Balsamic chicken salad

Balsamic chicken salad

I have often made chicken breast with balsamic vinegar and basil as an entree. It occurred to me that this would also be a good focal point for a salad. The chicken here is made exactly the same way as for the entree, with the exception of the final step. For the entree, I serve the breast whole, with the sauce over the top. I think the salad is made easier to eat by slicing the breast and mixing the slices back into the sauce before placing on the salad.

The dressing for this is an easy call: It has to be a balsamic vinaigrette.

Then the question of what else to put on the salad. As an entree, I would serve the chicken with a starch–rice, potato, whatever–and a vegetable, preferrably something nice and green. Salade Nicoise! That includes potatoes and haricots verts, the thin, tender green beans. I decided that would also work nicely here.

One could substitute regular green beans for the haricots verts, but the latter are so much better. Try to find them. Trader Joe’s generally has them, so if you have one close, go there. For the potatoes, I use very small (around 1-inch) red potatoes, but go with small potatoes you like and can find. Amounts of both will depend on your appetite.

The potatoes and haricots verts could be served on the salad either cold or still warm. I have always had them chilled, but I think warm would work as well. If you want them cool, you will have to cook them at least an hour or so before so they can cool down in the refrigerator. If warm, cook them first so they can cool down a bit while you make the chicken.

Balsamic chicken salad

1 chicken breast (or piece of one the size you would like)
olive oil
fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

small potatoes
haricots verts
butter lettuce

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon herbs de Provence
fresh ground pepper

Put potatoes in a pan. Cover with water. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat and cook until just tender, so a fork can be inserted easily. This will take something around 15 minutes, but use the fork test and start checking earlier. Drain the potatoes. Before finishing the salad, cut them in half or whatever seems appropriate for eating, given their size.

For the haricots verts, bring a pot with plenty of water to the boil. Add the beans and cook until they are just starting to get tender, 2 to 4 minutes, 2 for very crisp to 4 for tender crisp. You can take one out and check, but they will become a little more tender after you strain and rinse them, so stop on the crisp side. When cooked, strain and run cold water over them. This not only cools them down and helps to stop the cooking but also helps keep the nice green color.

If the chicken breast is very thick, you may want to pound it somewhat thinner for cooking. Put olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. When heated, add the chicken breast with some fresh ground pepper. You may then want to turn the heat down a bit. Cook for about 5 minutes, turn over, and cook for another 5 minutes and continue as needed until the chicken is just cooked through. It should read 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer and no longer be pink when you slice into the thickest part.

When the chicken breast is done, turn down the heat. Add the balsamic vinegar, honey, and basil. Stir to mix the ingredients and coat the chicken breast. Cook for about a minute or so to combine the flavors, turning the chicken breast once so both sides get immersed in the sauce. Take the chicken breast out and slice it crossways into pieces about 1/4-inch wide. Put the pieces back in the pan and mix to coat them with the sauce. The chicken is now ready for the salad.

Whisk together or shake in a jar the oil, balsamic vinegar, and other ingredients for the vinaigrette. Put the lettuce on a plate. Mix the potatoes and haricots verts with some of the vinaigrette to coat them. Spoon the rest of the vinaigrette over the lettuce. Add the chicken, potatoes, and haricots verts to the salad.

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