This salad became an instant favorite when it hit the menu at the restaurant we owned many years ago. The restaurant is long gone but the recipe lives on and my family never tires of eating it.
The secret to this recipe is the thickness and flavor of the chicken breasts. Pounding them before marinating increases the chance that they cook quickly and more evenly. Marinating them in a shortcut marinade using bottled vinaigrette dressing and chopped fresh rosemary is an easy way to impart flavor. And the caramelization that occurs when grilling the chicken gives smoky, rich flavor.
In your planning be sure to allow time for marinating the chicken at least two hours or better yet, overnight. And time also for chilling the chicken, although it can be served warm on top of the spinach.
Drizzled with the sweet and slightly spicy Honey Mustard dressing, this combination of herb marinated and grilled chicken on top of a bed of fresh spinach leaves with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan and roasted pecans is not to be missed.
- 1-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 cup vinaigrette salad dressing (I use Newman’s Family Italian)
- 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried
- 1 10-ounce bag cleaned baby spinach leaves
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup roasted pecans (see instructions below)
- Honey Mustard Dressing (see recipe below)
- Pound chicken breasts to about ½-inch thickness between wax paper or in a re-sealable plastic bag. Transfer chicken to a dish suitable for marinating or a plastic re-sealable bag. Add dressing and rosemary and turn chicken to evenly distribute. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight, turning once during marinating.
- Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Grill chicken in a grill pan over medium heat or on a pre-heated barbecue, turning once during grilling, until cooked through, about 15 minutes (internal temperature 165 degrees F.). Remove from heat and allow sitting at room temperature until slightly cooled, then chill until serving. Slice chilled breasts into thin slices. Alternatively, cooked chicken can be allowed to rest 5-10 minutes then thinly sliced to serve warm.
- To serve, divide spinach between 4 plates. Sprinkle Parmesan and pecans over spinach. Arrange sliced chicken on top of each salad. Serve with Honey Mustard Dressing.
Honey Mustard Dressing: Whisk together 1 cup mayonnaise, 3 Tablespoons honey, 3 Tablespoons milk, 2 Tablespoons Dijon-style mustard, 1-1/2 teaspoons dry mustard and 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Makes 1-1/3 cups.