Chicken & Bread Salad
I know what you are thinking: why on EARTH do I need a recipe for salad with chicken and bread? It seems pretty self explanatory, right? Well, friends, this particular version is right up there with Panzanella for tastiness and it is so simple. A bit of forward-planning and prepping will get dinner on the table with minimal fuss. The chicken is tasty and juicy, and the bread?! Wow. I am a huge fan of bread of pretty much any sort, and the lovely thing about this recipe is that you can use any that you have on hand as long as it is more substantial and not soft and squishy. Sourdough, ciabatta, whole-grain, gluten-free ... what you love best will work. I can't recommend the soft, pre-sliced stuff in a bag as that it will likely be very very mushy... tasty, but probably not great appearance or texture.
Chicken and Bread Salad
4 to 6 servings
Chicken ⅓ cup water 3 tablespoons fish sauce 2 tablespoons maple syrup 1 teaspoon paprika 1/2 teaspoon cumin 1 teaspoon table salt ⅛ teaspoon pepper 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 kg chicken thighs, trimmed and skin removed 2 cans butter beans, drained (you can use your favorite beans here if you don't have butter beans on hand) Sauce/vinaigrette stems of 5 small bunches of cilantro, thinly sliced (about 2 tablespoon) 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped ¼ cup fresh lemon juice 2 tablespoons soy sauce 2 T capers, coarsely chopped Salad 1 pound slightly stale sourdough bread (use a boule, if you can, and cut three 1 ½-inch-thick slices plus the ends) 2 heads Boston bibb or other butter lettuce, leaves trimmed, washed and dried
In a 1-gallon zipper-lock bag, combine water, fish sauce, maple syrup, paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper and olive oil together. Add chicken, press out air, seal bag, and turn bag so contents are evenly distributed. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.
Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
Meanwhile, mix the remaining ¼ cup olive oil, the cilantro stems and garlic in a small, cold skillet. Place over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the aromatics soften and flavor the oil but don’t brown at all, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat, pour into a small bowl, and stir in the lemon juice, soy sauce and capers and season the vinaigrette with pepper to taste. You can make the vinaigrette and store it in the refrigerator up to 3 days in advance; let come to room temperature again before using.
Arrange the bread on the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or similarly-sized roasting pan. You can line it with foil for easier clean up, if you’d like. Lay the chicken pieces on the bread, then season again liberally with salt. Bake until golden brown all over and the juices run clear when each piece is pierced, 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how large the chicken pieces are.
Remove the dish from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm. Using a metal spatula or tongs, lift the bread from the dish and transfer it to a cutting board. Chop the bread into 1 to 1 ½-inch chunks (this is easier to do with kitchen shears). Combine the bread with the beans in the baking dish, and lightly toss. Drizzle the beans and bread with a few spoonfuls of vinaigrette.
Line your dinner plates with your salad. Top with the seasoned bread and beans. Top your portion with a piece of chicken. Drizzle each plate with vinaigrette.