Bacon and Chicken Panzanella (+ A Tip on Making Vinaigrettes)

October 8, 2009


Photo: ex.libris

As you’ve surely gathered from my recent posts, it’s been a bit of a bloodbath here. I cannot stop making sweets! After a long weekend of hard work finishing the nursery—and rewarding ourselves with decadent treats along the way—we needed a light, but satisfying Sunday night dinner.

On one of my breaks from telling the ChowPapa where to hang this and where to put that, I picked up a deliciously gooey, fresh ball of mozzarella. With a day old loaf of bread and heirloom tomatoes from Saturday’s farmers market hanging around, Panzanella was the natural thing to make.

You know me and my boys. Salad—yes, even bread salad—doesn’t quite satisfy. I wasn’t up to making a separate main entree, so I decided to add chicken. I threw bacon in the mix when I noticed that I had some left over from testing my Apple & Candied Bacon Upside Down Cake. Gotta use up what’s in the fridge, and boy did it work out well! I only had 2 strips, but suggest that you use 3 or 4 for even more yumminess.

This is meant to be a quick and easy dish. It can withstand a lot of variation, so don’t worry too much about measuring or being exact. Taste as you go. That’s what I did. If you’re nervous about winging dressing, go to your favorite basic (red wine) vinaigrette. Or just keep in mind 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. This would also be great using red wine vinegar AND lemon juice as your acid, and adding a little bacon fat to your oil. Oh yea!

Bacon and Chicken Panzanella
serves 3-4 as a main entree
(can be adapted for kids 10+ mos)

1/2 loaf organic italian bread (or other rustic bread), cut into approx 1 ” cubes
organic olive oil
3-4 strips organic bacon*
3 organic chicken breasts
1 ball fresh mozarella, torn into bite size pieces
1/2 organic red onion, thinly sliced*
2-3 large organic tomatoes, cut into bite size wedges
1 organic cucumber, seeded and sliced into half rounds
organic red wine vinegar**
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush bread with olive oil and toast in a single layer on a baking sheet in the oven until golden brown, about 10 min or so. Watch carefully—they can burn quickly. Set aside.

2. In the meantime, fry bacon until crisp. Crumble into bits and set aside. Salt and pepper chicken breasts and saute in bacon fat until cooked through. (There should be plenty of fat to cook the chicken, but add a little olive oil if need be.) Cube chicken and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, mix mozzarella, onion, tomato, cucumber, chicken and croutons.

4. Make dressing by whisking or shaking olive oil and red wine vinegar (use oil-to-vinegar ratio above). I like this salad with a healthy amount of dressing so that the croutons get partly soaked. Some like less dressing to ensure that they stay super crunchy. Dress salad and toss. Top with bacon bits.

*Skip bacon and pick out red onions for young eaters
**Use apple cider vinegar for portions fed to children under 12+ mos

Note: My photo came out horrible (I had terrible light and was rushing because I knew we’d immediately wolf this down). You’ll notice that the panzanella in the photo I used has basil, which is quite common. While I think basil could work for this recipe, I left it out on purpose. Once again, follow your taste buds and decide for yourself.

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