Revamping leftovers is one of my favorite things to do in the kitchen. I love the satisfaction of taking a lonely group of ingredients and bringing them together in a new and exciting way.
Last week I made chicken broth using a whole chicken. After a 3-hour simmer I had some beautifully tender chicken that came right off the bone. The legs and thighs found their way into lunches and dinners right away. But by the end of the week, I had a carcass, a breast and some wings to deal with. I knew chicken salad would be on the menu, but I needed a way for it to be as crunchy and flavorful as possible.
And so begins our recipe.
Chicken skin is delicious. To me, it’s what makes fried or roast chicken worth eating. When prepared properly, it can be a lot like a potato chip (or even bacon). Baking it in the oven allows the skin to release its fat, which in turn, fries it. The chicken skin becomes crispy and golden with just a slight chew at the center.
As someone who is known for loading potato chips onto a sandwich, I can tell you that crispy chicken skin is equally as crunchy and flavorful. It’s especially great with something like a chicken salad (or any sandwich ingredient) that can run the risk of being soggy or bland. This is not the case here because through years of experimental eating—and an ever-changing list of lonely refrigerator ingredients to use up—I have come up with a formula on how to create any salad or sandwich: something mellow, something tangy or sharp, something salty, something crunchy—and when necessary—something sweet. I also like to include something green. This chicken salad hits all of those notes. There’s celery and walnuts for crunch, pickles for tang, scallions and parsley for brightness, and yogurt and mustard to bind.
My recommendation for pickles is to go with something vinegary, sour, and a little sweet. Something like a bread and butter pickle works perfectly. Sweet pickled peppers or a pickled garden mix will also work nicely. The point is to incorporate something flavorful that will cut through, rather than round out the other ingredients.
As for bread, my number one choice is a flavorful multigrain. It plays so nicely with the sharp flavors of the mustard, pickles and scallions. When composing your sandwich, be sure to slather on some additional mustard, and be generous with plenty of pickles and chicken skin on top. Each bite will be surprising and delicious. Not to mention, you will have used up every last bit of that chicken!
While the chicken salad will taste better the longer it sits, the skin is better if baked within an hour of eating this sandwich.
leftover boiled or roasted chicken skin
2 cups leftover, shredded chicken*
6-7 tbsp whole milk yogurt
2 1/2 tbsp whole grain dijon mustard, plus more for spreading
2 celery stalks (approx. 1 cup chopped)
2 scallions (green and light green parts only, approx. 2 1/2 tbsp sliced)
3 tbsp walnut pieces
3 tbsp minced parsley
1/2 cup chopped pickled vegetables, plus more for topping (some suggestions: bread & butter, sweet pickled peppers, pickled garden mix)
sliced multigrain bread (or your favorite sandwich bread)
*Note: Chicken is easiest to pull off the bone when it’s warm or at room temperature. If you’re using chicken that has been refrigerated, place the pieces on a baking sheet with parchment, cover loosely with foil, and bake at 325° for 10 minutes to loosen the meat and skin.
Preheat your oven to 325°. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
To prepare the chicken, pull the skin away from the meat in small sheets or pieces. As you are working, blot the pieces of skin with paper towels and lay them flat over the parchment.
Place the baking sheet in the preheated oven and begin checking the skin for doneness at 20 minutes. If the skin is not crisp and golden brown, continue baking and check every 5 minutes. Depending on the skin’s moisture, the entire process will take anywhere from 20-35 minutes.
Once the skin is done, remove the pan from the oven and carefully place the crispy pieces on a plate covered with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt. The skin will continue to crisp up during the first few minutes of cooling.
While the skin is cooking and cooling, shred the chicken and put the pieces into a mixing bowl along with the yogurt and mustard. Chop the celery, walnuts and pickles into 1/4-inch pieces and add them to the bowl. Mince the parsley, slice the scallions thinly, and add them to the bowl, as well. Mix to combine, add salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.
Toast the bread slices and slather with mustard. Assemble your sandwich by piling on spring mix, chicken salad, pickles and chicken skin.