The other day I got sucker punched by flavor. Yup, right square in the kisser. And, as a result, I'd like this time to make a little PSA so you can do your best to avoid this happening to you or a loved one. Allow me to give you some background, yes? After a four hour flight delay and a really long day of work, I landed in Northern California totally ravenous. As in, I needed food ASAP or I'd quickly become horribly hangry.
So, my friend and I pulled into a to-be-unnamed chain restaurant (which happens to rhyme with "scrapple knees"), which, if you know me at all, you know means I was really at my absolute last straw. I ordered the jalapeño-lime shrimp in hopes it'd come as quickly as possible so I wouldn't go postal on my dear friend who had picked me up at the airport at the crack of 12:30AM. What arrived was indeed shrimp but it was so overly flavored with some nondescript spice mix that I got steam rolled by seasoning. So much so I pretty much couldn't finish it for fear I'd have a flavor war in my mouth for the rest of the night. But, to be fair, the problem is not that it happened, because, just like bad weather and flight delays, crappy food happens, you know?
The problem was that I had just taken a photo of this Herbed Chicken Salad with Mango-Mustard Dressing earlier that day but didn't have the wherewithal to pack it with me for my flight. So, as I see it, it was my sort of culinary karma for thinking I'd actually find something to eat at LAX. Or when I landed in the middle of the night. The moral of this story is such: don't be like me and do make this Herbed Chicken Saladg. And, if you think about it for the holiday ahead, and end up with leftovers but, pay it forward and give it to a friend whose traveling. Please do your part so they don't have to experience getting sucker punched by flavor.
about 2 1/2 pound
plus more for drizzling
peeled, pitted, and roughly chopped
trimmed and torn into bite-sized pieces
(about 2 1/2 loosely packed cups)
trimmed and thinly sliced crosswise
For the chicken: Sprinkle a little water in four medium-size resealable plastic bags. Place one chicken breast in each bag, push out the air, and seal it. Use meat mallet or the bottom of a heavy pot or pan, and gently pound each chicken piece until about 1/2-inch thick and even throughout.
Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pan or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, drizzle the chicken with enough oil to just coat it. Stir together chopped herbs, lemon zest, juice, 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the freshly ground pepper. Rub the chicken and coat evenly with the herbs and seasonings. Then wash hands with hot water and soap.
Place the chicken in the skillet. You may have to cook it in two batches. Cook chicken until juices run clear when pierced, about 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Cover cooked chicken with foil while you cook the remaining chicken.
For the dressing: Combine chopped mango, yogurt, vinegar, mustard, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper in a blender. Cover and blend until smooth. Stir in a spoonful or two of water to help loosen the dressing. Taste and season, as needed, with salt and pepper.
The dressing can be made up to 4 days ahead and stored refrigerated in an airtight container.
For the salad: Combine the lettuce, arugula, watercress and herbs in a large salad bowl. Toss gently and set aside.
Transfer the chicken breasts to a cutting board and slice the chicken breasts into 1/2-inch slices on the bias. Divide the salad greens between four salad plates. Top each with a scattering of onions and cucumbers.
Slice the avocado into 1/2-inch slices and divide among the plates. Drizzle equal amounts of dressing on top of the salads, about 2-1/2 tablespoons on each salad. Top with the sliced chicken, sprinkle with peanuts, and serve.
Food photography and styling by Aida Mollenkamp