One of the best places I find inspiration for developing new recipes and dishes is, of course, other people’s food. In particular, I love to take a restaurant dish that is really popular and make it my own. Sometimes I try to mimic the restaurant version, while other times, I like to make my own spin of the restaurant version. In the case of this salad, I’m mimicking the original chopped salad, created by Portillo’s. I don’t know that Portillo’s actually created the chopped salad, but theirs is the best, so I like to give them credit. Anyways, I’ve come up with a pretty good version of my own, with a few twists, such as mozzarella cheese, instead of the traditional Gorgonzola. This salad pairs great with some soup for a satisfying and healthy weeknight dinner. Leftovers of the salad are great for work the next day too!
Chicken and Bacon Chopped Salad
- 1 pound bacon
- 2 chicken breasts
- 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
- ¾ cup dry Ditalini pasta
- 1 head iceberg lettuce, chopped
- ¼ head of red cabbage, chopped
- 4 ounces (half of an 8 ounce block) of mozzarella cheese, chopped into small cubes
- 2 Roma tomatoes, diced
- ¼ small red onion, diced
- ¼ cup white sugar
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- ½ cup water
- 1 tbsp. minced garlic
- 2 tbsp. dry mustard
- 1 tbsp. kosher salt
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
- 2 cups vegetable oil
- Place bacon in a single layer on a sheet pan. Put into a cold oven and turn oven temperature to 400 degrees. Cook for 20 minutes until bacon is crispy and browned. Set aside to cool.
- Place chicken breasts in a foil lined dish and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning.
- When oven is pre-heated and up to 400 degrees, add chicken breasts. Cook for 20 – 25 minutes until cooked throughout. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. When chicken is cool, chop into bite size pieces.
- While chicken cooks, prepare pasta according to package instructions. Drain and spray with some cooking spray. Toss and set aside to cool.
- For the dressing: Whisk sugar, vinegar and water in a medium size bowl until sugar has dissolved. Add remaining ingredients, except vegetable oil. Add mixture to a blender and blend on low. Slowly drizzle in vegetable oil until an emulsion forms. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as necessary.
- In a large bowl, toss all ingredients together. Add dressing a few tablespoons at a time and toss well. Continue to add dressing as desired.