It's kind of funny that I write a food blog because I am one of those people who could happily eat chicken and salad 5 nights out of 7--the rest of my family, not so much, so I am always looking for ways to make my favorite combo seem new again. And today I can unequivocally say I have found it! This Warm Roasted Chicken and Arugula Salad has managed to trick my trusting crew at home that what's old is new again--they gave it a resounding YES!! Well, not really, but the large bowlful I left for them before I hopped into the city for a meeting was almost entirely gone by the time I got home a few hours later, which I'm taking as a resounding rave and not just desperate hunger. There I go, being positive again....
Salads are just made for easy summertime eating and this is no ordinary salad. First off, there are homemade crusty, slightly chewy, seasoned croutons nestled throughout the lettuce leaves. Need I say more?!!!
Then there's warm roasted chicken which is not only delicious in this salad but the technique I use here is a terrific and speedy way to roast incredibly moist and flavorful bone-in chicken breasts, a real boon for busy nights! Basically all you do is sear the chicken in a very hot oiled pan for about 5-7 minutes (this gives it an irresistibly crispy skin) and then roast it in a 450ºF oven for another 20-30 minutes, leaving you just the right amount of time to throw together the rest of your meal. I'll be doing this all winter!!
Then there are the tomatoes, toasted pine nuts and shredded Parmesan rounding everything out. The salad is sans dressing, (the chicken broth/garlic mixture adds just the right amount of moisture) which means you can make it early in the day (it's still plenty good when the chicken is not hot) and it won't get soggy. If you a "wetter" salad, right before you serve, you just splash on a bit of olive oil and vinegar and dinner is served--no need to add bread on the side--it's already in the salad. Crafty, huh? Comes from years of convincing people that they ACTUALLY LIKE GREEN FOOD!!! Unfortunately for me, the brainwashing has worked so well, that when my boys are home I actually have to hide the lettuce or there won't be any left for me!!
But despite the greatness of this salad, how often do you think I can get away with serving it before the complaints start coming in? Please send me your favorite salad/chicken combos--asap!! I'm starting to get desperate!!
Warm Roasted Chicken and Arugula Bread Salad
Makes 2-3 servings (you can easily double this)
Prep Time for chicken: 30 minutes; Prep Time for rest of salad: 15 minutes
4 cups cut or torn French or Italian bread (about 6 ounces)--you can use bread that's slightly stale if you like
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 bone-in, skin-on split chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
2/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
5-6 ounces baby arugula (or the lettuce of your choice)
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
2-3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
1 cup shredded fresh Parmesan cheese, or shaved Parmesan (or whatever cheese you like or none if you don't want any--the salad will still be great)
Oil and vinegar for additionally dressing the salad (optional)
1. Place the bottom oven rack in the lowest position and preheat oven to 450ºF. In a medium bowl, toss the cubes of bread with 1 tablespoon of the oil and a bit of salt and pepper. Place them in an 8 or 9-inch square baking dish in a single layer if possible and set aside.
2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large heavy pan or cast iron pan over medium-high heat until very hot. Place the chicken in skin-side down and cook for about 5-7 minutes, until the chicken is golden. Transfer the chicken to the baking dish on top of the bread cubes, skin-side up and roast for 20-30 minutes, until entirely cooked through (if the chicken is very thick, it may take longer.) Remove the chicken from the pan to a cutting board and when cool enough, remove the meat and discard the bones. Chop or shred the chicken.
3. While the chicken is cooking, pour off the fat in the pan and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, stirring. Add in the broth, scraping up any browned bits. Bring to a simmer and let cook for about 3-4 minutes, until the mixture reduces and thickens slightly. Stir in the vinegar, cover the pan and remove from the heat.
4. Place the cooked bread cubes in a large salad bowl. Pour all but 2 tablespoons of the broth mixture over the bread and toss well to coat. Add the chopped or shredded chicken, arugula, tomatoes, pine nuts and reserved 2 tablespoons of the broth mixture into the bowl and fold together gently. Season with more salt and pepper if necessary and add in Parmesan. Serve as is or add a splash of oil and vinegar if you like a wetter salad.
5. If you leave the dressing off, you can make this early in the day and chill it without it getting soggy.
Note: Recipe adapted from The Best Chicken Recipes by Cook's Illustrated. I tampered around a lot with ingredients, proportions etc.