Friday, May 29, 2015

Red-on-Red Chicken Salad

Last Year's Post: Grilled Salmon and Pineapple with Avocado Dressing
Two Years Ago:  French Rhubarb Tarts

When I found this recipe in a magazine it was so pretty I just had to make it immediately.  We had friends over for dinner and I made it with watermelon, cantaloupe and strawberries because I already had the cantaloupe and strawberries on hand.  I totally forgot the basil but it was still great.  Now it's fresh cherry season so I modified the recipe to include watermelon and either cherries or strawberries for the red-on-red theme.  It's a cool, refreshing and light salad that's perfect for summer.

Note that the chicken needs to roasted and cooled in advance, which is easy to do the day before or early in the day.  (The vinegar mixture also needs to be reduced and cooled, but cooling only takes 15 minutes or so.)  Basting the chicken with soy sauce and olive oil before roasting gives it a deeper flavor, and refrigerating the chicken with its drippings keeps it very moist and makes it easy to cut cleanly.  Or, if you don't have the time, just buy a roasted chicken breast at the store.

I found some beautiful Bing and Rainier cherries at the farmers market, but of course you could use all Bing cherries if you can't find the more unusual Rainiers.  And you can either buy a watermelon and cut it up yourself, or buy a container of pre-cut watermelon from the produce department.

Regarding the feta cheese - I used to buy the little tubs of feta crumbles and thought they were OK until I finally bought a high-quality feta from France and realized how much better a really good feta tastes.  It's creamier, less salty, and has far better flavor. If you talk to your cheese person they can steer you toward a milder or stronger-flavored feta.  This time my cheese guy told me their highest-quality feta was from Greece so that's what I bought.  Yes, it costs more than the tubs of crumbles but not by much, and you can freeze what you don't use so it doesn't go to waste.  It's SO much better, I'll never go back.

print recipe
Red-on-Red Chicken Salad
Serves 4

Note:  the chicken needs to be roasted at least an hour in advance (or day before serving).  The vinegar mixture needs to be reduced at least 15 minutes in advance to cool.

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
½ cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
6 cups seedless watermelon cut into bite-sized cubes
3 cups pitted and halved fresh cherries (or halved strawberries)
¼ red onion, very thinly sliced
6-8 cups baby spinach or arugula/baby spinach mix
½ cup fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
½ cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 450d and line a baking pan with foil.  Place the chicken breasts in the pan, and brush both sides with soy sauce and olive oil.  Sprinkle both sides with pepper.  Roast to an internal temperature of 160 degrees (165 degrees after resting a few minutes), about 20 minutes.  Cool completely in the pan, then place the chicken breasts and pan drippings in a sealable plastic bag.  Shake the bag to coat the chicken breasts with drippings, then place in the refrigerator for an hour or two.

In a small saucepan combine vinegar and honey.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat for 7 to 8 minutes until reduced by half, stirring frequently.  Cool.  (If the cooled mixture is too thick, it may be thinned with a little additional vinegar.)

Combine the watermelon, cherries, and red onion in a bowl.  Divide the spinach among 4 plates; top with the fruit mixture, basil, and crumbled feta.  Thinly slice the chicken breasts and divide among the salads.  Sprinkle with pecans and drizzle with the vinegar mixture.  Serve immediately.

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