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Sunflower Cafe Chicken Salad

By Susanne Merrett

This chicken salad is easy, quick, and wonderfully versatile. It was a customer favourite at my restaurant, The Sunflower Cafe. Having sold the cafe several years ago, I no longer cook for hundreds of people, but I still make this salad on a regular basis.  The following is a guideline for the Chicken Salad (feel free to make alterations to suit your own preferences) and the recipe for Orange Dijon Dressing.

Sunflower Cafe Chicken Salad

Ingredients:

  • Rotisserie chicken
  • apples
  • celery
  • mayo
  • walnuts, chopped
  • dried cranberries
  • pepitas (roasted sunflower seeds)
  • salad greens
  • Orange Dijon Dressing

Method:

Start with rotisserie chicken, thoroughly chilled – we would make our own at the cafe, but store-bought works well, too.  Remove all the meat and cut into small (1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces).  You will probably have several cups of chopped chicken. Unless you are feeding a crowd, you can divide the chicken into two-cup (approximate) portions. Set one portion aside and freeze the rest for future use. (Pop the bones and skin in the freezer for stock.)

To your two cups of chicken, add two cups of both chopped apple (I like to use a firm apple like Jonagold, Gala, Honeycrisp, or Ambrosia – not something softer like a Mac) and celery (once again in 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces). If you are feeding a crowd, add as much of both apple and celery as you have chicken. (This salad is basically one-third chicken, one-third apple, and one-third celery.) Then, blend with enough mayo to hold the mixture together.  At this point, the chicken mixture is great in sandwiches or wraps.

To make the actual salad, start with a bed of greens. Top with the chicken mixture, some chopped walnuts (or pecans), some dried cranberries, a handful of pepitas, and then a nice spiral of Orange Dijon Dressing.

Orange Dijon Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup oil – something light in flavour like canola, soy, or sunflower
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 cup orange juice concentrate (from frozen)
  • zest of one orange

Method:

Put all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and whip up. For convenience, store in a squeeze bottle and keep in the fridge for up to one week.

NOTE: If this is more dressing than you will use in one week, you can either make a half recipe or freeze extras for later use. You may need to re-blend the frozen dressing.

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