Do you have foods that trigger a special memory for you? You know, kind of like a song that comes onto the radio, and suddenly it’s 1994 again, you’re back at debate camp in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and there’s a cute boy hanging on your every word while you’re pretending to know the ins and outs of international relations as it relates to nuclear proliferation?
Oh, um…yeah, so maybe that was just me. (And, of course, so that you can have a full picture of the extent of my geekiness, the song is “Stay” by Lisa Loeb).
The hubby has a food memory that he brings up every once in awhile. It doesn’t seem like this meal means anything particularly special to him, but whenever he and his dad used to go to Fort Lauderdale, they’d stop by the Floridian Diner (his parents live in South Florida). The Floridian means enough to the hubby that on my second trip down there with him to visit his family, we made a detour on the way to the airport so that I could appreciate his fondness for the place.
Specifically, the hubby likes to have a buffalo chicken salad with blue cheese dressing. It’s not highbrow, it’s not served on a small plate, and there’s nothing locavore about it, but man, he really loves that salad. He brings it up every once in awhile whenever we have a layover at some nondescript Asian airport and we’re trying to decide between eating a sandwich suspiciously labeled “chicken ham” or a shapeless, flour-y steamed bun filled with mystery meat (the latter usually wins; sometimes we’re not disappointed). It’s almost like, in the absence of any good food in our immediate vicinity, he’d like to be transported to the Floridian to have that salad, or for the salad to magically appear wherever we are. Such is the power of this memory.
Last week I made the hubby a slightly-dressed up version of this favorite salad, using field greens, Japanese kyuri cucumbers and Roma tomatoes from the Genting Highlands. The hubby scarfed down his salad without saying much (“Too busy. Eating.”), which I take to mean I didn’t stray too far from the version he remembers.
- 6-8 ounces creamy blue cheese (I recommend Danish blue)
- 3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
- ¼ cup milk
- juice from ½ lemon
- 1 clove minced garlic
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 boneless skinless, chicken breasts, sliced into strips
- 1 cup flour (more if necessary)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 egg
- ½ cup milk
- ⅓ cup Frank's Hot Sauce or other hot sauce
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 6-8 cups field greens or other green leafy salad
- 2 tomatoes, sliced
- 1 cucumber, sliced
- 1 avocado, sliced
- In a small bowl, mix milk and lemon juice and let stand for 10 minutes so that milk curdles slightly. Add blue cheese, yogurt, garlic salt and pepper, stir and set aside.
- Toss together greens, tomatoes, cucumber and avocado in a large bowl and set aside.
- Set a wire rack over a lined baking sheet and slide into oven. Heat oven to 250 degrees.
- In a cast-iron or non-stick skillet, pour enough canola oil so that a thin layer coats the bottom of the pan (around ¼ cup in a 12-inch skillet).
- Heat over medium-high heat. Test the heat of the oil by sprinkling a few drops of water over the pan; if the water sizzles, then the oil is hot enough for you to pan-fry the chicken strips.
- In a shallow dish, mix together flour, salt and pepper and set aside.
- In another shallow dish, beat egg and stir in ½ cup milk.
- When oil is hot enough, dredge chicken strips in egg and milk mixture, then in flour mixture and immediately place in pan.
- Working in batches, pan fry the strips, around 2-3 minutes per side, and drain on paper towels before transferring to the oven.
- When ready to serve, mix together hot sauce and melted butter into a large bowl and toss chicken strips in mixture.
- Divide salad mixture among four plates and top with buffalo chicken strips, then drizzle blue cheese dressing on top. Serve immediately.