We ended the night with this wonderful Bread Pudding - more about this in this post and the next!
Friends for dinner last night – yeah! I simply love having a nice Friday night dinner party. I never fuss about it because I will be cooking something anyway and why not have people over to share it with who need to celebrate the weekend as much as we do? Lisa is not one to just arrive, hand me her coat and sit waiting for a drink (although if I don’t make her a cocktail within 5 minutes of her arrival I get the dagger eyes!). She always calls to ask what she can bring, never expecting that I should do all the work solo. She has brought all manner of things to dinner from the appetizers to the entre BUT, we love when she honors our request for “dessert please!” Last night’s dessert was by far my favorite of her contributions – her Family’s Bread Pudding. It couldn’t have been a better ending to our hearty salad. I am not really one of those people who eats dinner just to get to the dessert course. I love savory food and most times just prefer to continue drinking wine than to spoil it with something sweet. There was a big exception to that rule last night. It was so different to my family’s Bread Pudding and I was surprised at how the lowly bread pudding had risen to the occasion. The best part is that she has shared her secret recipe with me and given me permission to share it on my blog to anyone who reads it! I will post it directly after I have made dinner tonight! Thank you Lisa!
OK – on with last night’s dinner…..I decided to make a salad of all things. But not just any salad – a Cobb Salad which satisfies the most skeptical salad eater. Years ago I never considered salad to be a meal. It was just something that you had on the side to add color or something that made you feel “healthy”. It could be exclaimed in disgust after being invited to dinner that the host only served SALAD (or rabbit Food) for dinner! Today, there are all sorts of salads to choose from, some which are even down-right bad for you! Consider all the salads loaded with creamy dressings and “crispy” things like crusted chicken and fried breads or even those salads served in big taco type bowls! I think that people also tend to eat very big portions assuming that because it is salad they can eat as much as humanely possible. I’m beginning to feel a little like a hypocrite right at this moment as the salad I made last night had blue cheese, not to mention avocado and bacon – oops! I did make a lighter dressing and didn’t bother with croutons. However it would be a sin to leave out the bacon! This salad is all in the prep. If you have leftover chicken and/or bacon in the fridge this salad is something to consider. My recipe takes you through all the steps (cooking the chicken and bacon). It is a little finicky but very easy to make. No great balancing of tasks here, so if you’re not too confident in the kitchen……another good reason to try this.
What you need: 5 boneless skinless chicken breasts, 1 onion, 4 cloves garlic, 1 cup chicken broth, 1 1/2 lbs bacon, 3 ripe Haas avocados, 2 cups crumbled or cubed Roquefort cheese (I actually used English Stilton last night), 6 eggs, 3 heads Romain lettuce, 4 Roma tomatoes, Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste, Chile flakes (optional) Balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil.
Prep time: Put the eggs in cold water in pot (just covering) and when it comes to a boil time for 5 minutes. Turn off pot, leave eggs in water and set aside until ready to slice. Season chicken breasts with a sprinkle of salt, a few grinds of black pepper and a sprinkling of red chili flake (if using). Take out your big saute pan and sear chicken on high heat in olive oil until they are nicely browned outside (about 2 minutes per side – don’t crowd pan or they will never brown!). Dice the onion and peel the garlic cloves. When chicken is finished browning turn heat down to low and add onion and garlic. When pan has cooled a little add the stock and bring to a boil. Return chicken to pan, cover and simmer very gently for 15 minutes. Turn pan off and let chicken continue to cook a little while cooling. When chicken has cooled (in the meantime you will be busy chopping and slicing!) put on board and slice, set aside. (NOTE: don’t throw away the liquid for the chicken as you will have just made yourself some lovely stock for future use – cool and freeze or will keep in fridge for 5 days). Fry bacon in batches until crispy, chop and set aside. Crumble or cube cheese and set aside. Wash and dry romaine lettuce and tear into large pieces. Place in big bowl and set aside. Quarter avocados and slice, set aside. Peel eggs and slice (I have one of those nifty little eggs slicer things – which my daughter was very happy to try out!). Halve tomatoes, de-seed and dice, set aside. Crumble or cube cheese and set aside. Make dressing: pour 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil into a small bowl and add 2 tbs balsamic vinegar, 1/2 tsp coarse salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Whisk together and taste – if you like more of anything just add a little at a time and taste (or get your friends to taste – makes them feel like experts at something!).
Scott took the approach of making a nice pile o' salad! (He missed his calling as a Hand Model!)
Now you are ready to make your plate of salad. I just let everyone make their own which crowds the kitchen, but by this point in any evening a few cocktails have been consumed and everyone is in the mood to have fun (at least that is what happened last night). Everyone had their own ideas as to how their salad should look and I wasn’t going to interfere with their creativity!
I tried to make it the traditional way and separated the components (a bit messy looking though!)