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Your Perfect Winter Salad

When I create salads I think a lot about taste and appearance. I want there to be lots of color, so it looks exciting. I want it to be seasonal, so that everything is as fresh and as vibrant as it will ever be.
02/18/2016 09:43am ET | Updated December 6, 2017
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Pecan-Crusted Goat Cheese
+
Braised Chicken Salad
with Blood Orange Tahini Dressing

When I create salads I think a lot about taste and appearance. I want there to be lots of color, so it looks exciting. I want it to be seasonal, so that everything is as fresh and as vibrant as it will ever be. And as I bite into it, I want there to be lots of different flavors and textures... something with crunch, something soft, something savory, something with tang and something sweet. Call me greedy. And frankly, I don't gravitate towards salads... I really need them have some jazz hands.

If you can't find blood oranges, substitute oranges. If you don't have the seasoning I used for the chicken, substitute good ol' fashion salt and pepper. Let's be flexible. One other selling point: you could (and should) make the dressing ahead of time, as well as the chicken, rice and goat cheese balls. All make ahead. Love it.

Let's get our green on.

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Pecan-Crusted Goat Cheese
+
Braised Chicken Salad
with Blood Orange Tahini Dressing

Serves 4 Main Course Servings

INGREDIENTS

For the Dressing
  • ½ cup sunflower seed oil
  • ¼ cup champagne vinegar
  • Juice from one blood orange
  • Juice from one tangerine
  • 2 tablespoons dried cherries
  • 1 (generous) tablespoon tahini
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
For the Salad
  • 1.5 cups forbidden rice, uncooked
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Datil Pepper Spice* OR 1 teaspoon each sea salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 3 blood oranges, divided (one for the braise, 1/2 to juice over the chicken and the other half cut into thin slices; the other two are peeled and cut crosswise for the salad)
  • 5 ounces goat cheese
  • 1 cup pecans, divided (1/2 cup for the salad; ½ cup crushed for the goat cheese)
  • 8 cups baby arugula, cleaned and dried
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, whole
  • 1 cup dried tart cherries
*Datil Pepper Spice comes from a pepper that only grows in Florida. I also make this toe-curling recipe with it here.
INSTRUCTIONS
For the Dressing
  1. Put the sunflower seed oil, champagne vinegar, juice from both a blood orange and tangerine, dried cherries, tahini, honey and salt in a blender and blend on high speed until the cherries are broken up and the mixture is completely emulsified. Set aside.
For the Chicken
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Make sure you have a rack in the middle of the oven.
  2. Grab two large plates: one for your raw chicken (in which to season it on) and another to rest the chicken after you've browned it.
  3. Place the chicken on one of the plates and coat with 1 tablespoon Datil spice or 1 teaspoon each sea salt and pepper.
  4. Heat either a large cast-iron pot (I use a 5.5 QT cocotte) or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoons of olive oil. Once it's shimmering, swirl it around so that it coats the surface.
  5. Place the chicken in the pot, without crowding it. You may need to brown the chicken in batches depending on the size of your pot. Leave the chicken, undisturbed, for 2-3 minutes or until a nice brown crust forms. Flip and repeat on the other side. Remove from the pan and place on the other clean plate. Repeat until all breasts are browned, but not cooked through.
  6. Pour the chicken broth into the pot, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon to get up any brown bits.
  7. Add the chicken and accumulated juices to the pot. Squeeze half of one blood orange over the chicken and then place the blood orange slices from the other half in and round the chicken.
  8. Place the pot on the middle rack of the oven, with the lid on, and cook for 25 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
  9. Set the chicken aside to cool.
  10. Once cooled, cut the chicken into small, bite-size chunks.
For the Salad
  1. Cook your rise according to the instructions on the package. Set aside to cool.
  2. Grab your crushed pecans, goat cheese and a plate to rest the balls on. Make sure your pecans are finely crushed up. Roll about 1 teaspoon of goat cheese into a ball between your palms. Gently roll the goat cheese balls in the crushed pecans and place on the plate. Once all of the goat cheese is coated and rolled, place the plate in the freezer. After 1-2 hours, they should be frozen and you can place them in a resealable plastic bag and put back in the freezer. Take them out of the freezer 2 hours prior to serving the salad.
  3. Put the arugula in a large bowl. Sprinkle the rice, basil leaves, pecans, cherries and chicken. Drizzle with half of the salad dressing and toss a bit. Taste. Do you need all of the dressing? Everyone's taste is different. Add more in small increments until you hit the sweet spot. Place the blood orange slices around the salad and sprinkle with the pecan-crusted goat cheese balls. That's it. You're done.
  4. This should be eaten within an hour of tossing...arugula + dressing won't last long together once introduced. That's just how some relationships go. Enjoy!

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Recently on DisplacedHousewife: Perfect Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes, Loaded Aloha Cookies (stuffed with macadamia nuts, shredded coconut, dark chocolate and frosted flakes), Datil Chicken, Chinese Buns (with an awesome kitchen cheat for the dough) and more blood orange fun: Blood Orange Scones.

*All Photos: Rebecca Firth