Friday, 7 September 2007
After a few false starts it seems Spring is finally here. Perhaps I was a little too hopeful back in August when I thought Spring had come early. Each hint of sunshine was followed by a heavy dose of grey, wind and rain. I think I can safely assume now that it’s only going to get better from here. In a few months you’ll hear me complaining about the excessive heat and escaping to the coast but for now I am delighted that Spring has sprung. I’m delighted by the flowering cherry blossoms that have turned my street into a carpet of the palest pink and cream, afternoons reading in the sunshine and salads bursting with the freshest of flavours.
During the warmer months hundreds of platefuls of salad will grace my table so I refuse to tolerate any of those iceberg and sliced tomato creations that featured all to frequently in the BBQs of my childhood. Instead I seek layered flavours and textures and believe even warm salads should offer a burst of freshness. This time I’ve chosen to use zesty citrus to lighten the richness of smoked chicken. It’s finished with sliced radish and a sprinkle of toasted almonds because a salad should never be short on crunch. I’ve chosen to caramelise the mandarins to bring out all their juicy glory while leaving the striking ruby grapefruit segments untouched. The caramelised juices are drizzled over the finished salad to create a warm oil-free dressing. It’s tangy and sweet with a smoky richness and best of all it will be ready in minutes.
I must admit that until recently I had an unreasonable aversion to grape fruit. I have now learnt to love the sight of these ruby jewels. I think they pair beautifully with meats in savoury uses and are underused compared to the more traditional pairings of pork and apple or duck and cherry. This salad highlights this beautiful fruit and will be my entry to Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Katie of Thyme for Cooking.
Smoked Chicken Salad with Caramelised Mandarins and Grapefruit
1 mandarin or small orange peeled and segmented
1 pink grapefruit (peeled and segmented)
2 cups mixed salad greens
1 smoked chicken breast
2 sliced radishes
1 tsp slivered almonds
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp salted butter
1-2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar (or a mix of water and vinegar if yours is particularly tart)
To ensure stress free assembly I advise preparing all your ingredients before you commence cooking. Peel and segment the mandarin and grapefruit, finely slice the radish, wash your greens and slice the chicken breast on the diagonal.
Heat a pan over high heat without any oil. Toss in the slivered almonds and allow to toast but not burn. Remove and set aside.
In the same pan over medium heat melt the butter. Before it browns stir through the sugar until dissolved. Add the mandarin segments and allow a golden caramel crust to form then remove the segments from the pan. Pour in the white balsamic vinegar to combine with the remaining caramel juices. Add vinegar to taste until you reach the perfect balance of sweet and tanginess. You don’t want it to be excessively sour but you’ll need hint of acid to avoid an overly sweet dressing.
To assemble begin by placing your greens on a serving plate. Top with the sliced smoked chicken. Layer over the mandarin and grapefruit segments. Finish the sliced radishes. Drizzle over the dressing and sprinkle with slivered almonds.