I love a good chicken salad, especially any I can find that aren’t heavy with mayonnaise-laden dressings. (Not that I have anything against good mayonnaise in the right place, either, but it really can weigh a dish down.) Back in the pre-Lily era, when I was working in West Hartford, CT, I used to frequent the Wild Oats prepared foods on an all-too-regular basis; his was before Whole Foods came to town, if you can imagine such a time. Seems positively Jurassic now.
Anyway, my favorite dish of theirs was a grilled chicken salad with a balsamic dressing. Perfect light fare, ideal for South Beach phase one, and with asparagus as a featured ingredient, ideal for a spring lunch! This is my approximation of the Wild Oats Balsamic Chicken Salad. If asparagus is starting to show up in your grocery stores or, better yet, at your farmers’ markets, try showcasing it in this easy salad! For the asparagus: everyone knows that trick where you bend the stalk to where it naturally snaps, and discard the tough, woody end, right? Well, I dimly recall learning another trick from Chopped host Ted Allen, way back before he became a Food Network star or a judge on Top Chef.
There was an episode of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (I’m full of flashbacks today) wherein he explained that rather than snap each and every stalk of asparagus individually, you took one from the bunch as a representative sample (since they’re harvested together), snapped THAT one, and use it as a measure of where to cut all the rest of them. So much quicker, right? Take this technique for a test drive with this salad.
Note: If you have a grill, this would be equally good, if not better, on the grill!.
SPRING CHICKEN SALAD with ROASTED ASPARAGUS, MUSHROOMS & PEPPERS
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, divided
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt, divided
2 pounds chicken (breast or thigh meat), trimmed and cut into strips
1 large bundle asparagus
1 red bell pepper, sliced
10 ounces crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, sliced
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Whisk together 1/4 cup of the balsamic, the garlic powder, one tablespoon of the olive oil, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Pour over prepared chicken in a tupperware container and refrigerate for at least 2 or 3 hours – overnight would be even better. Give it the occasional shimmy & shake to make sure the marinade is coating all surfaces of the chicken.
When you’re ready to proceed, preheat the oven to 425. Drain off and reserve the marinade, and spread the chicken out on a large baking sheet. Once chicken’s going, prep the veggies. Do the aforementioned Ted Allen Test Snap ™ on the asparagus. From there, cut the edible stalks into 2 inch pieces.
Toss these together with the mushrooms and peppers and another 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the remaining teaspoon of salt, and as much black pepper as you like. Spread these out on a second baking sheet and add them to the oven after the chicken has been cooking for about 15 minutes. For both chicken and veggies, check them every 5 minutes or so and give the pan a shake and stir.
While the chicken and veggies cook, heat the reserved marinade in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil for just a few minutes, then lower heat and let simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes. You’re just liquefying the fats that had been chilled and maybe reducing it a touch. Let cool.
When the chicken’s been cooking for 2o minutes, check for done-ness; it may need a few more minutes. Check vegetables at the same juncture – you want some browning, but definitely don’t let them get charred into oblivion.
Once everything’s optimally cooked through, allow all components to cool. Whisk the remaining tablespoon of balsamic and olive oil into the marinade and toss chicken and veggies together in a mixing bowl. Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary. I prefer the salad chilled, but it may well be force of habit – you might like it warm if you’re so inclined. So serve immediately or chill until ready to eat!
Other lovely light chicken salads in the foodosphere:
Chinese Chicken Salad from Rasamalaysia
Chicken Salad with Tarragon from Simply Recipes
Cranberry Walnut Chicken Salad from smitten kitchen
Shredded Chicken Salad with Green Olives, Celery and Green Onion from Kalyn’s Kitchen
Creamy Avocado Chicken Salad from Cheeky Kitchen
— posted by Anne