This salad is how I convinced the Lemonator to introduce salads as a regular part of our dinner rotation. It’s extremely simple, but something about the combination off textures, temperatures and flavors really works. Crunchy salty bacon, sweet tomatoes and balsamic, and savory, juicy chicken play very well together. Every restaurant serves some variant of this, but the homemade version is much better because you can eat it while the chicken is still hot and the bacon is still fresh and crunchy. Preparing it just before eating also enables you to make a hot bacon dressing which is one of the yummiest and easiest things to do with a homemade salad.
- Spinach, arugula or mixed greens. (The freshest you can get, preferably from the farmers market.)
- Cherry or grape tomatoes
- Chicken breast or tenders
- A few slices of bacon
- balsamic vinegar
- salt and pepper
The thing that makes this a summer dish is really the tomatoes. You really need fresh, sweet cherry tomatoes to make the flavors sing. When I get a good batch from the farmer’s market, I always plan on this salad. Halve your tomatoes and season them liberally with salt and pepper. With salads, separately seasoning each component is key to maximizing flavor.
The final assembly of the salad can go pretty fast, so I like to have my plates of salad greens and seasoned tomatoes ready to go before I start with the hot ingredients. You can use any greens you like here—I wouldn’t do a crunchy lettuce, but spinach, arugula or any kind of normal salad mix is fine. Go by whatever is freshest at your farmers market—the quality makes a big difference here.
Next: bacon! Cut a few slices into lardons and cook them until they are crispy and the fat has rendered out. Fish the bacon pieces out with a slotted spoon and place them on a paper towel to drain. Reserve the grease!
Next, season your chicken breast liberally with salt and pepper and then cook it in the bacon grease. Keep you heat high enough to create some nice browning on the outside. I like to use white meat for this because I think it balances better with the the fatty saltiness of the bacon better than dark meat. Hard boiled egg–cooked until set but with just a touch of orange still in the center—is also a yummy variant.
When your chicken is done cooking, set it aside to cool ever so slightly. You will now need to move quickly. Pour the bacon grease over your salad greens. This will wilt them a bit and impart a wonderful depth of flavor that is hard to get in salads. (You knew there was a reason the Lemonator requested this salad all the time). Sprinkle your crunchy bacon bits over the top. Cut your chicken into strips or chunks and add to the top of the salad. If you are moving quickly, your chicken will still be warm, which takes the salad from good to great. Finish with balsamic vinegar and, if desired, more salt and pepper. Take a bite—making sure to get a bit of everything on your fork—and enjoy!