Two Years Ago: Crab Fried Rice
I love salads in the summer whether they're lettuce or pasta based, just as long as they're cold. I had some really fun pasta I wanted to use in a salad this week and was doing some web surfing when I stopped at this recipe. Byerlys! The best grocery store in the universe! And they actually published the recipe for one of their most popular deli salads! If you're not familiar with Byerlys I feel sorry for you but at least you don't know what you're missing. It's a high-end grocery store chain in Minnesota that reminds me of a cross between Whole Foods and your local grocery store, only better. They have the best seafood, meats, sushi, etc.etc.etc. I so miss Byerlys.
Anyway, the salads in their deli case are very popular and the chicken cherry pasta salad is maybe their number one seller. That's why I was so excited to see the recipe. The reason why the salad is so popular is the great combination of flavors and textures, and in particular the salad dressing which is creamy and ever-so-slightly sweet. It goes very well with the cherries and chicken while the celery and walnuts add crunch. Everybody likes this salad. Really.
The only things I changed from the original recipe are that I used my fun pasta shape, and I used rotisserie chicken breast rather than cooking chicken from scratch. If you want to cook chicken breasts that would be perfectly fine, it was just really easy to use rotisserie chicken breast meat from the deli. One of the interesting things about the recipe is that you make it in advance, using only some of the dressing, then refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend. The dressing gets absorbed by the other ingredients during this time, which is why you add the rest of the dressing along with the fresh spinach and toasted walnuts right before serving. So, it's a great make-ahead salad as well.
One thing to know about Byerly's - they don't skimp. As in, this salad has a LOT of chicken in it compared to most deli salads. That makes it really good, but you could get by perfectly fine with less chicken. Also, they garnish their salads in the deli case with extra stuff so to honor them I included an optional garnish of a few cherries and walnuts on top. Make a big bowl of salad for your next gathering (be sure to garnish!) and watch it disappear.
Chicken Cherry Pasta Salad
1 pound rotisserie chicken meat, cubed
8 ounces medium-sized pasta such as shells or bow ties
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced (about ½ cup)
½ cup chopped red onion
2.5 ounces dried cherries
¾ cup mayonnaise
¾ cup creamy poppyseed dressing
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 cups baby spinach, stems removed
½ cup chopped walnuts, toasted
Cook pasta in boiling salted water according to directions. Drain, rinse with cold water and drain again. In a large bowl, combine chicken, pasta, celery, onion and cherries (reserve a few cherries for garnish, optional). In a smaller bowl, combine mayonnaise, poppyseed dressing, salt and pepper. Fold 1 cup of dressing into the salad, reserving the remaining ½ cup. Refrigerate the salad and reserved dressing separately, covered, several hours or overnight.