Sunday, 3 June 2012

Grilled Chicken Salad with Rustic Guacamole, Baby Greens, and Queso Añejo

We are turning on the grill this week at cooking club and what better way to beat the heat than with a Mexi-style twist on the chicken caesar? Okay, maybe the heat blew away with that last gale-force storm but deliciously grilled chicken on salad is always good - whether you have to wear long pants or not.

You start by making a mouth-watering garlicky dressing that does triple duty - part goes onto the chicken, part goes into the guac, and the last bit is salad dressing! I love anything that makes life that easy. And delicious.

I halved my chicken horizontally so it would cook quicker on the grill - you never know when that hurricane is coming back. Jedi is watching out the window right now, just in case. You might not have to, but it's a good thing to keep in mind when you are in a hurry, or just like lots of char-per-chicken. I do!

Grilled Chicken Salad with Rustic Guacamole, Baby Greens and Queso Añejo
(Ensalada de Pollo a la Parilla con Guacamole Rustico, Lechuga Orejona y Queso Añejo)

Slightly adapted from Hollywood Bowl Picnic - recipe by Rick Bayless
Serves 4

Rick’s Note - Here’s an offering to entice folks out of the “grilled chicken Caesar” rut. True, it starts with grilled chicken, but chicken that’s redolent of roasted garlic, green chile, cilantro and lime, chicken that dances the cumbia with guacamole, crisp romaine and nutty aged cheese. The flavors are so captivating that you can even get away without firing up the grill—this is a perfect place to put the grill pan to work.


    1/2 cup olive oil, plus a little more for the onion
    4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
    Fresh 1 large jalapeño), stemmed and halved
    1/2 cup fresh lime juice
    3/4 cup (loosely packed) roughly chopped cilantro
    1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    Kosher salt
    4 medium (about 1-1/4 pounds total) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
    1 medium white onion, cut into 1/2-inch slices
    2 ripe avocados
    2 medium romaine hearts, sliced crosswise at 1/2-inch thick ribbons (you’ll need about 8 cups) (I used baby greens)
    About 1/3 cup grated Mexican queso añejo or other garnishing cheese like Romano or Parmesan


    Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and chiles and cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is soft and lightly browned, usually 1 to 2 minutes. Pour oil, garlic and chiles into a blender or food processor. Add the lime juice, cilantro, black pepper and 1 scant teaspoon salt. Process until smooth.

    Place the chicken breasts in a bowl and pour one-third of the garlic dressing over them, spreading it evenly over all sides.

    Heat a grill pan or gas grill over medium to medium-high heat (or start a charcoal fire and let it burn until the coals are medium hot and covered with white ash).
    Lightly brush or spray the onion slices with oil; sprinkle with salt. Lay the chicken and onion on to the grill pan or grill. Cook until the chicken is just cooked through and the onion is well browned, 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Chop the onion into small pieces and scoop into a bowl.

    Pit the avocados and scoop the flesh in with the onion. Add another one-third of the garlic dressing, then coarsely mash everything together with an old-fashioned potato masher, large fork or back of spoon. Taste and season with salt, usually about 1/2 teaspoon.

    Scoop the sliced romaine into a large bowl. Drizzle on the remaining garlic dressing and toss to combine. Divide between 4 dinner plates. Scoop a portion of the guacamole into the center of each plate. Cut each breast into strips and arrange over the guacamole. Sprinkle each plate with queso añejo (or Parmesan) and you’re ready to serve.

Rick Bayless @IHCC button rounded IHCC