chickens for dinner and then use the leftovers to make chicken salad. I know Karen will frequently just pick up a roast chicken at von’s and then have it for dinner and then make the chicken salad the next day. A homemade roast chicken is better and one of the easiest things to make if you have the hour to wait for it to cook. But with kids and busy schedules sometimes picking one up is still healthier than fast food. For those of you who are newer to the list, many of the recipes I send out are drafts, so there may be a few typos. They will say final on them if they are final. Recipes are such a work in progress for me.

Also, because we are in opposite seasons I just got some fabulous cherries from Chile yesterday. I usually never cook out of season, but the cherry recipe I made up for Krista Ramonas wedding can only be made in Late May or June or it’s opposite months, when it is warm in Chile and Australia, November and December. I just read the draft of the recipe and it is really in the infancy stages (only ingredients and no directions). Hopefully, I can get that written up so I can send it to you while you can have the chance to make them.

Jeanette has shockingly made baby steps of progress. The antibiotics are working in the fungus in her lungs. The dialysis machine has done wonders. She was hour to hour when I saw her on Sunday and has now regained consciousness and her heart has slowed to normal and her fever is gone. Still in the ICU, but the doctors are astounded at her strength, will to live and positive outlook. She is in the ICU and hooked up to three different machines and she still believes she is coming home for Christmas. My deepest gratitude again to all of you!

Enjoy the season! We’re loving the gorgeous snow on our mountains here!


PS I’m a GIANT fan of Plochman’s mustard. I buy it at El Rancho market in Santa Ynez and usually buy all that they have on the shelf. So my pantry always has a large supply. It is the same mustard I use with the grilled artisan sausages and everyone asks me what the sauce is and it is just Plochman’s Natural Stone Ground mustard. It has won a ton of awards in Napa. I thought you could get it everywhere because it was in our small town grocery stores in Santa Ynez, but it isn’t everywhere and some people have had a harder time finding it. I’ll check next time I’m at Whole Foods to see if it is there. You can order it on if you can’t find it. That is the mustard I use in my chicken salad. Southerner’s could substitute Zatarin’s Creole Mustard. I’ll see if I can find other substitute suggestions for you.

Chicken Salad with Dried Cherries


This is a great recipe to make when you have leftover chicken from my roast chicken recipe. This is a super easy and quick recipe and makes a great lunch. If you don’t have leftover chicken, you can buy a precooked chicken at the grocery store and use that. Or you can use Dede Wood’s fabulous suggestion of gently poaching chicken breasts in milk in the oven. I use this technique if I ever need to make Chicken Salad for a crowd. In California, the Dried Cherries are easy to find at Trader Joes. You can substitute raisins, dried cranberries, fresh grapes or any dried fruit of your choice. Please read the notes below for the key technique on toasting the pecans.

2 cups shredded or chopped chicken
½ cup celery, chopped
½ cup dried cherries, dried cranberries or raisins
½ cup apples, peeled, cored and diced (optional)
1 cup pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon course ground mustard
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Juice of one fresh lemon (optional)

Step 1. In a bowl add all ingredients and mix well. Let sit for a few minutes before serving then taste again and add more salt or lemon juice if necessary.

Notes from Maili: Having raw nuts in almost any recipe is my biggest pet peeve. Raw nuts taste terrible!!! Roasting them in a 375 oven for about 9-12 minutes makes them perfect. When you start to smell them, they are just about done. It also means that they are just about to burn. I’ve burned SO MANY nuts in my life, you can’t even imagine. I’ve even burned three full sheet trays of nuts, which had to cost me almost $100. When I was working in the restaurant I would tie a towel around my wrist to remind myself I had nuts in the oven. Set timers, stand there and watch them, do whatever it takes, because nothing tastes better than a perfectly roasted pecan or almond! The roasted pecans really make this recipe fabulous. Also, remember to roast nuts in any other recipes you may have. It makes a HUGE difference.

Classic Roast Chicken


I first started making this recipe when Jason was a second lieutenant in the Army and we didn’t have any money. So I didn’t buy a nice beautiful free range large roasting chicken. I bought the cheapest chickens the commissary had. I roasted the chicken and cooked it with a sweet potato on the side. It was always delicious and satisfying and I could feed both of us for under $5.00. Then I could take the leftover chicken and make chicken salad and the carcass I used to make chicken stock. So one little cheap chicken went a long way. Also, don’t worry if you don’t happen to have one of the ingredients, except the chicken of course. For example, if you don’t have celery, the recipe will not be ruined. Without the lemons it will be different, but still good.

2 3 ½ - 4 pound cheap chickens
2 lemons, one cut into quarters and the other cut into half
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 medium onion, quartered
2 whole heads of garlic, chop off ¼ down each head of garlic
2 stalks celery
2 small carrots
Squeeze bottle with extra virgin olive oil
Bunch of fresh thyme, split in two

For Herb Butter (mix well to incorporate)
4 tablespoon butter, softened
1 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
½ tsp. sea salt
(if you’re in a big giant hurry or don’t have fresh thyme, then just rub butter under the skin. It will still make it moist. Of if your in an even bigger hurry, just put the oil on the outside. It will still be good this way. It is just over the top if you do the herb butter thing. Maili)

Pre-heat oven 400*
Bake chickens in a large lasagna pan or 9 x 12 inch pyrex pans. Chickens should fit snugly in baking dish.

Step 1. When you are ready to use your chickens, rinse them under cold water, remove the neck and gizzards inside the cavity of the chicken. Rinse out the inside well with running cold water. You can freeze the neck and gizzards for stock or soup.

Step 2. Using the kosher salt season the inside of each chicken. Next, CAREFULLY loosen skin of chicken that covers the breast. Using your fingers scoop up about 1 tablespoon of the herb butter and spread it under the skin against the breast of the chicken. (It is kind of like massaging butter into the chicken). Repeat this on other 3 breasts. Rub any left over herb butter all over the chicken.

Step 3. Without peeling, cut one of the heads of garlic into quarters and place inside chicken. Loosely place half of the bunch of fresh thyme, one stalk of celery, one carrot, two quarters of onion and one quarter lemon inside each chicken. If the vegetables and thyme hang out of the chicken this is fine; it will make for a better presentation when you are serving the chicken. Squeeze one half lemon over top of each chicken.

Step 4. Using your squeeze bottle of oil, generously oil each chicken, season well with salt and pepper. Place remaining unpeeled head of garlic, with top sliced off, in bottom of baking dish. Bake chickens in a preheated 400* oven for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 375* and bake for an additional 45 minutes.

Step 5. You can strain the juices that have gathered in the bottom of the baking dish and serve them as a simple sauce.

Notes from Maili: Squeeze bottles are helpful for seasoning poultry evenly. Placing the whole head of garlic in the baking dish will add wonderful flavor to the cooking juices from the baked chickens.

Fat separators are available in any cooking specialty store and are great for separating the chicken juices from the fat. Discard the fat and what you have left is a wonderful simple sauce.

Make sure in all cooking and baking to preheat your oven. The cooking times will not be accurate if you put food in a cold oven and let it start heating after the food is inside.


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