I'm taking a brief break from the surprisingly popular Cookin' for Dudes series. Mostly because every now and then I feel like gettin' all chef-y, or at least my closest approximation of it. I'd first played around with this thing a year ago and had a few things I wanted to try with it.
What triggered my memory of it was moseying out to the garden. The arugula and Bibb lettuce were looking good. Gave the arugula a taste and it was downright vibrant. So, thought I'd give it a go again.
So, let's fire up a Grilled Chicken and Stone Fruit Salad with a Blueberry-White Balsamic Vinaigrette.
I wanted to create something that kinda felt like a salad but with a hint of dessert. That meant a lot of sweet stuff but also a good smattering of savory spices. Way back in the days when the spice trade was the way to riches, medieval cooking was characterized by using a little bit of a broad array of spices. You still see that in a lot of Central European and Nordic desserts. I thought I'd incorporate that philosophy into the spice rub.
2 tsp allspice
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp mace
¼ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
Blueberry-White Balsamic Vinaigrette
½ cup fresh blueberries
½ cup white balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp honey
1 tbsp Dijon
1 cup really good extra virgin olive oil
Canola oil for brushing the fruit and onion
salt and pepper to taste
2 oz bibb lettuce
2 oz arugula
1 white peach, split and pitted
1 white nectarine, split and pitted
1 white onion, cut into quarters, outer layer removed
¼ cup slivered almonds
¼ cup chopped walnuts
2 tbsp blue cheese, crumbled
1-2 serrano, sliced into thin rings
2 boneless-skinless chicken breasts
NOTE: Do not dress the salad as a whole unless you're sure you will consume it all in a single setting. The salad will keep for a day or two in the fridge as long as it's not dressed. Dressing it makes it soggy and breaks down the fruit into gruel. Dress one serving at a time.
Make the vinaigrette. To make it, put everything but the olive oil in a blender and hammer it for about a minute...get it smooth. Then, removing the little thing at the top of the blender, drizzle in the olive oil. Split it into two small bowls. Cover one and put it in the fridge. This will be your dressing. Leave the other one out, this will be your marinade and basting sauce.
Make the spice rub. Throw all of it into a spice grinder (even stuff that's already a powder) and grind it down as much as you have patience for.
Place the chicken breasts in a large resealable bag or container. Dump the spice mix in. Put in about one-third of the reserved dressing (you want to save some to liberally baste it with). Seal and toss it well. Put it in the fridge for at least 20 minutes, or up to 4 hours.
Heat your grill to medium-high and set up a direct and indirect heat side.
Start assembling the salad. Throw the greens, blue cheese, serrano and toasted nuts together in a large bowl. Split and pit the stonefruit. Quarter and peel the onion. Put them on a baking sheet, brush with oil and lightly salt and pepper. Set aside.
Take the chicken from the marinade and place directly on the hottest part of the grill. Turn after five minutes. Cook another five minutes and then turn and move to indirect heat side of the grill. Baste liberally with reserved dressing. Close lid. Give it another 3 minutes and then turn and baste liberally again. Keep this up until the chicken hits an internal temp of 155(ish) degrees. Remove, tent with foil, let rest for 10 minutes.
While the chicken is resting, place stonefruit, flesh side down, on hot part of the grill. Place onion quarters over direct heat as well. After two minutes tip the onion quarters to another side. Cook for another two minutes. Remove fruit and onion. Once cooled enough to handle (maybe 2 minutes) slice thinly and add to the salad bowl.
By this time the chicken should be rested. Slice both breasts on the bias and add to the salad bowl. Grab a big handful and put on each of four plates. Drizzle about a tbsp of dressing (the stuff we put in the fridge) over each plate, or to taste. Serve.
What hits you first is the intense sweetness of the grilled nectarine and the vinaigrette. You get the savory flavor of the spice rub and it does, in fact, make you think of dessert. Coming along last is the brief bitterness of the bleu cheese followed by the peppery zing of the arugula. Maybe every second or third bite you feel a nice little afterburn kick in from a thin bit of serrano. Filling but light. It's a nice dish.