As soon as I heard my friend utter those words, I knew it was genius. It hit home because, while I really love a good salad, a few ounces of poached salmon or six measly shrimp will not hold me for very long. Just like my friend, I like a little something fried on my salad.
Maybe it is the combination of the fresh lettuce and the salty-crunchy fried bits that provide a perfect contrast of flavors and textures. Or, perhaps it is the caloric freedom that I feel when I am eating a salad. It allows me to add something fried and not feel too guilty.
These are a few of my favorite combinations of salads topped with a “little something fried.”
Asian Fried Chicken Salad with Cilantro Sesame Dressing
I have served this salad dozens of times and the salad dressing is the star of the show. It is a great combination of interesting flavors. You can serve the salad with poached chicken, but the pieces of chicken that are lightly fried in a cornstarch and sesame seed batter adds another layer of delicious flavor and texture.
1 teaspoon butter
5 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, divided
2/3 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup brown sugar
One head of lettuce, romaine, iceberg or bibb; washed and chilled
1 1/2 cups chow mein noodles
3 carrots grated
Sesame Fried Chicken (recipe below)
Cilantro Sesame Dressing:
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup cilantro leaves
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
A pinch of cayenne pepper
Put all dressing ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Store in the refrigerator.
To make salad, melt butter in a skillet, add 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, almonds, and brown sugar. Sauté for about two minutes then spread on foil to cool.
Toss dressing with lettuce, chow mein noodles, carrots, sesame almond mixture, and cooked chicken.
To prepare Sesame Fried Chicken:
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup buttermilk
¾ cup flour
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons salt
Oil for frying the chicken
Marinate chicken and buttermilk for about an hour. Drain chicken. Heat oil to about 375° in a large Dutch oven or deep fryer. Whisk together flour, cornstarch, sesame seeds, paprika, and salt. Toss chicken in flour mixture and ensure all pieces are coated. Dust off any extra flour.
Fried chicken in small batches in hot oil for about three to five minutes per batch. Allow to drain a wire rack. Top salad with chicken.
Fried Oyster Salad with Comeback
Oysters, and fried oysters specifically, are one of my favorite things in the world. I love the taste of the briny oysters with crisp fresh lettuce and smoky Comeback salad dressing. Food writer Ruth Reichl described eating fried oysters like this: “The outside cracked gently before yielding to the small, savory custard inside. It was like eating sea foam and I closed my eyes to better experience the pleasure.” This is her recipe for perfectly fried oysters.
Ruth’s Fried Oysters:
1-pint oysters, drained
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups cornmeal
2 cups flour
salt and pepper, Cajun seasoning, or seasoned salt to taste
Combined drained oysters and buttermilk and allow to sit in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes. When ready to fry, combine cornmeal, flour and seasonings in a rimmed baking sheet. Remove oysters being sure to drain off excess buttermilk. Add oysters to flour and cornmeal mixture and shake pan to be sure oysters are covered in crumbs. Fry oysters, a few at a time, in 375° oil for about one to two minutes until slightly golden brown. Remove oysters with a slotted spoon and allow to drain on a rack. Serve slightly warm on top of the salad.
To make the salad, simply mix some sturdy fresh greens and your favorite salad additions, such as grated carrot, sliced radish, cherry tomatoes, etc. Top with smoky comeback salad dressing and several of the fried oysters.
Smoky Comeback Dressing:
In the bowl of a food processor, mix:
1/2 cup onion
2 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons regular paprika
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
Juice of four lemons
Zest of 4 lemons (or one preserved lemon, if available)
1 teaspoon dried mustard powder
1 teaspoon chili flakes (more or less depending on your heat tolerance)
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
1/2 cup ketchup
1 cup mayonnaise
Mix all in the food processor until well blended. Feel free to add a little water or canola oil to thin the sauce. Best made at least a day in advanced and stored in the refrigerator.
Scottish Chef Salad
I first made this salad years ago when we got a little overly excited about dying Easter eggs. We dyed several dozen eggs and then I felt the need to actually use all the eggs instead of just hunting them and throwing them away. Waste not, want not; as the Scots would say.
We ate egg salad and hard-boiled eggs for
See Lisa Ireland, Page 5C
days until I remembered a traditional Scotch Egg recipe. A Scotch Egg is a hard-boiled egg wrapped in ground pork sausage, rolled in breadcrumbs or Panko crumbs, and then finally deep-fried. These take a few steps to make but the taste is worth the effort. These eggs add a fun new taste and crunch to a chef salad instead of using the traditional hard-boiled egg.
4 to 6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
2 pounds pork sausage, mild or spicy
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs, beaten
4 cups dried breadcrumbs or panko breadcrumbs
Oil for frying
Divide sausage into four to six sections depending on the number of eggs. Flatten each section of sausage into a large patty. Place the egg in the center of the sausage and pat the sausage around each hard-boiled egg. Pack tightly to seal as much as possible. Lightly flour the sausage and coat with beaten egg. Roll in breadcrumbs and cover completely.
Allow to rest about 10 minutes while oil comes to 375°. Deep fry eggs until golden brown, or if you prefer, bake in a preheated 400° oven for 10 – 12 minutes.
Remove from oil or oven and allow to cool for about five minutes.
To make salad:
Cut eggs in halves or quarters and serve on a bed of crisp iceberg lettuce, sliced tomatoes, chopped ham, cucumbers, and Swiss and/or cheddar cheese. Top with your favorite dressing.
Caesar Salad with Fried Croutons
I love a good Caesar salad with fresh lemony dressing and plenty of parmesan cheese, but everyone knows that the best part of the salad is the crouton. I normally have to double this crouton recipe to have enough croutons for the salad after I sneak a few while cooking.
4 slices of sturdy bread: Any kind will do, but a combination of brioche, pumpernickel, and rye is delicious
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt, to taste
Cut bread into 1/2-inch cubes or bite-size pieces to your preference. Add butter and olive oil to a large skillet and heat until melted. Add bread cubes to the skillet and fry until golden brown and crisp on all sides, about three minutes. Transfer bread to a paper towel lined plate and season with coarse kosher salt.
1 clove of garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste or two anchovies packed in oil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper or more to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
8 cups romaine lettuce
Mash garlic and salt using the side of a knife blade to make a paste. Set aside. Combine lemon juice, mayonnaise, Dijon, Worcestershire, anchovy, and pepper in a large bowl. Whisk in oil, Parmesan cheese and garlic paste. Store dressing in refrigerator until ready to serve.
To make Salad:
Put romaine in a large bowl and toss to coat the salad dressing top with a Parmesan cheese and fried croutons.
Wilted Spinach Salad with Fried Bacon
6 cups baby spinach, thoroughly washed
4 strips bacon
¼ - ½ red onion, chopped or sliced into thin rings
2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup cider vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Put spinach in a large bowl. Fry bacon in a large skillet turning often until crisp. Remove bacon from pan with tongs and allow to cool on paper towels. Reserve bacon dripping in skillet. In hot bacon grease, add onion and cook until wilted about, three to five minutes. Add in sugar and cook for about one minute. Add in vinegar and turn off heat. Stir to combine and immediately pour hot dressing over spinach, add in crumbled bacon, salt and pepper, and toss. Serve immediately.
Southern Fried Chicken Salad with Homemade Honey Mustard
This may be one of my favorite ‘cheat dinners’ and can easily be made with leftover chicken tenders. Whenever we order take out tenders or fried chicken, I always order a few extra pieces to have fried chicken salad the next day. Simply reheat the chicken in the oven and serve over a bed of sturdy greens with a side of homemade honey mustard dressing.
Simple and Quick Honey Mustard Dressing:
½ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons mustard, creole, yellow, Dijon or any combination will work
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/8 to ¼ teaspoon salt
Fresh black pepper
Combine all ingredients and store in refrigerator until ready to serve. Best made at least an hour before.
Wedge Salad with Fried Shoestring Onions and “The Best” Blue Cheese Dressing
I am a sucker for any recipe that claims to be the best. I think this recipe for blue cheese dressing recipe is worthy of its name.
The Best Blue Cheese Dressing:
6 ounces of blue cheese
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoon Durkee sauce, optional but recommended
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
2-4 dashes of Tabasco sauce
Crumbled blue cheese in a bowl. Add sour cream, cream cheese and mayonnaise and mix until blended. Stir in lemon juice, vinegar, Durkees sauce, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard, and Tabasco. Chill covered in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours. Add additional salt if needed.
Shoestring Fried Onions:
2 large onions, sweet or Vidalia, if available
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Slice onions on the thinnest setting of a mandolin slicer, if available. Soak sliced onions in buttermilk for about an hour. When ready to fry, drain onions and toss with flour and seasoning mixture. Shake off any excess flour and fry onions, in small batches, in 375° oil for about two to three or until onions are lightly golden. Remove with tongs and allow to drain on a plate or rack lined with paper towels.
To assemble salad:
Wash and core a large firm head of iceberg lettuce. Depending on the size, carefully cut lettuce in quarters or wedges to suit your desired size. Put lettuce wedge on plate and top with dressing, a few fried onions and any other condiments. Crisp crumbled bacon is always a great addition to this salad.