Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Divas in the Crisper Drawer: Hot Chicken and Bacon Salad with Mixed Greens

I have to make kind of a sad admission.  I have to be honest and admit that most of the time my vegetable bin is no more than a wasteful refrigerated composter. I buy nutritious fruits and vegetables with the greatest of intentions, but all too often they languish at the bottom of my crisper in a macabre brown liquid that I mop up every time I can muster the courage.

It is really the green leafies that pose the biggest problem for me.  While root vegetables are patient and stoic, quietly waiting for me to become inspired in my own good time, the delicate greens are not quite as forgiving. Like temperamental divas, their beauty seduces me in the grocery with a fresh and lovely appearance promising me and my family crisp salads and silken soups, but they are an impatient lot and problems soon follow. It seems like only a few days after bringing them home they are disappointingly limp and wilted.

The other day feeling like we haven’t had enough vitamins after our Thanksgiving carb fest, I drove to Whole Foods and went to town not only bringing home an expensive bag of divas, but divas with a pedigree and an organic certification. That night a forgotten family obligation sidelined my plans as well the next night and the next, all the while my impatient greens were wasting away in the bottom of my fridge.

Several days later while sifting through my fridge looking for a piece of ginger, I ran across a precious bunch of spinach teetering on the crossroads of life and liquefaction. Oh I hadn’t forgotten about it, it haunted me everytime I opened the fridge, but like Scarlet O’Hara I just preferred to think about it tomorrow. I guess that makes me a bit of a diva myself.

Determined not to throw away one more bunch of expensive produce, I washed it and removed the wilted bits, throwing the rest of it into a large pot over medium heat. Stirring occasionally I let it cook for a couple of minutes before adding some toasted sesame seeds and a splash of rice vinegar and some salt and pepper. Crisis averted this time.

When I am on my toes and my greens are fresh and crisp, there is nothing I like better than a good salad. I love salads all year long, but find that my guys crave something on the hot side in the winter. Inspired by an old recipe for spinach salad and one from one of my favorite little restaurants in Nottingham, this salad is hot and hearty and perfect for a cold winter's night. Serve this with a loaf of crusty French bread and a glass of your favorite wine and you will have an elegant feast.


Hot Chicken and Bacon Salad with Mixed Greens

1 large head red leaf lettuce

6 ounces baby spinach leaves

2 ounces arugula (optional)

6 slices bacon, chopped

2 chicken breasts, thinly sliced and then sliced in half across

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper

1 small onion, thinly sliced

1 large clove garlic

2 large tomatoes, chopped

2 tablespoons light olive oil (optional)

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Wash and dry greens well; set aside.

Place bacon pieces in a medium size frying plan set over medium high heat. Fry bacon until it is golden brown. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to drain; set aside.

In the same frying pan with the bacon drippings, saut̩ the chicken until it is cooked through, approximately 5 Р8 minutes. A minute or so before the chicken is done add the thyme, sage, salt and pepper; stir well. Transfer the chicken to a separate plate with a slotted spoon; set aside.

In the same frying pan sauté the onions for a couple of minutes until they are wilted. Add the garlic and cook for one minute longer. Add the chicken and bacon back to the pan and heat for 2 minutes or so stirring frequently. Add the tomatoes, olive oil and vinegar. Cook to heat through being careful not to break the tomatoes up too much.

Divide the greens evenly among four plates. Top the greens with equal amounts of the chicken and bacon mixture. Serve immediately.

To change things up a bit I have added chopped avocado, artichoke hearts, sliced mushrooms, bleu cheese crumbles and grated Parmesan. This is a really good base salad that you can make you own by adding your favorite ingredients.

Serves 4

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