Thursday, November 4, 2010

Lemon Basil Chicken Salad Wrapped in Butter Lettuce

This is my favorite chicken salad recipe and as I only occasionally eat chicken, (once or twice a month generally) when I do, I am pretty picky about how I eat it. This is perfect, because it is a quick way to spruce up that left over chicken from the night before; I prefer grilled chicken for more flavor. Plus, it is simple, flavorful and healthy. Though I cannot take full credit for this recipe.

I have always made my chicken salad with mayo, lemon and almonds or pecans, but I had never seen it wrapped with butter lettuce, nor had I ever added basil to it until I saw Paula Deen do so on the food network. The basil adds the right amount of herby flavor, rosemary would work well too. I thought it was so clever to make the salad wrap and my husband and I instantly found a new favorite lettuce. Butter lettuce is the perfect lettuce for salad wraps, much better than iceberg in my opinion. The leaves are a lot more pliable and though they are not really crispy they have a nice subtle flavor that doesn’t mask the filling. I also love to add cranberries or apples, because it adds another lever of flavor with a touch of sweetness. The best thing about this recipe is it is so simple and versatile. You can change this up and add whatever ingredients you prefer.

Note: You will want to cook your chicken atleast a few hours in advance so it has time to cool down and chill in the fridge.

Prep/cook time: 10 minutes plus cook time for chicken
Makes: about 3 cups salad

2 1/2 cups cubed chicken breast – about 2 large or 4 small breasts
1/3 cup mayonnaise
Juice and zest of one lemon
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
1/3 cup slivered roasted almonds or pecans
1/3 cup dried cranberries
Salt and pepper to taste
One head of butter lettuce – rinsed, dried and leaves separated

The sald is best served cold. In a medium sized mixing bowl add all ingredients except for the lettuce. Mix well with a large spoon or spatula. Season with salt and pepper if desired. This salad is great served immediately, but will get even better if you let it sit in the fridge for at least half an hour. To serve take a lettuce leaf add a large spoonful of salad to the center. Pick up and roll up like a burrito or just fold over like a taco. Eat and enjoy!

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