I adore this salad, and it certainly doesn't get any complaints from menfolk who typically balk at the idea of eating lettuce for a meal. The Man is really good on that front, but he has been out of town quite a lot recently, and I wanted to make him a special lunch while back under one roof. Hence, bacon.
I became infatuated with the chicken, bacon, avocado combo a number of years ago at Sweetwater Music Hall Café in Mill Valley. They had a killer salad on the menu at the time—it was perfectly rich, and completely craveable. I've since moved, and I don't believe they serve it anymore, so I took matters into my own hands.
I like to make this salad when I've grilled chicken the night before, and have leftovers set aside. Making lunch is so simple when you can grab pre-grilled chicken breasts out of the fridge. You do have to cook the bacon, but that's quick, easy and mess-free when you employ your oven.
I always cook bacon in the oven. No babysitting required, there's practically zero cleanup, and you can cook a lot at once. Simply line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, lay the bacon slices in a single layer on the sheet, and put the bacon into a preheated 400 degree oven for 10-20 minutes, depending on how crispy you like your bacon. Using tongs, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. To clean up, let the tray cool on the stove top. After a few minutes, carefully fold in the sides of the aluminum foil to contain the bacon fat within, and toss it in the trash (or reserve the bacon fat if you like to cook with it). Done!
The key to any rich dish is balance, particularly when there's bacon involved! I counteract the bacon and avocado with spicy arugula and basil, and a vinaigrette with lime juice, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard and shallots. The flavors work perfectly together, and you won't feel weighed down after your meal.
CHICKEN, BACON AND AVOCADO SALAD
- 8 ounces uncured bacon (I like Applegate Organics Sunday Bacon)
- 2 cooked, skinless chicken breasts (grilled or roasted)
- 5 ounces lettuce (butter lettuce, mixed greens or baby romaine)
- 5 ounces arugula
- a handful of basil leaves
- 1 avocado
- 1 shallot, minced
- a three-finger pinch of flaky sea salt
- about 12 grinds black pepper
- 1 lime
- balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spread the bacon on the baking sheet. Line a plate with paper towels, and set aside.
Meanwhile, make the dressing. Combine the shallot, sea salt, and black pepper in a jar. Juice the lime into a liquid measuring cup, and top it off with balsamic vinegar so that you have 1/4 cup total acid. Add the acid to the jar, and let the shallot macerate for at least 10 minutes (to get rid of the oniony zing). Then add the Dijon and olive oil, and shake vigorously. Note: you will have extra dressing. Store the jar in the fridge for up to one week.
Put the bacon into the preheated oven, and cook for about 10-15 minutes. It is done when the fat has rendered and it is quite crisp. Transfer to the paper towel-lined plate to cool and drain off extra fat.
While the bacon is cooking, shred the chicken breast, and add it to a large salad bowl. Add the lettuce and arugula to the bowl as well. Chiffonade your basil leaves by stacking the leaves on top of each other, and rolling them lengthwise into a cylinder before slicing across with a sharp knife. Add the strips of basil to the bowl.
Pour some of the dressing onto the salad and toss to combine. Break the bacon into pieces, and add it to the salad. Slice the avocado into cubes, and scoop it into the bowl as well. Toss again gently to combine, and serve.