Not your Bubbe’s chicken salad. Alon Shaya’s Tahini Chicken Salad takes it up a notch or ten!
PassOVER! Did y’all have a lovely Passover? I rocked a homemade matzah-print headband all week, so you know I did. Anyone celebrate the end with Mimouna? How about a bagel? As you can tell, I went with a bagel. I broke into the latest cookbook in my collection, Shaya, by Chef Alon Shaya and made his Tahini Chicken sSalad! A nice change from my normal lox and schmear.
You may remember when I visited Shaya restaurant
(and looked like I had just spent the last four days at a bachelorette party (which I had) aka a hot mess in Mardi Gras beads in a sea of perfect preppy pastels) the last time I was in New Orleans, so I was excited to try some recipes from the restaurant, like Tabbouleh with Preserved Lemon and Almonds, Charred Cabbage with Spicy Muhammara, and Halvah Iced Latte (!!)
Shaya is not your average cookbook. It’s not organized by appetizers, entrees, etc, but more by recipes inspired by different stages of Alon’s life. Which is how you end up with chapters like Trayf and Tribulation and Manischewitz for Willie Mae (lolz). It’s part memoir, part cookbook. I loved learning how Alon learned most of his Jewish cultural references from Seinfeld, and suggested roasting a whole pig at the Jewish Culture Club he started at the CIA (Shaya is not a kosher cookbook). I even teared up a bit reading the end, where Alon experiences the immense pride of opening up a restaurant that truly reflects who he is as a chef and person.
So many recipes called my name. Avocado Toast with Smoked Whitefish (not your basic white girl avocado toast), Matzo Ball Wedding Soup (with duck and chicken stock!), Schmaltzy Cornbread with Gribenes (you had me at schmaltz). The homemade Tahini Mayo is worth making just to schmear on sandwiches. I made mine with a whisk by hand just to prove I didn’t lose all my culinary school chops, but you can use a blender.
And this duqqa, which I took a lot of liberties with and swapped dried fennel for coriander and walnuts for pistachios (but Alon said was okay!) took the whole dish to another level with texture and subtle sweetness and tons of flavor. I’m going to make this again for over salmon.
Tada! Now there are a lot of steps here, but it’s not too hard. But if you want to buy a rotisserie chicken and mix a little tahini into mayo, I won’t stop you (judge, but not stop). Some notes from Alon: use the leftover chicken skin to make schmaltz and gribenes! For the duqqa, take the time to slow cook the garlic and shallots for sweetness and no bitterness. Use the leftover oil over salad!
- Tahini Chicken Salad:
- 2 whole chickens (4 to 5 pounds each), skins removed
- 1⁄4 cup plus 1⁄2 teaspoon Morton kosher salt, divided
- 2 sprigs fresh oregano
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 4 fresh sage leaves
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 gallon, plus more as needed
- 1 lemon, halved
- ½ cup tahini mayo (recipe below)
- 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
- Grated zest of 1⁄2 lemon
- ¼ cup duqqa (recipe below)
- Tahini Mayo (Makes 1 cup):
- 2 egg yolks
- ¼ cup raw tahini
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 teaspoon Morton kosher salt
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Duqqa (Makes 2 cups):
- 1 head garlic
- 1 large shallot
- ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup raw pistachios (I used walnuts)
- 2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds (I used fennel seeds)
- 2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoons white sesame seeds, toasted
- 1 ½ tablespoons whole pink peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon Maldon or other flaky sea salt
- 2 teaspoons ground sumac
- 2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper
- Combine the egg yolks, tahini, lemon juice, water, and salt—preferably in a food processor, otherwise with a good whisk.
- Slowly drizzle in the olive oil with the processor still going—or while you whisk vigorously—and continue to blend until the mixture is extremely thick and velvety. Be thorough in this step: a tight emulsion is the difference between having all those flavors hit you in equal measure or having them fall. Once the mayonnaise is nice and smooth, you can use it right away or refrigerate it for a couple of days.
- For the duqqa, you can get creative with what you have to make your own!
- Heat the oven to 325 ̊F. Leaving the cloves intact, peel the garlic, trim the ends of each clove, and slice them as thinly and evenly as you can. Trim both ends of the shallot, halve it lengthwise, and thinly slice it, too. Place both in a cold pan with the olive oil, and set it over low heat until they’re a deep, even golden, 30 to 40 minutes; stir occasionally, to make sure the heat circulates evenly. This is how they build flavor without any bitterness, so don’t try to speed it up with a higher flame.
- Roast the pistachios on a rimmed baking sheet while the garlic and shallots cook. Remove them from the oven when they’re fragrant, after 7 minutes or so.
- Line a plate with paper towels. Strain the garlic and shallots over a clean bowl, and spread them on the plate in an even layer to drain. Wipe out the pan, and fill it with the oil from the bowl along with the coriander seeds, black sesame seeds, and white sesame seeds. Toast, still over low heat, until they’re crunchy and aromatic, another 8 minutes or so. Drain on the same plate as the shallots and garlic.
- Add the shallots, garlic, and seeds to a large ziplock bag with the nuts, pink peppercorns, salt, sumac, and Aleppo pepper. Pound the mixture with a rolling pin or mallet, just until everything is roughly crushed. (If you prefer a more homogeneous texture, chop the nuts by hand before you add them to the bag.)
- If you haven’t already removed the skins from the chickens, follow the directions in the recipe for schmaltz and gribenes.
- In a large stockpot, combine the chicken, 1⁄4 cup salt, herbs, and garlic. Add the water, topping it off with more if necessary, until the chicken is completely submerged. If the chickens will not fit in your pot, you can break them down. Squeeze in the lemon and drop it in.
- With the heat on medium-low, bring the pot just up to a mellow simmer, then turn the heat down to low, and let the chicken gently cook with the broth bubbling around it. When you glance into the pot, bubbles should be slowly floating to the top, less than an active simmer—this will keep the meat moist.
- Check the chicken by cutting into the thickest part of the leg; it’s ready when it’s no longer pink at the center. This can take up to 2 hours, depending on the size of the chicken and the power of your stovetop, but check it after 1 hour, and then every 10 or 15 minutes after that. When it’s ready, pull the chicken out to cool; strain the broth, and save it for another use (you can cool it completely and freeze it).
- Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, pull all the meat off the bones, being mindful not to bring along the tendons or excess fat. Give it an even chop, then combine it in a bowl with the tahini mayo, scallions, remaining 1⁄2 teaspoon salt, and lemon zest. Stir in the duqqa shortly before serving. This is a great thing to have in the fridge all week, but it’s equally good the same day it’s made.
I received a review copy of this cookbook, but all opinions are my own.