This bright, fresh, and smoky chicken salad is a kaleidoscope of flavors and textures. Every forkful is a different combination of sweet, sour, salty, bitter, crunchy, chewy, rich, and smoky.
I love this salad because I'd happily eat a plateful of every single item in here all by itself. (Radishes sautéed with bacon - you are a revelation.) But, the key to a really great salad, is to load it up with as many flavors and textures as possible without going overboard.
The goal is to get enough variety in there for each forkful to be slightly different from the last, but not so much that any one flavor clashes with or overwhelms another. That's what's happening in this chicken salad.
All together, you get a little bit of everything: sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Crunchy, chewy, bright and fresh, and rich and smoky.
Crisp Romain is a Blank Canvas
I like to build this salad on a pile of crisp Romain lettuce. But, it doesn't have to be Romain. Iceberg, spinach, baby greens, butter lettuce, leaf lettuce, whatever. The only important thing is that the greens are washed, cold, and crisp.
I like to chop and wash greens right after bringing them home from the market, rinse them in cold water, spin them around in a salad spinner, then store them in zip top bags in the fridge.
This usually does a good job of keeping them fresh and crips for a few days. However, a clever trick I learned years ago for greens that are beginning to wilt, is to dunk them in a bowl of ice water, swish them around, then put them back in the spinner to dry right before serving.
Bacon, Radishes and Apples Are a Match Made in Salad Heaven
How good bacon and radishes are together should not surprise me as much as it does. Generally, we eat radishes raw around here. But, for this salad, I decided to give them a quick sauté in a bit of bacon grease and holy moly. They are delicious.
Be sure to use thick sliced bacon if you want a more meaty texture (which I recommend). Thin sliced bacon is good too, but will give you more of a bacon bits crumble over your salad.
Depending on how fatty your bacon is, you might have quite a bit more than 1 tablespoon of fat in the pan after cooking it. If that's the case, be sure to drain the excess before sautéing the radishes. Too much fat in the pan will just make the radishes greasy - not what you're going for here.
It's also important to wait to add the radishes until the pan is hot. Adding veggies to cold oil or fat will also result in soft, greasy vegetables instead of tender-crisp ones.
The apples are a super crucial element to the flavor balance of this salad. Between the tartness of the lemon vinaigrette, the bitterness of the radishes, and the saltiness of the bacon, you really need a touch of sweet in there to balance the whole thing out.
Lemon Shallot Vinaigrette
I've been making this a lot lately and putting it on everything. Well, not everything. But, a lot of things. It's tart, bitter, a teeny-tiny bit sweet, and magnificent over anything you'd pair with fresh lemon juice - sautéed veggies, roasted veggies, roast chicken, fish, etc.
Lemon Shallot Vinaigrette is also super simple to make. You basically dump everything into a bowl and then whisk in some oil. The touch of sesame oil is lovely, but not 100% necessary.
What IS important is that you let it sit for 20-30 minutes to take the sharp edge off the raw shallots. For this chicken salad, make it first and let it sit out on the counter at room temperature while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
I don't feel that a salad is complete without something crunchy and salty sprinkled over the top. For me, that usually means a few homemade croutons or a handful of roasted almonds.
In this case, salad gets its crunch from a handful of sesame seeds and almonds that are coated in coriander and egg white and then toasted until super crunchy.
Side Note: We are all lucky that I had enough sesame crunch to use in these pictures because my oldest daughter kept "casually" walking by and swiping handfuls. If you have some fellow snackers in your house, you might want to make a bit extra so that some ends up in the salad.
Simple Roast Chicken is a staple in our house. It's something I make at least twice a month, maybe closer to once a week, and I almost always roast more than one at a time.
It takes about 5 minutes to get a chicken or two in the oven and then you have delicious roast chicken on hand throughout the entire week.
If you don't feel like roasting a chicken, just pick up a rotisserie chicken at your local market. Or leave it out entirely. This salad is hearty and flavor packed enough to hold its own without it.
More Main Dish Salad Recipes:
- Roasted Shiitake Salad with Oranges, Almonds, and Citrus Ponzu
- Lemon Rosemary Grilled Chicken Salad with Tahini Dressing
- Cornbread Salad with Italian Sausage and Tomatoes
- Chicken Chopped Salad
- Niçoise Salad with Bacon and Pomegranate Molasses Vinaigrette
For the Lemon and Shallot Vinaigrette:
- 4 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoon lemon zest
- ¼ cup chopped shallot
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon honey
- ¼ teaspoon salt and ground black pepper
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
For the Sesame Crunch:
- ¾ cup roasted, salted almonds, coarsely chopped
- ½ cup sesame seeds
- 2 teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon each salt and ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoon egg white, lightly beaten with a fork
For the Salad:
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lb thick sliced bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 lb radishes, washed, ends trimmed, sliced into ¼-inch pieces
- 2 tart apples, core removed, chopped into small bite size pieces
- 6-8 cups chopped romain lettuce
- 2 cups Perfect Roast Chicken or Rotisserie Chicken
- ½ cup chopped fresh basil
Make the Lemon and Shallot Vinaigrette:
- Add all the ingredients except the olive and sesame oil to a bowl and whisk to combine. Slowly whisk in the olive oil, then the sesame oil. Set aside while you prepare the sesame crunch and salad.
Make the Sesame Crunch:
- Heat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Toss all ingredients around in a bowl until everything is well coated with the egg white. Dump the mixture onto the baking sheet and spread out into an even layer.
- Bake for 10-20 minutes, until fragrant and light golden brown.
- Let cool, then break into chunks.
Make the Salad:
- Heat oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the bacon to the hot skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until crisp. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon from the pan to a paper towel lined baking sheet to drain.
- Remove all but about 1 tablespoon of fat from the skillet and return to medium-high heat. Add the sliced radishes and cook stirring occasionally, until they are golden brown, and beginning to blacken in a few spots. Dump out onto a plate or bowl.
- To assemble the salad: Pile the Romain lettuce into a big bowl or divide onto individual serving plates. Top with radishes, bacon, apples, and chicken. Pour dressing over the salad, and top with a sprinkle of sesame crunch and fresh chopped basil.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 0Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 0mgCarbohydrates: 0gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 0g