The California Classic Salad Is Your Easiest Christmas Dinner

When my daughters were young and the shell of storage Christmas dinner Inherited to me, I made a determined oath that I would spend as many vacations with my family and as little fuss as possible in the kitchen. In my opinion, Christmas should be about chaotic merrymaking and not followed by a big chunk of meat, mood swings and some side dishes.

The holiday gods smiled at me the day they sent me fame Zuni Chicken salad, a flavorful dish that can easily be scaled down to the size of your crowd and is mostly prepared in advance. It helps it also mimic the vibe of poultry and meat stuffing and Thanksgiving cranberries just enough to feel seasonally festive. For years, I grilled my chicken (or chicken) and toasted bread on Christmas Eve, and then just finished the last dish whenever we wanted to wander to the dinner table on the big day. It’s always been a great, easy shot.

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Now, I’m lowering the bar even more. Last week, pretty much right after I returned to my last mountain academic subjects for my semester, my mother is dead and my daughter was diagnosed with a breakout case of COVID. All of my last holiday shopping and card submissions, picking up my other daughter from college, have been postponed to make room for cremation and quarantine. And while honestly I’d be fine eating a bowl of cereal on the sink and calling it a day, this December 25th I’ll be rallying just enough to do a cheat version instead. of classic California.

May your 2021, and specifically your last week, in their own right, also be a real hit in your pants. So for all of us, I offer this. The real Zuni chicken salad is based on meticulous baking techniques and impeccable ingredient lists. Mine Sh_t Just Got Real instead, the version streamlines the steps significantly and uses whatever you have and can work with. The end result isn’t as strong or rich as the original, but you can put it together in about half an hour while crying, make a lot of phone calls or just stare into space and split.

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This dish retains the addictive crispy skin and warm sauce of Zuni, making the whole dish very satisfying and extremely comforting. It’s just the right combination of salty, sweet, savory and sharp to please everyone. And for now, it’s more than good enough. So go ahead and join me for a bit here, because one of the greatest gifts we can give each other during this strange holiday season is the gentle promise of lightness and as graciously as possible, shared with those we love, and granted to those we miss. Merry Christmas.


Zuni . Christmas Chicken Salad

Have inspiration from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook and Low Carb Maven

Make 4 to 6 servings, with leftovers


  • 1 roasted chicken
  • 1 loaf of your favorite crusty bread (Sourdough is not recommended, but I personally don’t rate it.)
  • 1 bag of optional pre-washed salad greens
  • 1/2 cup light olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or whatever you have
  • 2 tablespoons raisins or raisins (or your favorite chopped, dried fruit like apricots)
  • 2 tablespoons (or more, if you like) pine nuts or other nuts of your choice
  • 2 – 3 thinly sliced ​​garlic cloves
  • 3 slices green onion, green part and white part
  • 2 tablespoons your favorite broth or white wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat your oven to 450°F.
  2. Finely chop the roast chicken, save the skin.
  3. Tear the bread into chunks 2 – 3 inches long. (You can cut the crust before tearing it to let it absorb the flavors better, but I like the crunchy-tough contrast.) You’ll want about 4 cups of bread.
  4. Line two sheets of parchment paper.
  5. On pan one, stretch your reserved chicken skin and gently pat dry with a paper towel. Add a little salt and pepper. It will shrink, so you don’t want to overdo it.
  6. To sauté two, add your bread cubes. Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of oil and mix well. If you want to roast your pine nuts, spread them all together on one side of the pan.
  7. Bake the chicken skin, bread and nuts for about 10 minutes TOTAL. Check for nuts after about 2 minutes and discard them as soon as they turn slightly brown. Turn the bread over after about 5 minutes to brown all sides and then remove. The chicken skin should be crispy after 10 minutes, but if a little longer is needed, add 2 or 3 more.
  8. When the chicken skin is cooked, remove to a separate plate and rub lightly. You want small pieces, not chicken dust. Reserve any leftover chicken in the pan. (There may not be many.)
  9. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 2 – 3 tablespoons of your oil. Lightly sweat the garlic and scallions, stirring constantly. Add your stock water or wine, and then your raisins. The raisins will be a bit plump. Add any reserved chicken drops you have.
  10. Remove the pan from the heat and add the rest of the olive oil and vinegar, along with salt and pepper to taste and beat until smooth. (I always like to add a little sugar to any sauce for balance, but that’s optional.) Taste your sauce and adjust seasoning as needed.
  11. Add sauce to your bread and toss. Don’t go overboard, you want a combination of textures and flavors. Add your shredded greens and chicken and stir again. Plate out. Sprinkle pine nuts and crispy chicken skin on top for a luxurious dish.
  12. Serve it with the cakes and cookies your good friends sent you, because it’s a raw one.

Note: You can make the chicken, toast and sauce the day before. And if crispy chicken skin sounds like a chore and one more pan to wash, skip it.

Simpler dinners we love: The California Classic Salad Is Your Easiest Christmas Dinner

Bobby Allyn

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