Until this past weekend, I never realized just how beautiful the Virginia countryside is. Last fall  I took a trip to Culpeper, VA with a friend to visit their cute shops and pick apples. We had such a great time that I wanted to share the experience with some of my family members. So this past weekend I, my parents, a cousin and several aunts and uncles took an overnight trip to Culpeper and Madison counties for a few farm and winery tours. Blessed with sunny and pleasantly crisp fall weather, we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and as we took the “back” roads from place to place, the sights of the wide open and beautifully manicured fields accented with wooden fences and gorgeous homes added to our enjoyment.
Culpeper County  was having their official Fall Harvest Farm Tour, and although we didn’t include all 12 site visits on our trip, we made it to several including a few unofficial stops to two wineries  and to Graves Mountain Farm  for apple picking. Between the nine of us, we left the orchard with about 10 or 11 boxes of apples – staymen, red delicious, golden delicious, fuji, and granny smith. So needless to say, a few of my upcoming posts will include apples!
First up, apple pecan chicken salad. I’ve wanted to feature chicken salad for a while because it’s always great for using up leftovers from roast chicken (waste not). In addition, it’s also good to make when you’re short on time or want to make a batch to last you for enough lunches or afternoon snacks through the week. Just simply buy a whole roasted or rotisserie chicken from the supermarket – a great short cut.
The Corner Bakery  has a delicious chicken salad that includes apples and currants, so along with the apples I picked, that is the inspiration for this recipe. The sweetness and crunch of the apples add a pleasant taste to this chicken salad, and my favorite flavor note in this recipe comes from the toasted pecans. So enjoy, and take a look back at my apple recipes from last fall – apple pecan salad with apple cider vinaigrette  (apple pecan is a great flavor combo) and apple crisp .
Apple Pecan Chicken Salad
1 whole roasted or rotisserie chicken (4 – 5 pounds), shredded or well chopped into small pieces
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1 cup diced apple
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon quality mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 light dashes smoked paprika
1/4 cup dried currants
1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted and roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Toast the pecan halves in a small sauté pan over medium low heat. Remove pan from heat once the pecans become fragrant (about 3 – 4 minutes). Allow pecans to cool slightly, then chop.
Working piece by piece (breast, legs, thighs, wings) and with your hands, separate the meat from the bones and chop the meat of the cooked chicken up into small pieces, then add it to a large bowl. Add the celery, diced apple, currants and half of the salt, thyme, paprika and some fresh ground black pepper along with the mayonnaise and stir well with a rubber spatula to combine.
Add the remaining half of salt, thyme and paprika along with the chopped pecans and stir to combine once more. Taste for additional salt and pepper. Serve apple pecan chicken salad on bread as a sandwich or with crackers or toasted bread.