Caprese Chicken Salad and Balsamic Mayonnaise
January 19, 2012
Hello all! Chicken salad, you say? Why, yes! I grew up in a household that really never made any of the “salad” salads – tuna salad, chicken salad, egg salad, etc. It always seemed like a strange idea to me, and every time I had those things at parties, events, and so on, they were always boring at best and sort of repulsive at worst. Since coming to work at the restaurant, where many different variations on these kinds of salads are in rotation on the menu, I have sort of grown to love them. The key to really good protein salads is in the dressing, and this is where Paleo chicken salad really shines. Since store-bought mayo is decidedly non-Paleo, you’ll be forced (read: lucky enough!) to make your own. That gives you a lot of options, all of which will taste better than the store-bought goop they try to pass off as mayonnaise.
Basically, mayonnaise is a mixture of oil and water held together by lecithin, a protein from egg yolks. The lecithin acts as a binder to get the water and oil together, since they don’t normally get along. If you’re interested in the science of mayo, check out this article from the Food Lab. At the end of the day, though, the important thing is that you have an acid, an oil, and eggs. There’s a great paleo mayo at recipe at Paleo Effect, and these days, it’s my base recipe when I make mayo. You can try substituting different oils and different acids for those in their recipe, and craft a mayonnaise specifically suited to your dish. Today, we’ll be making a balsamic mayo to accompany the familiar flavors of a caprese salad.
4 chicken breasts, about 2-2.5 pounds
1 dry pint grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 packed cup of chopped basil
4 garlic cloves, pressed
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic mayo, to taste (recipe follows)
Preheat the oven to 400. Rub the chicken generously with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Roast the chicken until crispy outside and juicy inside, about 40-45 minutes. After it cools, cut it into cubes.
Next, you’ll slow roast the tomatoes, so turn the oven down to 225 or so and toss the tomato halves with salt, pepper, the pressed garlic, and a little olive oil. Arrange them on a baking sheet in a single layer and put them in the oven for about 2 hours. This isn’t an exact science, so just check on them every now and then. They’re done when they release their juices – pull them before they get crunchy, but after they’re no longer plump and juicy. The roasting will deepen the flavor, and allowing them to dry out a little will keep the salad from being too runny.
In a large bowl, mix the cubed chicken, basil, and tomatoes. Add balsamic mayonnaise until your salad reaches the consistency you prefer.
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 cup good quality, mild-tasting olive oil (I use Zoe)
salt to taste
Mix the egg yolks and vinegar in a bowl, and whisk well. Next, while whisking continuously, add the oil as slowly as you possibly can. As you add oil, it will start to thicken. Once the oil is mixed in, let the mayo sit out for an hour or two, then stick it in the fridge. Boom! Balsamic mayo!