Wait-burned chicken on the blog now? Nope, blackened. Blackened does not equal burned. Blackened is juicy and flavorful. Burned is…yucky, dry and tasteless. Best of all, blackened chicken cooks in a few minutes and is deliciously versatile for pasta, sandwiches, main dish or a perfectly cool summer salad. Burned chicken takes a long time to cook and it isn’t good for anything.
Traditional blackened chicken (or fish) gets a butter dip before cooking but I’m keeping things on the light side so you can spend your calories on salad dressing-and because I don’t want the fire department to make an unnecessary visit to your house. I’m assuming you have smoke alarms, and lots of butter+the high heat required for this cooking method can produce smoke big-time even if you open a lot of windows and run the exhaust fan on high. There are surely better ways to meet fire fighters. A very small amount of oil and a non-stick skillet work fine.
The key to keeping the chicken juicy is to keep it thin and cook it fast. Pounding the chicken breasts until they’re about ½ inch thick will shorten the cooking time so higher heat can be used. Less fat, high heat and a shorter cook time helps the spices adhere to the surface of the chicken, quickly producing flavorful meat you can use in all sorts of dishes, including salads. Use a meat mallet to pound the chicken. If you don’t have a meat mallet a rolling pin works, too.
I kept my salad pretty simple with romaine, red leaf lettuce, carrots, radishes, and tomatoes. Make your favorite or substitute bagged if you’re short on time.
Blackened chicken usually has some kick to it, but feel free to adjust the spices to suit your taste. I like to keep it a little on the spicy side to top a salad and counterbalance it with cool honey lime dressing.
I made a slightly modified version of a well-known, everywhere-you-look copycat salad dressing recipe. To me, it’s a bit too sweet (and thick) as originally written, so I decrease the sweetness slightly by reducing the honey and adding some milk, salt, and pepper. The dressing is easy to make but does have to be cooked and cooled before using, so allow time. The cool lime taste pairs so well with the blackened chicken. It makes over a cup so you can use it for additional salads throughout the week, take it to work for your everyday lunch salad, or dip veggies in it.
This lean, quick-cooking recipe can easily be multiplied to feed more. Consider the size of the chicken breasts you’ve purchased and how you’ll be serving them-most people will only need five or six ounces at most on a salad, so one large chicken breast should be enough for two people. Maybe even two hungry fire fighters.
Blackened Chicken Salad With Honey Lime Dressing
- FOR THE HONEY LIME DRESSING (allow time to cook & cool):
- 1 egg
- ¼ c. fresh lime juice
- 1 tsp. lime zest
- ½ cup minus 2 Tablespoons honey
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- 1/8 tsp. mace (may substitute nutmeg, use slightly less)
- 2 pinches black pepper
- 1 c. sour cream
- 2-3 Tbs. whole milk
- FOR THE CHICKEN:
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. onion powder
- ½ tsp. oregano
- ½ tsp. black pepper
- ½ tsp. white pepper
- ½ tsp. garlic powder
- ½ tsp. paprika
- ¼ tsp. dried thyme
- ¼-3/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, depending on level of spiciness desired
- 2-3 tsp. cooking oil, such as canola
- 2 large (9-12 oz. each) chicken breasts
- Step 1 In a medium saucepan whisk together egg, lime juice, lime zest and honey.
- Step 2 Cook over medium heat, whisking frequently, until mixture just begins to bubble.
- Step 3 Reduce heat to low and continue cooking and whisking 5 minutes (mixture may look foamy).
- Step 4 Remove from heat and stir in salt, mace, and pepper. Pour into a heat-proof container and place in refrigerator to cool about 20 minutes, stirring a couple times.
- Step 5 Remove from refrigerator and whisk in sour cream.
- Step 6 Add milk, one tablespoon at a time, to achieve desired consistency.
- Step 7 Store in refrigerator.
- Step 8 In a small bowl, mix together all of the spices and seasonings for the chicken. Set aside.
- Step 9 Place the chicken breasts in a zipper gallon bag or between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound to ½ inch thickness.
- Step 10 In a large, non-stick skillet begin heating 2 teaspoons oil over medium high heat.
- Step 11 Rub the spice mix over both sides of each chicken breast. Use all of it.
- Step 12 When the oil is hot, put the chicken in the skillet and cook 6-8 minutes.
- Step 13 Flip the chicken over and cook 6-8 minutes more, adding another teaspoon of oil if necessary.
- Step 14 Chicken is done when a thermometer inserted in the thickest part reads 155-160 degrees (temperature will increase slightly as it rests) and juices run clear.
- Step 15 Remove from skillet to a cutting board or plate and cover tightly with foil for five-ten minutes rest time.
- Step 16 Serve sliced over salad, or in a pasta dish, on a sandwich, or as a main dish.