Smoked Chicken or Turkey Salad

This is an adaptation of a smoked chicken salad recipe sent to me by Mary Collette List of Kalamazoo, Michigan—a frequent visitor to my Web site—who tasted it for the first time at a friend’s potluck dinner and then went home and figured it out. I added the option of using smoked turkey instead of smoked chicken. (Smoked turkey is more readily available.) I also decided to make the pecans spicy by tossing them in my Creole Spice Mix and then toasting them. Overall, a lot of nice textures and flavors come together here—and most of the ingredients are already prepared at the supermarket.

Makes 4 servings
Hands-on time: 20 minutes

Total preparation time: 25 minutes

1 cup pecan halves
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons Creole Spice Mix (recipe follows) or packaged Creole or Cajun spice mix
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly milled black pepper
1 pound fully cooked, boneless smoked chicken or turkey
1/2 cup small pimiento-stuffed olives, drained
4 cups mesclun
1/4 cup bottled or homemade vinaigrette

Preheat the oven to 300ºF. Toss together the pecans, butter, and Creole Spice Mix until the nuts are uniformly coated with the spices. Spread them on a rimmed baking sheet and toast them in the oven until they are crisp, 12 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer them to a plate to cool for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the mayonnaise, lemon zest, lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl. Remove and discard the skin from the chicken, if there is any, and cut the meat into 3/4-inch cubes. Toss the chicken, pecans, and olives with the mayonnaise mixture until completely coated.

To serve, toss the mesclun with the vinaigrette and divide among 4 chilled serving plates. Place the chicken salad on the mesclun and serve.

Creole Spice Mix: Mix 4 teaspoons hot paprika, 1 tablespoon kosher salt, 1 tablespoon garlic powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper, 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme in a small bowl. Store in an airtight container. Makes about 1/2 cup.

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