Posted by: Erin | October 7, 2009

Chicken Cherry Spinach Salad

You know it’s been a long week when you almost pour your wine on your salad and your dressing in your wine glass. I’ve been insanely busy as of late, so there has been little creativity in my kitchen. But I got distracted last weekend and bookmarked a ton of new recipes to try while trying to figure out what to make for dinner. One of them is the one I made tonight, a Grilled Chicken Salad with Cherries.

cherry_chicken_salad

The other day when I was in the supermarket, I noticed the heated stand near the self checkout. It’s always been there, but I always seem to just pass by it without really comprehending it. It’s where they put the ready cooked rotisserie chickens (wow, spelled “rotisserie” right on the first try – gold star for me!). So I was trying to think of what I could use one of them for, since, while I like chicken, I don’t like cooking it, because raw chicken is slimy and gross. This salad sounded like a perfect candidate. However, I ended up not going that route because I wasn’t sure what I’d do with the dark meat that I assumed would exist, what with it being a whole chicken and all. I thought about using pork chops, but the store was woefully understocked, so I went back to the chicken idea. Due to my own laziness, I bought the pre-cut “great for stir-fry” package, which, come to think of it, is also rather great for salads – it cooks up quickly, and you can pretty much use it as is without all the chopping or cutting or whatever.

The other issue was the cherries. Fresh sweet cherries are wonderful, amazing things. I’d never really thought about cooking with them before – I never really think about putting them with anything. I could easily just sit and eat a bowlful of them cold (and when they’re in season, I often do). This looked like a reasonably low-risk dish to start with, but cherries aren’t in season now, so I used frozen ones. On the upside, they defrost pretty quickly, and you don’t have to take the pits out. (Though do be careful with the frozen ones – the machines don’t always get all the pits out. I found one pit, but the rest were fine.) The downside is that, like most frozen fruit, they get a little squishy if you let them defrost too much. I ended up slicing a few, but I left most of them whole – they were hard to slice, but they were fine.

The recipe calls for “gourmet salad greens,” so when I was at Whole Foods yesterday to get the frozen cherries, I picked up some Olivia’s Organics 50/50 mix (baby greens and baby spinach). The photo with the recipe actually looks more like an herb salad mix, but the 50/50 mix was the best-looking variety at the time. Unfortunately, when I opened it tonight, half of it was bad. (It seemed to be mainly the reddish leaves – not sure what they are.) So I ended up putting the cherries and chicken on a bed of mostly spinach. I also don’t measure my greens when I make salads, I just put what looks like a good amount for the meal. I think I ended up with roughly 2 cups of baby spinach, which worked out quite well.

As I was plating the salad, I had the idea to add some goat cheese to the mix. Goat cheese goes well with fruit over baby greens, and I had some in the fridge. I wanted to add some pear slices to it also, but the ones I bought yesterday aren’t ripe enough to eat yet. (Pears are tricky to get right. Too firm/green and they don’t taste right; too yellow, and they’re mushy and mealy. You really have to be on top of the pears, figuratively speaking.)

The dressing had a bit of a kick to it. I’m suspecting the Dijon mustard, but I was probably a bit liberal with the black pepper and/or the shallots, too, so I can’t be certain. I liked the dressing, but it’s got a… not sour taste, exactly – maybe “savory” is the word I’m looking for. In either event, to my brain, it’s the diametric opposite of the cherries’ taste, which was quite sweet. It worked, but it sort of clashed a little. It’s hard to explain. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good dinner, and I’m sure it’ll go more quickly next time (I think the key is to already have minced shallots for something else ahead of time), but I almost feel like the dressing would be better on the salad without the cherries. I’m not sure what I would substitute in – maybe just pears? They’re sweet as well, though, so I don’t know if that would do it. It bears further experimentation, but the dressing itself is good, and the salad was a good meal. I had it with a glass of my current favorite wine, the Chateau Ste Michelle 2008 Columbia Valley Riesling I mentioned back in the Bacon Mac and Cheese post. (And yes, I did catch myself before I poured it on the salad.)

I also took pictures before I put the dressing on, so here’s the picture with the dressing.

cherry_chicken_salad_closeup

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