Have you ever had barbecue chicken salad at California Pizza Kitchen? It's one of my favorite entree salads to order out a restaurant. I've had it at other restaurants and I think the CPK salad is hands down the best version. All the flavors complement each other...sweet, tangy, crunchy, cheesy. It's a filling (a half order is plenty for me or if Hubby wants to share we get the full order) and oh so delicious meal.
Hubs and I eat salads for dinner (as our entree) at least 1 or 2 times a week. Most of the time it's a basic salad with romaine lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onion, red pepper, sometimes mushrooms, topped with grilled shrimp or chicken. I sometimes add a sprinkle of feta or cheddar cheese and or some croutons if I have them. Our favorite salad dressing is one I get in the produce section at my grocery store by Litehouse. They have a lite ranch dressing that is low in calories and doesn't taste like a "light" ranch dressing. I was getting a little bored with our basic salads so I started thinking about alternative options...
I had ranch dressing and barbecue sauce in the fridge and chicken in the freezer and thought why not make barbecue chicken salad at home? I didn't consult a recipe for this one. I went from memory and crossed my fingers.
You start by baking the chicken in barbecue sauce. Once it's cooled, chop it and toss it in more barbecue sauce. There is one other cooking component to this recipe. I like to roast sweet corn and it's easy to do right on the stove top. I keep frozen white sweet corn on hand at all times (I have found the C&W brand to be the sweetest). To roast, drizzle a little olive oil in a non stick pan and throw in the frozen corn (don't thaw) and cook about 10 minutes on medium high heat, stirring once in a while until the corn takes on a roasted, caramelized color on some of the kernels. If fresh corn is in season that would be even better, just toss your husked corn cob right on the grill and turn every couple of minutes until that charred color starts to appear (also about 10 minutes).
The rest comes together easily. While your chicken and corn are cooking, prep the rest of the ingredients.
Tip of the day - Freeze Your Chips!
One of the ingredients in the salad is crushed tortilla chips. I have a tip to share for storing chips. Once you've opened the bag, use a chip clip to close the bag and store it in your freezer. This works great for both tortilla chips and potato chips. In our two person household it can take a while for us to eat up a bag of chips before they go stale. The chips will keep nicely in the freezer for up to 3 months.
The salad is very similar to my beloved CPK version. I just went to the CPK website to compare ingredients and I came pretty darn close. The only thing my version didn't have was jicama and basil (which I didn't really miss). At CPK avocado is an add on ingredient for extra money. Since avocados were on sale at the market, they were a definite add in my version of the salad.
Oh, and I can't forget to tell you, the squeeze of lime takes this salad up a level. It gives it a little tang that goes nicely with the creamy ranch and sweet barbecue sauce from the chicken. Don't skip the lime!
Barbecue Chicken Salad
from The Ginger Snap Girl, inspired from California Pizza Kitchen
Serves 4 entree portions
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound)
1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup barbecue sauce (I used Lucille's)
1 large head of romaine lettuce, washed, air dried, and cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1 tablespoon of finely chopped cilantro (optional)
1 cup frozen petite white corn
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
1 large avocado, peeled and sliced into chunks
2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
4 green onions, thinly sliced on the bias (at an angle)
1/2 cup grated monterey jack cheese
12 round tortilla chips, crushed
Ranch dressing, about 1 cup (I used Litehouse lite ranch dressing, found in the refrigerator section of the produce section)
1 lime cut into 4 wedges
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray an 8 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread half of the 1/4 cup of barbecue sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. Place chicken breasts on top of the sauce and spread the remainder of 1/4 cup of sauce on top of the chicken breasts. Bake for 30 minutes, or until cooked through and clear juices run out of the chicken. Transfer chicken from the baking dish to a cutting board and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes. Once chicken is cooled, cut into 1 inch chunks and place in a medium bowl. Toss the cut chicken with 1/3 cup barbecue sauce.
While the chicken is baking, heat a small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add olive oil to the pan. Add the frozen corn (do not thaw) to the pan and stir. Allow corn to cook over medium heat for about 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want to allow the corn to roast and get lightly browned. You can also grill fresh corn on the cob if it's available. Remove corn from heat and allow to cool.
In a large bowl toss the lettuce with the ranch dressing. Add cilantro and toss to evenly distribute. Divide lettuce amongst 4 entree portion bowls. Top lettuce with tomatoes, black beans, roasted corn, avocados, cheese and green onions. Divide barbecue chicken amongst the 4 bowls and sprinkle each evenly with crushed tortilla chips. To finish place a lime wedge in each bowl. Don't forget to squeeze the lime over the salad....it's what makes it!