OK, so the name of this salad isn't really a "True Blood Salad", but that's what my husband calls it. This is because we started enjoying them a few summers ago and seemed to always have them on Sunday nights. We were watching True Blood episodes at that time, and for some reason we always put our daughter to bed first and then ate the salads while watching the show. Now you can sleep well tonight knowing the back story. This salad is really a chicken chopped salad modeled after a salad at our local Chester's with the same name. My friend Betsy gave me the recipe and we instantly fell in love with it. I just looked up the menu at Chester's again for comparison, and while we make ours slightly different, it is pretty darn close. I (obviously) hadn't made these in well over a year because of the chicken, but I realized tonight that chicken is really not necessary. This would be a great meal to serve to eaters of all kinds because the options are endless, and the toppings are hearty and offer plenty of protein outside of the meat. Tonight I decided to make it a salad bar and I introduced my kids to this concept. I had them each come over to the counter to make their salad (as opposed to filling their plate for them with my assumptions of what they'd eat), and my 5 year old was insanely delighted. She thought this was super fun, and to my astonishment, she ate probably the most well-rounded dinner of her life to date. No tears. No exclamations of yucky food. Just a really nice family meal. I then realized that another "mistake" I've been making (in effort to get dinner on the table efficiently) is that I just fill the girls' plates for them. I need to be more conscious of allowing them to choose what goes on it. I digress. If you want the chicken on these salads, I beg you to cook the chicken in the manner I am about to describe. Sure, if you want to buy a rotisserie chicken that would work well, or you could boil the breasts, grill them in the summer, or shred from the crockpot---but really, you haven't lived until you've roasted chicken breasts Barefoot Contessa style. This method requires you to buy bone-in skin-on breasts, which seems slightly gross, but you eat neither the skin nor bone here (duh) while reaping the moisture-giving benefits of both. Let me put it another way--you can grossly overcook your chicken (like me) and still have awesome perfect, moist meat for your salad. Try it just once, and I promise you won't go back. This is hands down the best way to precook chicken. The end. And now, without further ado, the recipe for the chicken and the template for the most satisfying salad meal I've eaten.
Roasted Chicken Breasts
-from Barefoot Contessa
Grab yourself a few bone-in skin-on chicken breasts and place them on a lined baking sheet. Drizzle the tops with olive oil (she asks you to rub it on, but I like to keep things a bit more clean than that, so I drizzle) and then sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roast in a 375 degree oven for 40-60 minutes or until done. The time variant is so wide here because it depends on the size of the chicken breast. You can bet mine spent the whole hour in the oven. When they are cool enough to handle, remove the skin and then de-bone and chop or shred. My husband and I had a good laugh when he got home and saw these sitting on the stove cooling across the room--there's been no chicken action around here for so long he had no idea what they were and guessed them to be calzones of some type. Ha!
See why you need to line the pan? I just threw that parchment away.
OK, now for the salad part.....
True Blood Salads
-aka Chester's Chopped Chicken Salad. Thanks, Betsy.
Dressing--make this in any quantity you want, it is just a ratio of 2 parts olive oil and lemon juice, to 1 part honey, plus a little salt/pepper. We can get 4 large dinner salads out of the following proportions:
- 1/4 cup olive oil (you want nice extra virgin for this)
- 1/4 cup freshly squeeze lemon juice (yes, from a real lemon)
- 2 T. honey
- Whisk together in a small bowl and toss the desired amount with your salad.
Recommended salad ingredients:
- Mixed greens (I've also used romaine)
- shredded cooked chicken (as described above for best results)
- halved cherry or grape tomatoes
- walnuts (pecans would also be fine)
- corn (I cook a bag of frozen)
- chopped apples (something tart. It was granny smith tonight)
- gorgonzola cheese or another type of blue
- cubed or shredded sharp cheddar (I am not a blue cheese fan, so I use the cheddar instead)
- hard boiled eggs (gross to me)
- croutons (I was devastated to realize I forgot to open and use the croutons this time! Who does that?)