For our second day of Los Doce Dias de Navidad, we present a salad. A salad with sprinkles on it.
The ensalada de noche buena is traditionally served on, well, noche buena, a.k.a Christmas Eve. Aesthetics are crucial here: The salad is designed in the Christmas color palette of green (lettuce), red (beets, pomegranate seeds) and white (jicama).
Of course, if you Google the salad, you’ll see that some people leave out the green—that is, the lettuce—altogether. And some people go crazy with the white, adding, um, mayonnaise. Our version at XOCO sticks pretty traditional, with romaine, roasted beets, jicama, orange, peanuts and a piloncillo-sherry vinaigrette. True, we left out the pomegranate seeds. But we kept the sprinkles, which are the ornaments on this Christmas tree of a salad. By any measure, that’s a fair trade-off.
Spring’s glorious arrival means it is finally time to step outside and start grilling.
There’s no better way to kick off the season than with this hearty grilled chicken salad, made complete with a rustic guacamole mixed with grilled onions and the same garlic dressing you’ll toss with the salad.
It’s a dish that’s sure to break you out of the “grilled chicken Caesar” rut. True, this starts with grilled chicken, but it’s chicken that’s redolent of roasted garlic, green chile, cilantro and lime — all of which dances the cumbia with guacamole, crisp romaine and nutty aged cheese.
And don’t let rain, cold temperatures or even the lack of a grill spoil the fun. The flavors here are so captivating that a stovetop grill pan will work just fine.
- For the Dressing
- 1/2cup vegetable or olive oil, plus a little more for the onion
- 4cloves garlic
- 2serrano chiles , stemmed and halved (or 1 large jalapeño)
- 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
- 3/4cup (loosely packed) roughly chopped cilantro
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- For the Salad
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 1/4 pounds total)
- 1medium white onion, cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 2ripe avocados
- 2 medium romaine hearts, sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide ribbons (about 8 cups)
- 1/3cup grated Mexican queso añejo or other garnishing cheese such as Romano or Parmesan
Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium. Add the garlic and chiles and cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is soft and lightly browned, usually 1 to 2 minutes. Pour the oil, garlic and chile into a blender jar or food processor. Add the lime juice, cilantro, black pepper and 1 scant teaspoon salt. Process until smooth.
Place the chicken breasts in a bowl and pour one-third of the garlic dressing over them, spreading it evenly over all sides.
Heat half the burners of a gas grill over medium-high (or start a charcoal fire and let it burn until the coals are covered with white ash but still quite hot, then bank the coals to one side). Lightly brush or spray the onion slices with oil; sprinkle with salt. Lay the chicken and onion directly over the heat of the grill. Sear the chicken on both sides, then move it away from the direct heat to finish cooking, usually about 5 minutes. Cook the onion until is it well browned, 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Chop the onion into small pieces and scoop into a bowl. Set chicken aside to cool. (All of the grilling can be done in a grill pan on a stove over medium heat.)
Pit the avocados and scoop the flesh in with the onion. Add another one-third of the garlic dressing, the coarsely mash everything together with an old-fashioned potato masher, large fork or the back of a big spoon. Taste and season with salt, usually about 1/2 teaspoon.
Scoop the sliced romaine into a large bowl. Drizzle on the remaining garlic dressing and toss to combine. Divide among the four dinner plates.
Scoop a portion of the guacamole into the center of each plate. Cut each chicken breast into cubes and arrange over the guacamole. Sprinkle each plate with queso añejo (or its substitute) and you're ready to serve.
Typically, I like to populate our Mexican Weekend feature with recipes requiring just a little extra effort, like, say, grill-roasted ancho pork shoulder, seared scallops in tomatillo-olive sauce or red chile short rib soup.
But we’re throwing that formula out the window this weekend.
This weekend, it’s all about simplicity.
We’ll find it in this unexpected, wonderfully delicious Napa cabbage salad.
It starts with thinly sliced cabbage and chicken (a good rotisserie bird does the job), then veers into a creamy, tangy territory with the addition of mayonnaise and briny jalapeños, carrots and onions in escabeche.
Think of it like the best chicken salad you’ve ever had, with the added bonus of making it into tacos.
I envision this dish as the perfect addition to a picnic or lazy weekend gathering, but I’m curious to know: where will you serve it?
- 1/2 medium head Napa cabbage (12 to 14 ounces)
- 2 cups coarsley shredded, boned, skinned rotisserie chicken or leftover cooked chicken
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 12-ounce can pickled whole jalapeños en escabeche
- 3 to 4tablespoons loosely packed fresh cilantro
- 16 corn tortillas
Thinly slice the cabbage (you can do this with a knife, food processor or mandolin) and place in a large mixing bowl. Add chicken and mayonnaise. Remove 3 to 4 jalapeňos from the can, slice into rings, and add to bowl. Remove the onions and carrots from the can and chop into ¼ inch pieces (you'll have about 1/4 cup). Add to cabbage mixture along with 3 tablespoons of the canning liquid. Add the cilantro, stir everything together, taste and season with salt, usually about 1 teaspoon.
Wrap tortillas in damp paper towel and place in an unsealed ziplock bag. Microwave at 100% for 1 minute, then let sit 1 minute before serving.
Immediately spoon about 1/3 cup of the cabbage mixture into warm tortillas and serve.
Cook's notes: This dish can also be made with Brussels sprouts. Here's the recipe for that version.