Watch How to Cook Well with Rory O'Connell at 8:30pm on Tuesday evenings on RTÉ One.
A chicken salad can be a glorious thing and I am very happy with this version which combines the bird with bright green summer beans. I would also be happy to use the green bean known as the Romano bean or flat green bean which is as delicious as its pencil-shaped cousin. However, I only ever cook and eat both of these beans during the summer and early autumn months when they are grown and in season in this part of the world. I find the imported and out of season beans utterly forgettable and a very pale imitation of the locally grown ones.
This salad is definitely best when assembled while the roast chicken is still slightly warm. That way you get a particularly lovely flavour and texture from the bird. Cooked meats become firmer and drier as they cool and loose some of their loveliness. However, the remains of yesterday's roast chicken will also produce a delicious result. The chicken cooking juices from the roasting tray, both fatty and lean, are crucial for adding deep and lip-smacking flavour to the salad in fact I would go as far as to say, they are the making of it or certainly are the element that raises this salad to a level above many chicken salads that I have eaten. The herb of choice here is tarragon which is of course a classic with chicken and its perfumed taste ties the flavour of the beans in beautifully.
The addition of a lemon to the chicken while roasting adds freshness and its acidity cuts through the richness of the dish and lifts the flavour of all of the ingredients it comes in contact with. I chop the cooked and collapsed lemon up and pass it separately for any eaters who love a hit of bitterness with the salad. In this case the roasted lemon performs the role that a salted preserved lemon might perform in another dish. I love it and the lip-puckering, eye closing, cheek hollowing reaction that it provokes.
Texture is added to the salad with the thin slivers of crisp and mild garlic. The olive oil fried bread crumbs, fried in the oil left after cooking the garlic, also add a lovely crunch. A little heat is added with the addition of chilli flakes, the richness comes in the form of mayonnaise.
I usually serve a tray of roast tomatoes, still warm from the oven and a bowl of just boiled new season potatoes to accompany the salad.
- 1 free-range chicken c 1.75kg in weight
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 large sprigs of tarragon or thyme
- 1 lemon, pricked 6-8 times with a skewer
- 10 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 large cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
- 160g crust-less white bread crumbs
- 600g French or scarlet runner beans cut at an angle into 3cm pieces
- 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1large pinch of chilli flakes
- Preheat the oven to 180c 350f /gas 4
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper and insert the herb sprigs and lemon into the cavity. Place on a roasting tray that it fits into snugly and roast in the pre-heated oven for c 90 minutes. If the roasting tray is too large, the precious cooking juices evaporate during the cooking and are lost. I baste the chicken several times during the cooking by spooning the juices over the surface of the chicken to enhance the flavour and colour of the bird.
- Heat 8 tablespoons of the olive oil in a heavy frying pan until it begins to shimmer. Add in the sliced garlic and fry until golden whilst stirring all of the time to separate the slices of garlic. This happens very quickly so have a perforated spoon ready to lift the garlic out quickly when it is crisp and golden brown.
- Place the garlic on a piece of kitchen paper to drain. Immediately add the breadcrumbs to the oil and again stirring constantly, allow them to become a rich golden colour. Remove straight away to a separate piece of kitchen paper to drain. Save the garlic flavoured oil for another day. As long as you have not allowed it to burn, it is perfectly safe to use again.
- When the chicken is cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool to the point where it is still warm but at the same time, comfortable to handle. To ensure that the chicken is fully cooked, ensure that the cooking juices between the leg and the breast are running clear and with no trace of pink
- While the chicken is cooling, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and salt generously. Add in the prepared beans and cook until tender. Drain the beans and spread out to start to cool slightly. When the beans are cool enough to mix with your fingers, but still warm to the touch, dress with remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and black pepper.
- To assemble the salad, remove the legs and breasts from the chicken and cut or tear into bite size pieces.
- Place in a large bowl and add all of the cooking juices including the fat from the roasting tray. Add in the beans, chilli flakes and mayonnaise and stir gently but thoroughly to mix. Taste and correct seasoning and add a little more mayonnaise if needed – however don't make the salad too rich.
- Place on a large serving dish and scatter over the crumbs followed by the fried garlic.
- I usually cut up the lemon that was cooked in the cavity of the chicken into 12 pieces and pass that on a separate dish for anyone who would like a lemony hit with the salad.