Wednesday, December 07, 2011
CRISPY CHICKEN AND APPLE SALAD
In my ongoing quest for satisfying cold-weather salads, I have bookmarked approximately one million that involve apples and/or dried cranberries, all very subtly different. This one, originally from Everyday Food, which I spotted at Serious Eats, combines those two uber-autumnal/wintry ingredients with lettuce, slices of breaded pan-fried chicken breast, and a creamy dressing. The original dressing looked unappetizing to me—it was basically just a mixture of mayonnaise and buttermilk, with a little vinegar and parsley thrown in—and it is a sign of my newfound passion for mustard that I immediately thought, “But this salad would be perfect with a little Grey Poupon!” So instead I used a lighter, spunkier yogurt-Dijon vinaigrette lifted from one of my very favorite salads, a dressing that has become my go-to default whenever I need to improvise. As I suspected, it was a delectable counterpoint to the chicken and the crisp, sweet-tart fruit. When I ate the leftovers for lunch the next day, I threw in a handful of walnuts, and that made everything even better, so I’m suggesting it as an option below. This isn’t a revolutionary combination of flavors—it’s so intuitive, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen similar salads on fast-food menus, although of course the homemade version is infinitely better—but it makes an easy, wholesome, pleasing meal. We both really liked it, so I’m guessing it’s going to become a regular menu staple around here.
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1¼ teaspoons salt, divided
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 large egg
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, gently pounded to an even thickness
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
8 cups red-leaf lettuce leaves
2 large apples, cut into thin wedges
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup toasted walnuts (optional)
1. On three small plates, set up the dredging stations: the flour on one, the egg whisked with 1 tablespoon of water on another, and the breacrumbs on the third. Season the flour with ¼ teaspoon salt and some freshly ground black pepper, and the panko with ½ teaspoon salt. Dry the chicken breasts thoroughly with paper towels until tacky.
2. In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium until shimmering.
3. Dredge the chicken in the flour and shake off the excess, then in the egg mixture, allowing the excess to drip off, and finally in the breadcrumbs, pressing gently to adhere. Add the chicken to the skillet and cook until golden, then flip and finish cooking, 8 to 10 minutes total. Drain on paper towels, allow to cool for a few moments, and then slice into strips.
4. While the chicken cooks, whisk together vinegar, yogurt, mustard, and ½ teaspoon salt in a small bowl; season with pepper to taste. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking until emulsified.
5. Lay the lettuce in a serving bowl or on a platter and scatter with the apples and cranberries (and walnuts, if desired). Lay the chicken over the top, drizzle with dressing, and serve.
Time: 30 minutes
Leftover potential: OK, although chicken will be less crispy the next day; store all components (chicken, dressing, walnuts, unsliced apples, and cranberries) separately and assemble right before eating.