30 May 2013

Really Good Chicken Salad

When I was a kid, Saturday mornings were set aside for cleaning. My Mom would give us breakfast and then tell us that it was 'time to clean your room'. I would putter around picking up clothes and stuffing them in the laundry chute, stripping my bed, putting away toys (or shoving them under the bed), dancing around to the radio or record player, putting away toys (shoving them in the closet), running the vacuum cleaner, putting away toys (sucking them up in THE KIRBY), and waiting a decent amount of time before racing for the back yard.

Occasionally, Dad would call me back in and tell me that my room 'looked like a dog's breakfast'. Hmmm ... I always wondered what a dog's breakfast looked like. One time, Dad ushered me up to my room and opened the closet door. What should have been a neat and orderly spot was not. He calmly asked me if I ever saw what the garbage cans looked after the neighborhood beagle had been at them. Yes, I knew. Well, THAT is a dog's breakfast and this looks like a dog's breakfast too! Hmmm .... mystery solved. Work ahead. So much for Saturday morning whiffle ball with the rest of the kids in the neighborhood.

Making this Jamie Oliver salad last evening reminded me of that old expression ... but it tasted really, really good!

It's one of those salads that has a variety of textures and tiny little flavour components that pop out at you here and there and from one bite to the next. There are little bits of caramelized onions, olive oily sun-dried tomatoes, fresh hot roasted chicken, crispy pancetta bits, and croutons that are full of flavourful chicken fat (yeah, I know ... but so delish and crunchy!).  Now about the greens ... I used baby spinach and arugula and five sprigs worth of fresh mint leaves.  To boot, I added fresh cherry tomatoes that I halved. The whole thing is tossed together and drizzled with a bit of olive oil and a good balsamic vinegar, sprinkled with black pepper and knoshed with a very cold glass of white wine. It was divine ... but it  looked like a dog's breakfast. Come to think of it, so did the tablescape. Oh well ... sometimes a messy looking meal can be so liberating!

This is not a low calorie salad, folks. Those croutons throw the count over the moon, but damn was it ever good! So, treat yourself sometime soon to a really good chicken salad!

Making this salad requires chicken with the skin on, as the bread cubes are roasted up with the chicken in the pan's juices and fats. This technique makes for croutons that can be gooey or ultra crisp, depending on where in the pan they sit. I used a small 3-lb fryer. I stripped the breast meat off the bird and shredded it for the salad. The rest will make a soup for our weekend lunches.

The other neat little trick that I used was to slice a huge onion into thick slabs. Then, I used the onion as a 'rack' to elevate my little chicken off the bottom of the pan. The chicken didn't stick to the pan while roasting and the juices caramelized the onion beautifully. Then, when I was constructing the salad, I just scooped out soft, gooey pieces of onion and deposited them amongst the greens with the slices of sun-dried tomato. So yummy.

So here's the recipe, such as it is ...

Jamie Oliver Inspired Chicken Salad for Two


a small chicken for roasting (3-lb is perfect)
Kosher salt and black pepper
thyme sprigs
half a lemon
olive oil for drizzling
1 large onion, peeled and slice into thick rings
4 thick slices of Ciabatta bread chopped into rough cubes
1 clove garlic, finely minced
3 cups each baby  spinach leaves, arugula leaves
5 or 6 sprigs of fresh mint, leaves removed
a big handful of cherry tomatoes, washed and halved
10 thin slices of pancetta
about 6 sun-dried tomato halves, sliced into bite-sized slivers
balsamic vinegar and olive oil for dressing the salad

Making the Salad:

1.     Preheat the oven to 375° F. Place the onion slices in the bottom of a small roasting pan.
2.     Wash and dry the chicken, sprinkle it inside and out with Kosher salt and black pepper. Poke holes in half a lemon and stuff it in the chicken’s cavity. Truss up the tail and legs of the bird. Fold the wings back under themselves. Lay the bird atop the onion slices. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle on the thyme leaves and pop it in the oven.
3.     Roast the bird for about one hour and fifteen minutes in total, but test the juices to determine when it is perfectly roasted.
4.     One half hour after the bird has been put in the oven, toss the bread cubes and garlic bits into the roasting pan all around the bird. Return to the oven and continue roasting until done.
5.     While the bird roasts, fry the pancetta slices in a small fry pan until crisp and curly. Set them aside to drain on paper towels.
6.     Wash and spin out the spinach and arugula. Pinch the mint leaves to release their essence and toss the greens with the mint leaves. Set the greens aside in a large salad bowl.
7.     When the chicken has finished roasting, remove the croutons and break them up. Some will be gooey with juices and some will be crisp from cooking around the edges of the pan. Remove them to a warm plate.
8.     Pull the breast skin back off the bird and pull off the breast meat, shredding it into bite-sized pieces.
9.     Spoon the caramelized onions off the bottom of the roasting pan and drop pieces around the top of the greens.
10. Add the sun-dried tomato strips and the fresh tomato halves.
11. Toss on the croutons, crumble the pancetta over top with the hot pieces of chicken.
12. Serve immediately with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for drizzling and more black pepper for sprinkling.


  1. What a great post.
    I'll tell my daughter (12 years old) to read it...just to let her know that she's not alone ahahaha when she has to clear her room.
    Thanks for sharing

  2. such a funny way to tell us you're not happy with the way the salad looks... it looks amazing if you ask me... love that Jamie Oliver!

  3. Haha, we usually use the term 'dog's dinner'... and I always wondered where it came from. That's for clearing that mystery up :) The salad looks absolutely gorgeous. I am always on the lookout for good chicken salads, as when I roast a chicken its only me that's eating it and I always have tons of leftovers too. Thanks for sharing Susan, this one's been bookmarked.

  4. I think the salad looks delicious. The croutons in chicken fat sound like the frosting on the cake. I bet the taste was amazing. My dog's breakfast is her favorite meal!!

  5. that salad looks delicious.


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