The end of July and beginning of August have a tradition of making Wisconsin residents feel a bit like we're living on Mars. Sometimes even the grass feels like it can burn tender feet. So the last thing most of us want to do when this time of the year rolls around is spend much time cooking and especially if it means turning the kitchen into another hot zone. But hey, there's a reason this time of the year is often called "salad days" - and, given the beautiful produce gardens are producing at breakneck speed, it's perfect timing.
Since a crunchy chicken salad is pretty well liked by most, I thought I'd share a quick one that serves as my standard right about now. By keeping panko and boneless, skinless chicken breasts on hand, all I need are the makings for the base of the salad and my trusty CSA box fills that need quite well. When it comes to the seasonings in the panko, use what's listed here or pick your own combination or just toss in a couple of teaspoons of your favorite seasoning blend. As for the veggies, your garden, market, CSA box, or cravings can fill in the plate in a way that's pleasing to you. Salads are often more about inspiration and less about strict recipes and this one is no different. I often have this salad without dressing, but you can always pick a recipe to make your own or top it with your favorite variety from a bottle.
For summer's hottest days, I like to round out a meal like this with fresh fruit (think melon or stone fruit sprinkled with a little lime juice) and a cold beverage (iced tea, lemonade, or even water spiked with some of that fruit and lime juice). Then, it's time to find shade, air conditioning, or even the beach! Keep cool.
- 2/3 c. plain panko crumbs
- 1 tsp. coarse salt
- 1/2 tsp. granulated garlic
- 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1 tsp. crushed rosemary
- Crushed red pepper, to taste
- 1 T. mayonnaise
- 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 1 T. cooking fat (I used bacon fat)
- 8 oz. mixed salad greens (variety is good here!)
- 1/3 c. chopped snap peas
- 1/4 large red onion, sliced into thin strips
- 1/2 c. sliced yellow mini peppers
- 1/2 avocado, pitted and sliced into strips
Combine the panko crumbs, salt, garlic, paprika, rosemary, and crushed red pepper together in a shallow dish to form a seasoned crumb mixture. Set aside.
Coat the chicken breast evenly with the mayonnaise and then dredge the chicken through the seasoned crumbs to generously coat it. Allow to rest on a plate while preparing the skillet.
Heat the cooking fat of your choice in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the chicken fully by cooking for at least 5 minutes per side. Continuing flipping every 2 minutes after that until the desired level of browning has been achieved. Remove the chicken to a cutting board and allow it to rest while preparing the rest of the salad.
Arrange the greens, peas, onions, peppers, and avocado on two serving plates. Set aside.
Toss any remaining seasoned crumbs into the hot pan used to cook the chicken. Stir constantly until the crumbs are lightly browned. Slice the chicken into strips and arrange on top of the salad. Sprinkle with the toasted, seasoned crumbs. Serve immediately.
- Yields: 2 servings (easily multiplied)
- Preparation Time: 20 minutes