Saffron Chicken & Herb Salad is a unique and explosive combination of flavors — I guarantee it’s like no other chicken salad you’ve ever had!
Even after several years of food blogging I never find myself bored or out of ideas. If anything, I have trouble filtering out all the wonderful possibilities so I can settle on what to cook on any given day. But occasionally I’ll find myself in a rut, and when that happens I know just what to do, I open up one of my Yotam Ottolenghi cookbooks and leaf through it. Within minutes I’ll find something that fires up my imagination. His recipes combine ordinary ingredients in such novel ways that a whole new taste sensation results. This bright Saffron Chicken & Herb Salad is a great example of his genius.
The saffron orange puree is probably the most unique element in this salad. A whole orange, (I used an organic one) is cut into wedges and boiled with some honey, vinegar, saffron and a little water until soft. The whole thing is pureed into a thick dressing. The flavor is intense and unique. Anybody counting how many times I say ‘unique’ in this post?
The only change I would make to this recipe is to use a rotisserie chicken instead of baking chicken breasts — it’s not only easier, but I think the meat is a little juicier and more tender. That means that the only work involved in putting this together is cooking up the orange sauce.
This recipe is slightly adjusted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem. (If you don’t have this book I can’t recommend it enough.)
Saffron Chicken & Herb Salad
- 1 orange
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 1/2 tsp saffron threads
- 1 Tbsp white vinegar
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 2 skinless boneless chicken breasts
- 4 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 small fennel bulbs trimmed and very thinly sliced
- handful of cilantro leaves
- handful of basil leaves torn, if large
- smaller handful mint leaves torn if large
- 2 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1 hot chile pepper preferably red, thinly sliced
- 1 clove garlic minced
- salt and fresh ground black pepper
- Set oven to 400F
- Slice off both ends of the orange, and then cut into 12 wedges. Remove any seeds. Put the wedges, peel and all, into a small saucepan with the honey, saffron, and vinegar. Add just enough water to cover the oranges. Bring to a boil and simmer for about an hour, or until it is reduced to a thick syrup. Add a bit more water during cooking if it gets too dry. Use a food processor or immersion blender to puree the mixture into a smooth 'sauce', adding a little more water if is too thick to pour.
- Rub the chicken breasts with half the oil, and salt and pepper. Brown on both sides on a hot grill pan for 2 minutes per side, or until you get good grill marks. Transfer to a baking sheet and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes, until just done inside.
- Cool the chicken until you can handle it and then tear it into large bite sized pieces. Put the chicken in a large salad bowl and toss with some of the orange paste. I used enough to lightly coat the chicken. (You won't need all of the sauce.)
- Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl, including the remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil Toss gently.
- Season with salt and pepper and taste to adjust any of the seasonings.
- As I mentioned, I think you can get away with using a fresh rotisserie chicken with good results here and save yourself some work.
- The saffron orange sauce is potent, start with a little and add more to your taste. You’ll have some leftover, especially if you use a large orange like I did. Ottolenghi recommends using it on fish.
- Be sure to slice the fennel super thinly, I used the thinnest setting on my mandoline slicer.