Are there any blogs that you have followed for what seems like forever? I have lots of food blogs like that but one, in particular, gets more use now (at least in thought) than ever. Dinner: A Love Story is about getting dinner to the table, getting your kids to eat some portion of it, and doing it without losing your mind. Maybe that's not how she'd sum it up, but Jenny Rosenstrach, the founding editor of the blog as well as author of some excellent cookbooks, has found a way to show us all how to cook simple and special meals for families for years. Way before I had kids, I was reading this blog because I loved the idea of feeding my future foodie babies at a dinner table and having them enjoy every bite as much as I did. The best thing about Jenny and her blog is that she prepared me for the reality of feeding those kids. The concept she introduced that I come back to time and again is that of deconstructing a meal. These days I do it a whole lot and I tend to just call it a DIY meal. This salad (you thought I'd never make it here, didn't you?) is a perfect example.
I created this recipe after eating a similar salad for an innumerable quantity of lunches with coworkers at a fast-casual chain near my old office building. It's got all of the textures and flavors a meal salad should have: salty and sweet, crunchy and smooth, loaded with crisp cool vegetables and enough protein to fill you up. The dressing is a simple combination of ranch dressing and barbecue sauce, so you can use your favorites of each and make it just how you like it. Tossed with crunchy strips of Romaine lettuce is a combination of tomatoes, sweet diced red pepper, leftover cubed barbecue or rotisserie chicken, black beans, roasted corn, jicama, cilantro, and crunchy fried onions (the canned ones, yep another onion hypocrisy). I want every last one of those ingredients in each bite, but my kids aren't of the same mind. The first grader hates cilantro. The preschooler won't eat tomatoes or chicken right now. Both of them want to dip everything (always), so they hate to have the dressing tossed in with everything else. Here's where the deconstructing magic happens: rather than toss all the ingredients ahead of time, I bring this to the table as a platter of toppings, a bowl of shredded lettuce, and a jar of dressing. Jenny saves the day! Each kid makes up their own plate, everyone eats. Sanity saved.
I've made this salad for years now, and sometimes the ingredients drift a bit. When there's no chicken around or I just want to have a meatless meal, I just leave it out and the salad doesn't suffer. In summer, fresh corn sliced right off of the cobb is pretty terrific. In winter, canned or frozen corn work equally well. I've added canned (drained) green chiles, some shredded sharp cheddar cheese, or crushed tortilla chips. There's wiggle room in the recipe for you to make it your own. The basic recipe below is a framework. Make it once as is and then start experimenting to find your favorite combination!
Barbecue Chicken Chopped Salad
- ¼ cup ranch dressing
- ¼ cup barbecue sauce
- 2 plum tomatoes, chopped
- ½ red bell pepper, diced
- 1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
- ¾ cup frozen corn, thawed (use fresh in summer!)
- 1 cup cooked chicken, chopped
- 1 avocado, diced
- 1 cup jicama, diced
- 4 cups shredded Romaine or iceberg lettuce
- ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
- ⅓ cup french-fried onions
- In the bottom of a large bowl, mix the ranch dressing and barbecue sauce.
- Add remaining ingredients to the bowl and toss well, coating all ingredients with dressing.
- To serve as a DIY-style salad, prepare the dressing in a small bowl. Serve the lettuce in a medium bowl alongside a platter of all of the other ingredients, allowing each person to build the salad to their liking.
Nutrition facts are sometimes provided below and are calculated using an online calculator. With specific brands of ingredients and additions, omissions, or substitutions the nutrition facts may change. We encourage you to use your own nutrition facts caculator to obtain the most accurate nutrition facts for your meal.