Chicken Salad with Roasted Beets, Bleu Cheese, and Toasted Walnuts

Monday, April 11, 2011

This is one of those lovely Leftover Creations that we all know. When you have a shitload of leftovers in the fridge or "stuff" you need to get rid of, a salad is a wonderful way to go. It's healthier, can be extremely flavorful and colorful, and surprisingly satisfying. I had some leftover chicken breast and some gorgeous beets and arugula delivered from the farm that week, so salad was in order. I felt like chicken salad and so played around with it until I got this fabulous combination. It's like a morph of my beet salad and grilled chicken, together in perfect harmony. You have all the textures going on here -- creamy bleu cheese, crunchy toasted walnuts, celery and onion -- and flavors -- peppery arugula, sweet beets, savory herbed chicken -- and a lovely light vinaigrette to dress it all together instead of the heavier mayo-based dressing for traditional chicken salads. This was light, refreshing, and beautiful. Enjoy!

Chicken Salad with Roasted Beets, Bleu Cheese, and Toasted Walnuts
2-3 medium-large roasted red beets, cubed*
2 cooked chicken breasts cut into bite-sized chunks**
1 large celery stalk (or 2 smaller), ends trimmed and cut into 1/4" thick chop
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
4 cups arugala or spinach, washed and spun dry
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
juice of 1 lemon
small pinch sugar
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup crumbled bleu cheese, or to taste
1/4 cup walnuts, lightly toasted in a pan

Place the beets, chicken, celery, and onion in a mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. In another small mixing bowl, whisk together the olive oil, mustard, lemon juice, and sugar. Pour the dressing over and toss to coat well. You'll see the chicken will turn bright pink from the beets; if you want the chicken to not get colored, leave it out and add it with the nuts and cheese in a second.

To serve, portion out the arugula (or spinach if using) on plates. Season the greens with a small pinch of salt and pepper, and a small drizzle of olive oil. Top with the beet-chicken mixture, then sprinkle on the cheese and walnuts. Serve immediately.

*To roast the beets, simply cut off the stem and bottom parts and discard. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wrap the beets in aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet or some oven-proof dish. Roast until tender and easily pierced by a fork, about 40 minutes to an hour, depending on size of beets. Unwrap foil and let stand to cool until comfortable to touch. Take a knife and using the dull top side (i.e., the sharp side you normally cut with is now facing upward), gently scrape down the sides of the beet, removing the tough outer skin. The beets are now fully cooked and ready to be chopped or sliced or consumed as is.

**I used leftover chicken breasts I roasted in the oven from the night before. I used this exact recipe for easy baked chicken breasts and it came out amazing with nice flavor and perfect texture for the chicken salad.

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