July 20, 2013

Fennel, Butter Lettuce and Avocado Salad with Lemon Marinated Chicken

Fennel, Butter Lettuce and Avocado Salad with Lemon Marinated Chicken

This salad feels like summer- light and delicious- and healthy!  Lay it out on a platter for a lovely lunch, maybe serve it with some rose- pair it with a light pasta like we did- excellent warm weather dining.  I can already picture your al fresco dinner party!

Fennel, Butter Lettuce and Avocado Salad with Lemon Marinated Chicken
(serves 3-4)
Chicken and Marinade
3-4 chicken breast cutlets (this would be either one or slightly more whole breast half, you can get 2-3 cutlets from each breast half by cutting them like a deck of cards, ideal thickness is about 1/3" thick)
zest of one lemon
juice of one lemon
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
about 5 fresh basil leaves, chopped
3 sprigs fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 large garlic clove, through a press or minced
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Salad and Dressing
1 fennel bulb, sliced into 2-3" pieces
about 6 whole butter lettuce leaves (about 2 ounces)
1 avocado
1 lemon
olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

First, marinate your chicken.  Some important thoughts here- the lemon juice actually will actually begin to poach the chicken if you let it marinate too long- so 15-20 minutes is really, really adequate to impart a strong lemon flavor.  The zest, also, imparts a good lemon flavor.

Chicken cutlets marinating in lemon, olive oil, garlic and herbs

While the chicken marinates, let's put together our salad.  Rinse your fennel bulb, discard to long stem and fronds.  Slice off the root portion, then slice the bulb into thin, roughly 1/4" slices.  Take apart and pieces that are a little too big to be a bite of salad, cut them again.  Place on your serving platter.  Rinse your butter lettuce leaves- you might notice that this is really one of my go-to salad greens.  It is for a reason- well a few reasons- first is that it is delicious, second, a lovely, creamy green color, and finally, and in hot weather this can't be underrated, it's not as likely as some greens to wilt.  Love that!  Rinse your lettuce, and dry it with paper towels, or, if you feel the need, a salad spinner.  Unless I have a lot of volume of salad, I can usually make paper towels work.  In addition, we're only drizzling the dressing over this salad, not tossing it, so it's less necessary that it be 100% water free.  Tear the butter lettuce leaves into 2" or so pieces, arrange on top and around the fennel pieces on the platter.

Sliced fennel and butter lettuce

On to your avocado- and have your lemon ready, because once we cut our avocado, we'll need to dress it in lemon juice to prevent it from browning.  Cut your avocado in half.  Remove the pit by lightly embedding a 6" chef knife in the center of the pit, then turn the knife at an angle to remove it.  Now, with the same 6" chef knife, which is usually my knife of choice, while still in the avocado skin, cut it into cubes.  Now, just gently remove the skin- instant avocado cubes that look neat and attractive.  Not hard at all, right?  Place them in a small bowl and dress with the juice of half of the lemon for our salad and dressing.  After coating them with lemon juice, discard the extra juice and arrange the avocado pieces on the salad platter with the fennel and butter lettuce.

Your chicken has had time to marinate, now let's grill it!  I use a grill pan on the stove, a Le Creuset pan, but you can do a variety of things depending on what you have and what you like.  An outdoor grill would be lovely, but a pan on the stove (not a grill pan) is just fine, too.  These chicken cutlets will cook fairly quickly, I'd estimate about 2 1/2 minutes per side at medium heat.  I spray the grill pan with Pam grilling spray, then let the pan heat up for a few minutes.  I place the chicken, without really removing any of the marinade from it- these small pieces of garlic, herbs and lemon zest are nice to include.  Let it grill or cook for about 2 1/2 minutes per side, then turn it over.  When the chicken is finished, let it rest for a few minutes on a plate or a cutting board.  I don't cover it, because it's not too important for this salad that it's warm, in fact, since the rest of the salad is cool, it's a little better if the chicken's temperature isn't very high.  But a little warmer than the rest of the salad is fine.  Cut the chicken into nice pieces, I just cut it perpendicular to the shape of the cutlet, and place it on top of the salad.

Chicken cutlets in a Le Creuset grill pan

Add a little sea salt, freshly ground pepper, maybe 1 to 2 Tbsp olive oil drizzled over the salad and the remaining juice of half of the lemon- and enjoy!

We paired this with a fresh angel hair pasta with pancetta, vidalia onion and oven roasted heirloom cherry tomatoes- delicious!

Happy summer!

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