I’ve really been grappling with what to call this particular recipe. In fact, my indecision has been so crippling that it’s prevented me from posting this dish for close to two months. For all intents and purposes this is a chicken salad, but the last thing I want you to think of when you hear the title is mayo-and-egg-laden typical chicken salad because this bears about as much resemblance to the American picnic classic as, well, a nice Cabernet to Boone’s Farm.
So for lack of inspiration (I guess I used all my inspiration on actually developing the recipe) I have dubbed it Not Yer Mama’s Chicken Salad. Like I said, you won’t find mayo or relish or eggs here. Rather, you’ll find a tangy, refreshing, and light mustard and kalamata olive dressing over marinated chicken, complemented by texture provided by napa cabbage and radicchio. Stuff it in a warm pita, serve it atop a bed of lettuce and wild rice, put it aside pita chips as a dip, or, possibly best of all, serve it in between two slices of homemade olive-rosemary bread. Whatever you choose, prepare to take your taste buds on a adventure!
Not Yer Mama’s Chicken Salad
A Jitterbean Original
Stuffs about 4 pitas
For best flavor and texture, cook the chicken and toss it with the dressing one day and mix with the leafy veggies and serve the next. The flavors in the dressing develop marvelously well overnight.
Use a high-quality balsamic vinegar as the marinade. The vinegar will essentially be reduced while in the oven and you want to make sure that it leaves a pleasant flavor behind.
About 1.5lb boneless skinless chicken breasts (thin-sliced breasts are a good option here)
Enough balsamic vinegar to cover the chicken as a marinade, about 1-1.5 cups
3 tablespoons fruity extra-virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons dijon mustard, preferably coarse ground
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons pitted and finely minced kalamata olives
2 tablespoons dried herbes de provence or dried Italian herb mix
10-15 pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped
3 napa cabbage leaves, roughly chopped into bite-size pieces
4-5 radicchio leaves (to roughly equal the amount of napa cabbage), roughly chopped into bite-size pieces
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
If not using thin-sliced chicken breasts, cut the chicken in half in a way that reduces the thickness by half. Cut the chicken into about 3/4″-wide strips. Put in a bowl, pour in enough balsamic vinegar to just cover the chicken, and let sit for about an hour.
Arrange the chicken on a foil-lined baking sheet or broiler pan and roast in the oven until the chicken is well-cooked to 160 degrees internal temperature (about 8 minutes), flipping halfway through cooking.
While the chicken is cooking, combine the olive oil and mustard in a bowl, mixing well with a fork or small whisk. Once the mixture is well emulsified, stir in the garlic, herbs, and minced olives.
Once the chicken is done, remove from the oven and let cool. Once the chicken is at a handleable temperature, shred each piece with a fork and then mix with the mustard dressing. For best results, refrigerate overnight until proceeding to the next step.
Mix with the roughly chopped olives, napa cabbage, and radicchio. Serve as a sandwich, salad, or dip.