Chicken Salad with Pickled Fennel, Watercress and Macadamia Nuts

Chicken Salad with Pickled Fennel, Watercress and Macadamia Nuts
Julia Collin Davison and Bridget Lancaster are showing you how to upgrade an ordinary summer salad.
Chicken Salad with Pickled Fennel, Watercress and Macadamia Nuts
Salad, Lunch, Dinner
4-6 Servings


  • 3/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
  • 1 (3 inch) strip orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1/8 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • Fennel bulb, stalks discarded, 2 tablespoons fronds minced and bulb halved, cored, and sliced thin Salt and pepper
  • 4 (6- to 8 ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 10 ounces (10 cups) watercress, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 cup macadamia nuts or cashews, toasted and chopped


  • 2 (15 ounce) cans chickpeas
  • 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Teaspoons paprika
  • 1 Teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 Teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 Teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 Teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 Teaspoon sugar
  • Salt
  • 1/8 Teaspoon cayenne pepper


  • Omit allspice and cumin
  • Increase sugar to 11/2 teaspoons
  • Substitute 1 tablespoon smoked paprika for paprika, garlic powder for coriander, and onion powder for turmeric


  • Omit turmeric, allspice, and sugar
  • Decrease coriander to 1/2 teaspoon and cumin to 1/4 teaspoon
  • Substitute 1 tablespoon smoked paprika for paprika.



  1. Combine vinegar, water, garlic, orange zest, fennel seeds, pepper­corns, and mustard seeds in 2‑cup liquid measuring cup and microwave until boiling, about 5 minutes. Stir in sliced fennel bulb until completely submerged and let cool completely, about 30 minutes. (Pickled fennel can be refrigerated for up to 6 weeks.)
  2. Meanwhile, dissolve 2 tablespoons salt in 6 cups cold water in Dutch oven. Cover chicken with plastic wrap and pound to even 1‑inch thickness. Submerge chicken in water and heat over medium heat until water registers 170 degrees. Turn off heat, cover, and let sit until chicken registers 160 degrees, 13 to 16 minutes.
  3. Transfer chicken to paper towel–lined baking sheet and ­refrigerate until chicken is cool, about 30 minutes. Transfer chicken to cutting board and shred into bite-sized pieces using 2 forks.
  4. Drain fennel, reserving 1/3 cup brine; discard solids. Whisk reserved brine, oil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl. Add chicken, pickled fennel, watercress, and fennel fronds and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with macadamia nuts and serve.

Roasted Chickpeas:

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Place chickpeas in colander and drain for 10 minutes. Line large plate with double layer of paper towels. Spread chickpeas over plate in even layer. Microwave until exteriors of chickpeas are dry and many have ruptured, 8 to 12 minutes.
  2. Transfer chickpeas to 13 by 9‑inch metal baking pan. Add oil and stir until evenly coated. Using spatula, spread chickpeas into ­single layer. Transfer to oven and roast for 30 minutes. Stir chickpeas and crowd toward center of pan. Continue to roast until chickpeas appear dry, slightly shriveled, and deep golden brown, 20 to 40 minutes. (To test for doneness, remove a few paler chickpeas and let cool briefly before tasting; if interiors are soft, return to oven and test again in 5 minutes.)
  3. Combine paprika, coriander, turmeric, allspice, cumin, sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and cayenne in small bowl. Transfer chickpeas to large bowl and toss with spice mixture to coat. Season with salt to taste. Let cool fully before serving, about 30 minutes. (Chickpeas can stored in airtight container for up to 7 days.)