16 May 2011

Chicken with Tonnato Mayonnaise and Fresh Spring Greens for an Alfresco Dinner

Chicken with Tonnato Mayonnaise and Fresh Spring Greens As seen on Honest Cooking

When I first started learning to cook in my home kitchen, one of the initial things I discovered was that the key to outstanding meals was using good quality ingredients. As time passed I realized that this meant either growing or purchasing the best local ingredients available which with today's trends has become easier and easier with a resurgence of farmers markets, specialty food shops and local producers.

 What has taken me years to understand is that recipes are merely guidelines and are open to any interpretation. I used to follow recipes to the letter and they always turned out well, but as the years progressed, and I have become confident in the kitchen, I am more open to experimentation and substitution. A good example would be this Layered Chef's Salad with Tuna Mayonnaise Dressing reminiscent of an Italian tonnato sauce that I discovered a lifetime ago from the Silver Palate series of cookbooks. Even as a teenager I collected recipes like hockey cards and had a burgeoning cookbook collection.

Back in 1982, two women who changed the way we thought about home cooking, Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, put together a cookbook filled with recipes from their gourmet catering business in New York, City, “The Silver Palate." Back in the day their cookbooks were my culinary bibles with their revolutionary approach and early trendsetting. This was the age of nouvelle cuisine when shallots, button mushrooms and flat-leaf parsley were hard to find. It got people thinking about what they were doing at home with food and how to recreate restaurant quality dishes in our own kitchens.

My original Silver Palate cookbook remains in the kitchen cupboard, splattered with food stains and filled with memories. As I flip through it, I marvel at all the dishes I have prepared and all the recipes that have landed in my prized, best-of-the-best personal collection. When I open it up, it talks to me!!! I can hear laughter and animated conversations from wedding showers, wedding receptions, graduations and L'il Burnt Toast's recitals where many dishes from their pages shone. Recipes like Linguine with Tomatoes and Basil. Chicken Marbella and Butterflied Leg of Lamb are still welcome additions to any get together. The series inspired me to become a better cook and to continue a life long love affair with cookbooks.

Many of you are familiar with tonnato (tuna) sauce which is spooned over thinly sliced chilled veal or chicken breast to make a tasty alfresco meal. Once the warm weather hits this silken, briny, creamy tuna sauce is an addictive addition to our summer repertoire. It is equally adored spooned over thick slices of rare roast beef, or, as in Italy, poached veal. If you have a glut of summer tomatoes, that’s perfect, too. "Tonno" is Italian for tuna, and the name of this dish refers to the primary ingredient in the sauce. The tuna is blended with capers, olive oil, and lemon juice to make this a rich, flavourful sauce. This recipe uses a twist on the classic by creating a homemade mayonnaise based sauce perfect for summer salads.

A chef’s salad is so often the expected. The recipe mentioned above from the Silver Palate Cookbook is packed with flavour and layers of fresh basil, sun-dried tomatoes, smoked mozzarella, salami, smoked turkey, and arugula served with a delicate tuna mayonnaise. Their salad must be made 6 to 24 hours before serving and should be arranged in a large glass bowl with straight sides to show off all the layers.

Now don't get me wrong, I have enjoyed the Silver Palate version on many occasions but for today's salad, loosely based on the one above, it is all about simplicity and using what I have on hand. Mine is a much quicker version but the original is highly rated! My interpretation uses Spring greens plucked from the garden, farm fresh eggs, fresh mozzarella and local asparagus. My recommendation for any tonnato is to poach the chicken in the cooling breezes of a summer morning. This would also be a good time to whip up the tuna mayonnaise using tuna packed in oil for the best flavour and allowing time for the flavours to marry well.

The mayonnaise recipe is an exact duplicate from the Silver Palate series. It makes 3 cups which is overkill for this particular recipe. You can cut the recipe in half or do as I do and make a delicious pasta salad!!!

 **Chicken with Tonnato Mayonnaise and Fresh Spring Greens**

For Poached Chicken
  • 2 cups fresh chicken broth
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 celery rib, cut into 3 pieces
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 slices lemons
  • 8 -10 black peppercorns
  • 4 chicken breasts (about 1 pound 5 ounces)
 For Salad
  • 3 cups mixed torn greens (romaine, red leaf lettuce, radicchio, and arugula)
  • 4 scallions, sliced
  • 3 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 12 ounces smoked or fresh mozzarella cheese, julienned
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 medium-size red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 cup Niçoise olives, pitted and sliced
  • 4 hard-cooked eggs, peeled
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 5 ounces prosciutto, cut into julienne
  • 1 pound asparagus or broccoli florets, blanched
  • Capers and chopped parsley for garnish
  • Tuna Mayonnaise (recipe follows)
1. Prepare the chicken in the morning. Pour the broth and wine in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, add the onion, celery, bay leaf, lemon and peppercorns and simmer 5 minutes. Carefully lower the chicken breasts into the broth in a single layer, adding some boiling water, if needed, to cover them. Bring back to a boil, then turn the heat right down and simmer very slowly for another 5 minutes. Turn the heat off, cover the pan, and allow the chicken to cool in the broth. (This will take about 4-5 hours.).

2. Make the Tuna Mayonnaise (recipe below) 

3. After many hours, remove the chicken from the poaching liquid and cut into thin slices.

4. Toss the greens with 2 of the sliced scallions in a large glass bowl. Add fresh tomatoes, basil, red onion, prosciutto and asparagus and toss. Season with salt and pepper. 

5. Place salad on large platter. Scatter juliened cheese slices, prosciutto and olives. In the centre of the platter lay a layer of the thinly sliced poached chicken. On top of chicken place a thick layer of tuna mayonnaise wgich is the tonnato portion of this salad. Over the tonnato sprinkle capers and chopped parsley. Over the entire salad grate the hard boiled eggs.

6. Use 2 large salad spoons to serve the salad and enjoy!!!!.

Serves 6

**Tuna Mayonnaise**
from the Silver Palate Cookbook

4 egg yolks
3 anchovy fillets, chopped
1 tablespoon capers, drained
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 can (6 1/2 ounces) tuna packed in oil
1/2 cup sour cream

1. Process the yolks, anchovies, capers, lemon juice, mustard, and parsley in a food processor fitted with the steel blade for 15seconds. With the machine running, pour the oils in a steady stream through the feed tube to make a thick mayonnaise. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

2. Flake the tuna and add it with its oil to the mayonnaise. Process until thoroughly blended.

3. Scrape into a small bowl, fold in the sour cream, and taste and adjust seasonings. Refrigerate covered until ready to use.

 Makes about 3 cups.

 You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison.
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  1. A great dish! So fresh and tasty.



  2. My Silver Palate Cookbook is about in the same shape as yours Val. I actually have two. One for each house. It's the kind of cookbook I can sit and read for hours. I agree they over-do it, but as you say, we're in charge of making our own changes. You've really lightened up veal tonnato, which is a heavy dish, using chicken and spring greens. Great job.

    Love that you made homemade mayonnaise for this. I grew up with a mother who made homemade mayo. It's the best.

  3. What a delightful delicious and healthy salad! So pretty too!

  4. Hola Beauty! Everything is fine, yes. I'm taking things easier and don't know if will be definitively back.
    I'm loving your place (as always) and your recipes and pictures :D. This chicken salad is just perfect for the upcoming summer. Love.

  5. I'm a big Silver Palate fan . . . I have several favorites that I go to often. And every once in a while I will go to them just for inspiration. Not only are they great recipes, I just love reading the headnotes and sidebar stuff. They sure could describe things that made my mouth water and their love of food and cooking, and life.

  6. Off to print this one - I love it!

  7. Dear Valli this look delicious and nice, Love your plates! gloria

  8. Delicious! I purchased the original Silver Palate while we were visiting Hilton Head. It was from a dear little shop that had a wide front porch with white rocking chairs. I plopped right down into one and dove right into that innovative cookbook. It is now much used as is the second one. I met both the ladies at a gourmet food show in Atlanta years ago. They were there introducing their jams and sauces which were so delicious. Thanks for the memories.


  9. One of my favorite salads is one I got from The Silver Palate! I still serve it often.
    Your interpretation of one of their salads is lovely, Val! Love the tonnato mayonnaise idea (which I've never tried) and this makes such a lovely presentation.

  10. I definitely grew up with The Silver Palate on our cook shelf!

  11. Love the flavors and textures of this salad!

  12. What a stunning salad. Love the photo, and the ingredient list sounds delicious!

  13. The New Basics from The Silver Palate was my first cookbook and is still one of my favorites! This salad sounds fantastic for summer, and the tonnato mayonnaise could be used in so many ways.

  14. I think the best part of learning how to cook is getting comfortable enough to improvise in the kitchen! It looks like your improv turned out super well! That tuna mayo sounds quite tasty!

  15. It's all about the interpretation and experimentation Val. Tonnato is so delicious...adding it to the chicken sounds amazing. I'm loving this classic!

  16. AnonymousMay 17, 2011

    A perfect spring salad, loving the tonnato mayo here!

  17. The Silver Palate cookbook has been on my bookshelf for years. Several of my favorite recipes come from that book.

    What a great salad! I agree with you about using the tuna mayo for pasta salad.

  18. Val, I love your salad and the mayonnaise you've made to dress it. I'm always so happy to see folks using some of the old sauce recipes. They were very good and deserve to be used more often. Your tonnato sauce sounds wonderful. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  19. What a beautiful salad Val. I still have that cookbook in my bookshelf. That's a keeper.

  20. What a delicious spring salad! I've been collecting quite a few salad recipes lately, and this one sounds like a great one.
    *kisses* HH

  21. Your words made me smile today, Val. :-) I love my precious few cookbooks that "talk" to me when I open them. :-) I'm so glad you have one like that as well. :-)

  22. Oh I am loving this tuna mayo! What a great salad. One of my favorite things about spring and summer is all of the light and wonderful salads to be enjoyed!

  23. AnonymousMay 18, 2011

    My silver pallate book is also well used. When in New Yrk we can have thsi outdoors by my house.

  24. The Silver Palate cookbook was a favorite of mine for years and I'm sure it is one of the ones I retained move after move.

    Your interpretation looks great!

  25. This is a lovely light and refreshing salad

  26. Although I'm not a tuna fan, I can see the appeal of a nice fresh salad like this!

    You have two fundamental truths in this blog. One is "the key to outstanding meals was using good quality ingredients." So true. I think a lot of my cooking "talent" comes from the fact that I don't compromise on ingredients (which means I spend ridiculous amounts of money on food sometimes).

    The other truth is that recipes are merely guidelines. To me, a recipe is a story about food, and everyone has his or her own story to tell!

  27. That sounds delicious, I love salads with nice big chunks of tomato in them :)

  28. what a gorgeous salad, val! you've made a wonderful twist on a classic.

  29. Val!
    I have tasted tonnato only once and found it tinny and off putting... but when I look at the luscious list of ingredients in this recipe, it has to be delicious. I must try it - and with the Thermomix, it will be as smooth as velvet. I can't wait. I loved the description of your Silver Palate cookbook! Mine is almost pristine. It actually takes a post like this and someone like you to inspire me to use what I have. I continue to - FAR too much - just invent a recipe with what is in season and not be as creative as I could be and should be and would learn so much more from - by using my recipe books!
    I see you are away - and have been away a couple of times this past while. I would love to join you on one of your food adventures! I am thinking of going to Mara Jernigan's cooking class on Salt Spring Island in September. Does that interest you? There are - so far - four to five of us here that might make the trip. It would be a great time.
    I have been in a real blogging slump since Eat Alberta. I have so much to catch up on, including myself, that to read other posts and comment is overwhelming for me. To post my own posts is overwhelming. Yet, here I sit and am thoroughly inspired by you... and get why I love blogging and reading your post, but the time invested is huge!
    Miss you and am committed to do better. Have a GREAT trip. Loved reading about the spicey paneer, too. It is such fun to make, isn't it...( but your latest version would burn my delicate litte tongue!)

  30. Hope you return soon Valli I missed you! xxgloria

  31. This looks yummy....you have a lovely blog...I am having a giveaway in my blog..Y dont you check and join that


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