Late Sunday, I returned from a wonderful long weekend in Portland, Oregon, a Christmas gift from M. Over the course of four days, we ate and drank our way through Portland and the Columbia River Gorge. After consecutive days of craft beers, fried food and not-quite-enough exercise, both M and I were ready for something a little lighter. That’s why I cooked up today’s recipe: Fines Herbes Chicken Salad with Strawberries and Goat Cheese.
One of the (many) highlights of the weekend was the seven-course tasting menu at the celebrate Le Pigeon. The restaurant serves up French-inspired cuisine with a Northwestern twist. I have a longer review planned for later this month, but in a nutshell, Le Pigeon is not to be missed. We even had a distinctly “Portlandia” experience when a trio of hipsters were seated beside us at the communal table. I’ll never look at foie gras the same.
But, back to this gorgeous salad. In France, a simple salad is an essential accompaniment to any main dish. I remember one salad in particular from my visit to Paris—a simple, garlicky green salad served in a dimly lit fondue restaurant. The waitress prepared the salad tableside, rubbing a cut clove of garlic into a large wooden bowl and then dressing the greens with a splash of olive oil and touch of white wine vinegar. The bite of the garlic and acidity of the vinegar were the perfect complement to the silky melted cheese.
Main dish salads didn’t become popular in France until the 1970s. Today it’s common to find Salade Nicoise and Frisee au Lard et a L’oeuf (Bacon, Egg and Frisee Salad) on many French bistro menus. Those seasonal main dish salads were the inspiration for today’s recipe: Fines Herbes Chicken Salad with Strawberries and Goat Cheese.
Fines herbes is a classic combination of traditional French herbs. Unlike the “loud” or pungent herbs that make up bouquet garni, fines herbes are softer and “quieter” on the palate. The traditional combination includes parsley, chives, tarragon and chervil. In some instances, marjoram, cicely, cress or lemon balm are included.
To play off of these traditional French flavors, I created a simple fines herbes marinade/vinaigrette with herbs from our garden: parsley, garlic chives, tarragon and marjoram. Since it was too beautiful to pass up, I also added a handful of sweet basil. I processed the herbs together with shallot, Champagne vinegar, white balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, olive oil and a drizzle of honey in the food processor, and then poured half of the fragrant dressing over boneless skinless chicken breasts. While the chicken marinated, I prepared the rest of the salad.
Along with the final crop of our garden mesclun, I added chopped radish, cucumber, grape tomatoes, sliced strawberry and crumbled goat cheese. Medium-boiled farm eggs added a creamy counterpoint to the crispy vegetables. The crowning touches of this elegant bistro salad were the thinly sliced chicken breast and drizzle of remaining fines herbes dressing.
Fines Herbes Chicken Salad with Strawberries and Goat Cheese is an easy, inspired meal to whip up any night of the week. If you have more time, try marinating your chicken for four hours, up to overnight. Mix up the combination of fines herbes and take advantage of the farm fresh produce from your home garden or farmer’s market.
- 2 (8 ounce) boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1½ cup mixed fines herbes (parsley, chives, tarragon, lemon balm, marjoram, chevil, basil), roughly chopped
- 2 small shallots, chopped (about ¼ cup)
- ½-2/3 cup olive oil
- ⅓ cup champagne or white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
- 1-2 teaspoons honey
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 6-8 cups mixed salad greens
- 1 cup radishes, sliced
- 1 cup cucumber, sliced
- 1 cup strawberries, sliced
- 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
- 4 ounces goat cheese, cumbled
- 3 boiled eggs, quartered
- Rinse and pat the chicken dry. Place in a glass container or shallow bowl.
- In the bowl of your food processor, add the herbs and shallot. Pulse until finely minced. Add the dijon mustard and vinegar. Pulse until minced. While food processor is running, add the olive oil until combined. Add honey to taste. If dressing is too acidic, add additional honey and olive oil until desired consistency is achieved.
- Pour half the dressing over chicken and allow to marinate at least 20 minutes or overnight.
- While chicken marinates, prepare salad by placing all salad ingredients into a large bowl, or arranging as displayed on individual serving plates.
- Remove chicken from marinade and grill until cooked through. On a gas grill, grill chicken over medium to medium-high heat for about 19-22 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 150-155 degrees. Allow to rest 5 minutes.
- While chicken rests, toss salad greens with remaining dressing. Slice chicken thinly and arrange atop dressed greens.
- If plating individual salads, arrange chicken on salad and top with a drizzle of dressing.