Discovering a Special Chicken Salad in Paris

A few years ago in Paris, one of my young thirty-something friends asked if we could have lunch together near her office. She suggested that we go to Cojean, at the time a new prepared foods chain that emphasized healthy eating. I was amazed at the array of tempting salads, sandwiches, and pasta dishes that filled the refrigerated compartments of this eat in/take out shop. I ordered a delicious salad, but that was my one and only encounter with this store until this May. Around the corner from the Left Bank appartment we had rented was a Cojean, stocked with their trademark goods. On a visit I picked up a container of grilled chicken salad with haricots verts, edamame, and baby mushrooms and a lemon crème fraîche sauce for tossing. I was not disappointed! This salad was prepared with juicy morsels of grilled chicken, verdant vegetables, and quartered mushrooms tossed in crème fraîche scented with lemon, herbs, and finely chopped shallots.

I had taken a photo of the dish’s ingredients list and didn’t waste any time trying to duplicate the salad after returning home. I pounded and cut chicken tenders into small 2-inch pieces, tossed them in lemon juice and seasonings, and quickly grilled them on the stove top. They were combined with blanched green beans and edamame along with quartered small white mushrooms. The light, refreshing sauce took only a few minutes to assemble.

At the store, I had been struck by the presentation of this salad. The snowy white sauce had been spooned into a clear plastic container and topped with a colorful mélange of chicken, vegetables, and herbs. At home, I mounded the salad on a platter and offered the sauce in a separate bowl.  Voilà—a new chicken salad direct from France’s capital!



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Grilled Chicken Salad with Lemon Chive Crème Fraîche Dressing

Crème Fraîche Sauce
1/2 cup crème fraîche
2 tbsp milk (whole, 1 %, or 2%--all work)
1/2 tsp lemon zest
3 tsp lemon juice plus more if needed
3 tbsp finely chopped shallots
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Several grinds of black pepper
4 1/2 tsp chopped chives

Grilled Chicken Salad
8 oz chicken tenders
Kosher salt
Freshy ground black pepper
1/4 tsp light brown sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
Canola or vegetable oil
4 oz haricots verts or tender green beans, trimmed and cut on the diagonal  into 1 1/2 -inch pieces
1 cup frozen edamame, defrosted (See market note.)
4 oz white baby mushrooms, cleaned with damp paper towels, quartered lengthwise (if large, cut into eights)
4 tsp chopped chives

Several lettuce leaves for garnish, optional
4 lemon wedges for garnish

1.For sauce, in a medium nonreactive mixing bowl, whisk together the crème fraîche and milk. Whisk in lemon zest and juice, shallots, salt, pepper, and all but 1/2 teaspoon of chives. Transfer to a serving bowl, Taste and add more salt if needed. (Sauce can be made a day ahead; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Whisk well and bring to room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.)

2.To prepare chicken, with a sharp paring knife, remove and discard any white veins on the chicken tenders. Then place tenders between two sheets of waxed paper or plastic wrap, and, using a meat pounder or a rolling pin, pound them to 1/4-inch thickness. Halve each pounded tender so that you have two long strips. Then cut strips into 2-inch pieces and place them in a shallow non-reactive dish (such as a pyrex pie plate). Combine 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon ground black, and 1/4 teaspoon light brown sugar; season chicken with mixture. Then add lemon juice and toss well.

3.Oil a grill pan or a heavy medium skillet, and set over medium heat. When hot, add the chicken pieces and cook about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes per side until golden. Chicken should reach 165 to 170 degrees F on an instant read thermometer. Remove and cool, then transfer to a mixing bowl.

4.For vegetables, fill a medium saucepan 2/3 full with water and set over high heat. Bring to a boil and add 2 teaspoons salt and the haricots verts. Cook until just tender, about 5 minutes for haricots verts, 7 to 8 for larger beans. When done, do not discard water; remove haricots verts with a slotted spoon to a colander and place under cold running water to cool. Drain and pat beans dry with a clean kitchen towel.

5.Add edamame to same pot of boiling water and cook 4 to 6 minutes until tender. Drain in a colander, and place under cold running water until cool. Drain again and pat dry with a clean kitchen towel. Transfer haricots verts and edamame along with quartered mushrooms to bowl with chicken. Stir in 4 teaspoons chopped chives; season with more salt and pepper as needed. (Chicken and vegetables can be prepared 4 hours ahead and refrigerated; bring to room temperature 30 to 40 minutes before serving.)

6.To serve, mound chicken salad on a medium platter and garnish with lemon wedges and, if desired, with a few lettuce leaves. Sprinkle crème fraîche sauce with remaining 1/2 teaspoon chives. For eating pass the platter and sauce so that each person can mound salad into a shallow bowl or on a salad plate and toss with 2 to 3 tablespoons of sauce. As a final touch, diners can squeeze a lemon wedge over their salad. Serves 4.

Market note: I found frozen edamame beans at my local Whole Foods.

Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2023



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