Tarragon Chicken Salad + Beach Picnic

Do you ever just want to get away from everything and go someplace with water, sun, sand, and food? I do. And I'm always grateful in these moments that A) I have friends to hie away with and B) that I live on hour from Virginia Beach. One of the best bits of Virginia (particularly the portion I was born and raised in) is that no matter where you go there is always an ocean beach, a river beach, a bay beach, or some form of water by which to have a picnic (the downside is that your picnics are almost always accompanied by sand in your food, but let's leave out the fact that I spent a long time this afternoon wondering whether the gritty feeling in my bread was sand or poppy-seeds. Decisions.). On this particular day we were definitely being chased by a storm but the water at Sandbridge was exceptionally clear and aquamarine-colored and until we totally began to turn into little sand-covered popsicles, we enjoyed the waves, the dolphins right off-shore, and the fact that everyone else had all but left the beach to us alone. Eventually the looming clouds and dropping temperatures drove us off the beach without having gained much of a tan, but we were so glad for the fresh air and bracing water. At least I was. The others wrapped up in the blankets we had brought. Our picnic fare was very simple (it followed a massive and late brunch): fresh strawberry slab pie (crust, my recipe which I'll share soon; filling adapted from this recipe in Country Living), dill pickles, and this tarragon chicken salad. I'm a huge fan of chicken salad when made properly. This variety is a little fresher and simpler than usual: it starts with a slow-roasted chicken (you can off-set this time commitment by buying a whole rotisserie-style chicken), then adds fresh tarragon and a basic sauce of Greek yogurt, orange juice, and a little apple cider vinegar. Just smear a little butter on some slices of bread, fill the sandwiches, throw them in a cooler bag, and head to the beach!

Tarragon Chicken Salad
serves 6-8
(for the roast chicken)
1 whole plain chicken, uncooked
1/4 cup olive oil
2 limes
1 orange
1/2 bunch fresh tarragon
2 cloves fresh garlic
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup water
1 rotisserie-style chicken

(for the chicken salad)
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
juice of 1 orange
salt & pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 bunch fresh tarragon

1.) for the chicken - heat oven to 300 degrees F. Rinse raw chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Lay chicken breast-side down in a roasting pan. Brush olive oil completely over chicken, then squeeze limes over the chicken. In clean cavity, place lime halves and halved orange along with fresh tarragon. Split cloves of garlic and rub over skin of chicken, then place in cavity. Combine marjoram, parsley, salt, and pepper. Rub into the skin of the chicken. Pour the water into the bottom of the pan around chicken. Bake for approximately two hours (if your chicken is especially large it might take longer) occasionally basting with the juices that have run off the chicken until a thermometer stuck into the chicken reads at least 170 degrees F.
2.) When chicken is finished (or starting with bought rotisserie chicken), remove meat from the bones and chop finely. Chop fresh tarragon and add to the chicken.
3.) In a small bowl, whisk together Greek yogurt, apple cider vinegar, the juice of an orange, and salt and pepper to taste until the consistency of a creamy dressing.
4.) Add dressing to chicken and stir until desired consistency. I like mine midway between very moist and slightly dry. Chill until ready to fill sandwiches. When ready to assemble, butter slices of whole-grain or sourdough bread and fill with chicken salad. This recipe will fill at least 16 small sandwiches.

What about you? Where is your favorite place for a spring/summer escape? Where do you go for a breather and a chance to relax a bit?

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