Saturday, July 30, 2011

Green Leaf, Chicken and Cherry Salad

This salad has so much going for it. The fresh dill vinaigrette, juicy chicken (and crispy chicken skin), sweet cherries, crunchy spicy radishes...but it's the outstanding toasty, chickeny croutons that blew me away. It made me wonder why I'd never made croutons with chicken fat before. In fact, it makes me wonder why I don't cook everything in chicken fat. Holy cow that's good! (Yes, I realize the irony.)

Makes 4 main-course servings

4 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 lb.)
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons canola or vegetable oil

dill vinaigrette:
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons honey
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

4-5 thick slices rustic bread, torn or cut into 3/4" pieces
3/4 lb. fresh cherries, stemmed, pitted and lightly crushed (or halved or quartered)
1 head green leaf lettuce (or butter lettuce or baby spinach), torn into pieces
4 radishes, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped chives

1.      Preheat oven to 475° F. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a 12" cast-iron or heavy nonstick skillet over high heat until hot but not smoking. Nestle chicken in skillet, skin side down, and cook 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-high; continue cooking skin side down, occasionally rearranging chicken thighs and rotating pan to evenly distribute heat, until fat renders and skin is golden brown, about 12 minutes.
2.      Transfer skillet to oven and cook 13 more minutes. Flip chicken; continue cooking until skin crisps and meat is cooked through, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to a plate to cool (be sure to leave the rendered fat in the pan). Can be made ahead and refrigerated (remember to save the pan drippings).
3.      Whisk lemon juice, mustard, dill, honey and garlic in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir; set aside.
4.      Remove crispy chicken skin; tear or cut into pieces. Pull chicken meat from bones and tear into pieces; discard bones (or save for making stock). Set aside skin and meat.
5.      Reheat chicken fat over medium heat. Add bread to skillet and toast, turning frequently, until golden and crisp, about 4-5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (If chicken skins are no longer crispy from being refrigerated, you can add to the croutons during the last 1-2 minutes to crisp up.) Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
6.      Place chicken meat in a large bowl. Add cherries, lettuce, radishes and chives; drizzle with vinaigrette and toss to coat.
7.      Divide salad among 4 plates and garnish with croutons and chicken skin.

adapted from Bon Appétit, June 2011
pan-seared chicken (the skins are getting nice and crispy)
fresh dill
dill vinaigrette
croutons getting toasty
gorgeous sweet summer cherries (before pitting)
crushed cherries on top

I think next time I might just slice the cherries
in half instead. It just doesn't seem worth the
gigantic mess to crush them.
lettuce, radishes and chives added
pouring on the vinaigrette
croutons and crispy chicken skins on top

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