Main dish salads are a way to put together a meal with several components. They are also impressive. This main-dish salad has a lot going for it: Perfectly cooked moist chicken, soft buttery lettuce and a chunky, lemony and slightly sweet vinaigrette.
The recipe appeared about a year ago in the Wall Street Journal’s Slow Food Fast column that features chef’s and seasonal menus. Most of the featured recipes can be done in about 30 minutes. This recipe for a Basque Salad with Chicken and Piquillo Vinaigrette is the creation of chef Justin Severino, a Pittsburgh-area chef.
It caught my eye for several reasons. First, I am always on the look out for chicken recipes with interesting twists or pairings. Second, it had an interesting vinaigrette, described as “chunky” that uses a blend of piquillo peppers, capers and soft-boiled eggs. It’s really less of a vinaigrette and more of a topping for the chicken and lettuce.
Finally, it gave me a chance to splurge on some Manchego cheese, Spain’s most well-known cheese. The cheese is shaved and served on top of the lettuce. On a trip to Spain several years ago, we enjoyed the cheese many, many times, on appetizers and stuffed in piquillo peppers.
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Manchego falls into the category of aged cheeses. Most are aged at least 3 months and up to 2 years. Younger Manchego has a creamier texture and the older is firmer, similar to Parmesan with nutty nuances.
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Basque Salad With Chicken and Piquillo Vinaigrette
Adapted from the Wall Street Journal.
4 skin-on, boneless chicken breasts
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
9 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed, divided
4 cloves garlic, peeled, slight crushed
8 thin baguette slices
4 piquillo or other jarred roasted red peppers, diced
3 tablespoons capers, drained, roughly chopped
Zest and juice of 2 lemons, plus extra as needed
3 oil-packed anchovies, drained and minced, optional
4 tablespoons minced parsley
2 teaspoon Sherry vinegar
2 heads of butter lettuce, outer leaves removed and quartered
1/2 cup Manchego cheese shavings
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper. In a large oven-proof skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Lay chicken breasts in skillet, skin down. Cook until browned at edges and skin is brown. Do not turn the chicken over, leave them skin-side down. Transfer skillet to oven to cook breasts through, about 14 minutes. Remove from oven. Let rest, skin-side up, at least 5 minutes before serving.
Meanwhile, add garlic and remaining oil to a small pot over medium-low heat. Cook garlic until golden and tender, about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove garlic from oil. Reserve oil. Chop garlic.
Brush bread with garlic-infused oil. Lightly season with salt. Arrange bread on a baking sheet and toast in oven until golden and crunchy, about 5 minutes.
Place the eggs in a small pot of boiling water, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce heat and simmer 8 minutes. Cool eggs under cold running water, then peel and roughly chop.
Whisk together chopped eggs, garlic, peppers, capers, lemon zest, half of lemon juice, anchovies, parsley and vinegar. Slowly whisk in remaining garlic-infused oil. Season with salt and extra lemon juice as needed.
To serve, divide chicken and lettuce quarters among 4 plates. Sprinkle lettuce with salt and lemon juice, then dress generously with vinaigrette. Crumble croutons and scatter Manchego over salad.
Yield: 4 servings.