I really like all of the ingredients in this challenge, and I even like them together in various pairs or threesomes, but I was kind of nervous to put them all together. Turns out that there was no reason to worry: It definitely worked.
When considering chocolate, peanuts and chicken, mole seemed the obvious solution. I started with Mexican concepts of tequila and tortillas but kept ending up going down the Asian route with oranges and sesame and crispy wontons. So, I went with it and came up with this Asian/Mexican eclectic blend. Works for me because these are two of my favorite cuisines.
So, how to put it all together? My mind was made up while I was enjoying the Ahi tuna salad at Houlihan’s this week:Seared rare Ahi tuna, Napa cabbage,cilantro, bananas and cashews tossed in our homemade banana-ginger vinaigrette. Topped with crispy wonton strips and drizzled with a sweet soy sauce.
That dish reminded me a little of last week’s fish/banana challenge, and it inspired me to create a similar salad out of this battle. Sweet and crunchy ingredients? Check. Mixed greens? Check. Multiple salad dressings big on flavor? Check. Yummy? CHECK.
The chocolate made me nervous, but I ended up including it in FOUR different components of this recipe. The salad dressing paired dark chocolate with balsamic vinegar (and some blood orange vinegar to boot). The mole drizzle is of course about the dark chocolate with cinnamon, fruit and other flavors blended in. Finally, I dusted both the peanuts and the crispy wonton strips with cocoa powder. Even with all of that chocolate, we were not overpowered with a chocolately flavor and the dish remained savory-tasting.
Blood oranges are of course not in season (nasty battlemeister). As mentioned, I used a little blood orange vinegar in the dressing. I also substituted mandarin orange slices for the blood orange.
I knew that the husband and the kids don’t like peanuts. I tried to “candy” the peanuts by coating them in honey before dusting with cocoa. I didn’t do enough, though, because they all still were in protest of the nuts. The boy claimed that they ruined the salad. The husband, however, loved the salad in spite of the peanuts! This is a guy that has had a hatred of peanuts and peanut butter since elementary school. He went so far to state that he thought they should sell my salad at Applebee’s or Friday’s or Houlihan’s. Cool! Competition for the Ahi Tuna/Banana Salad!
Tequila-Marinated Grilled Chicken Salad with Chocolate Balsamic Vinaigrette and Mole Drizzle
IngredientsTequila-Marinated Grilled Chicken
- 2 chicken breasts, pounded thin
- 1/4 cup tequila
- 1/2 lime, juiced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 handful cilantro, chopped
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1/2 cup napa cabbage, chopped
- 1/2 cup salad mix (such as iceberg lettuce, red cabbage and carrots), chopped
- 1 handful cilantro, chopped
- 1/4 cup mandarin oranges
- 1 Tbsp dark chocolate (60% cacao or greater)
- 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 Tbsp blood orange vinaigrette
- 1 Tbsp water
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 Tbsp dark chocolate (60% cacao or greater)
- 1/4 cup tomato sauce
- 1 Tbsp sesame seeds
- 2 Tbsp dried cranberries
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1/4 cup peanuts
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 1 tsp cocoa
- 5 wonton skins
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tsp cocoa
Tequila-Marinaded Grilled Chicken: Combine tequila, lime, garlic, cilantro and brown sugar in a plastic bag. Add chicken, seal bag and let marinate for at least two hours. Grill for a few minutes until cooked through. Let cool.
Chocolate-Dusted Wonton Crisps: Slice the wonton skins into strips. Heat the oil in a small frying pan. Drop each strip into the frying pan and remove when crisp. Drain over paper towels. Sprinkle with cocoa and let cool.
Chocolate-Dusted Peanuts: Heat the honey in a small frying pan. Add the peanuts in a single layer. Shake the peanuts in the pan to cover them. Continue to heat for one or two more minutes. Pour the peanuts out into a single layer on parchment paper. Sprinkle with cocoa and let cool.
Chocolate Balsamic Vinaigrette: Put the chocolate into a tall cup and melt in the microwave. Stir in the vinegars and water. Gradually add in the oil in a slow, steady stream while combining with a stick blender.
Mole Drizzle: In a small saucepan, combine tomato sauce, sesame seeds, cranberries, oregano and cinnamon. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes. Let cool, then blend the ingredients together to make a thick paste. Put the paste back into the saucepan. Gradually add chicken stock, stirring over medium heat until smooth. Use enough to make the sauce of drizzling consistency, but not too thin or too thick. Add chocolate, stirring until it melts. Let cool.
Salad and Plating: Toss together cabbage, lettuce, cilantro and orange slices. Gradually add vinaigrette until greens are coated (don't add too much or it will get soggy). Toss in peanuts. Top with grilled chicken and drizzle with mole sauce. Sprinkle wonton crisps on top, and enjoy!