Sunday, February 3, 2013

Just Like School Lunch?

My son loves school lunch, in all its highly processed, deep fried glory.  Last month, he came home raving about cheese sauce, and after a few false starts I came up with a cheesy bechamel that passed muster (melt 2 T butter, whisk in 2 T flour, then slowly whisk in 1 cup milk, cook low whisking constantly for a few minutes, until thickened, turn off heat and stir in 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, and 1/2 cup grated jack cheese, and pour over things like baked potatoes, steamed broccoli...).  But this week, it's chicken nuggets, and my first try failed the kid test to miserably that all current and future requests for home versions of school lunch favorites have been cancelled.  Apparently, school lunch chicken nuggets are completely covered on their yellow crust on the outside and perfectly white on the inside.  So I ended up with a whole lot of leftover lightly breaded, gently sauteed and quite tasty, to an adult palate, chicken pieces, which turned into a truly delicious lunch salad.  Pineapple in New England is almost always underripe, and using it kind of goes against the whole spirit of this blog, but in the winter I sometimes get these yearnings for something more tropical.  If I were to make this in a warmer clime, it would really be perfect (for the adults)!



Not Chicken Nugget Salad
serves 4

1 cup herb and parmesan bread crumbs (recipe follows)
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs (breast would be whiter but dryer)
3 T olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
4 cups lettuce
2 cups chopped pineapple
1 avocado, cubed
1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette

Cut chicken into 2-3" pieces.  Toss chicken pieces with salt, pepper, and 2 T olive oil.  Spread the bread crumbs on a plate.  Roll the chicken peieces in the bread crumbs.  Heat 1 T olive oil in a large pan.  Lay the chicken pieces in the oil and cook 10 minutes per side.  Remove from heat and cut into cubes.  Toss the lettuce and avocado with the vinaigrette.  Top with the chicken and the pineapple. 

Parmesan Bread Crumbs
Makes 4 cups

4 cups cubed bread (I cube up the ends of loaves that are starting to get dry and save them in the freezer till I have enough)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp. fresh or dried rosemary
2 tsp. chopped fresh or dried basil
1 T chopped fresh or dried parsley

Toss everything together in a bowl.  Put half of it into a food processor, using the grater attachment.  Repeat with with other half.  Then put in the regular sharp blade and pulse until fine.    Keeps frozen for up to 3 months.