Where is the post-Thanksgiving post?, you ask. What should I do with my Ziploc of turkey scraps, my Tupperware of roasted cauliflower, my entire Pyrex of stuffing that didn’t get touched because we made two entire 9 x 13″ pans of it to feed 5 people (yes that actually happened) ? My answer: enjoy them as is. Personally I don’t feel any great compulsion to try to improve things like turkey and gravy and corn soufflé, and it’s pretty great to get to eat them for two or three dinners in a row. Plus when they’re leftovers you get the added bonus of not needing to cook that night and having minimal dishes to clean. (The one exception maybe being potato cakes. Maybe that will be a post for another time.)
So, there is no post-Thanksgiving post. There is, however, this salad that I actually made pre-Thanksgiving in order to clean out the fridge a bit before leaving town for the holidays. It’s one of my favorite ways to use up a small amount of lettuce and goat cheese, and I usually have all the other ingredients (chicken, raisins, lemon, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and mustard) on hand.
By having chicken on hand, I mean boneless, skinless chicken breast. That’s right. Pork belly seems to be the current prom king of meat cuts, and boneless, skinless chicken breast is its uncool little cousin that nobody wants to be friends with, or admit they’re friends with anyway. They’re boring and bland and dry, people say. Yeah, so are plenty of things when you underseason and overcook them. So I’ll be liberal with my salt and conservative with my heat and I’ll keep using the boneless skinless chicken breast. Also, they are super cheap because they go on BOGO all the time and you can stock up on them. (See About section.)
I started making this salad while I was studying abroad in France during college. I was living in a tiny apartment that had a range but not an oven, and it was during that semester that I was taught that anyone can make Dijon vinaigrette, was first introduced to carottes râpées—a raw grated carrot salad that is ubiquitous in France—and learned that goat cheese was actually really good and wasn’t, in fact, supposed to taste the way that a goat smells. Here, instead of having carottes râpées as a side dish, they are used as an element of the salad, and a vinaigrette is used to dress the whole thing instead of just the carrots.
PS: Even when I don’t make this particular dish, I am a huge fan of grating carrots if they are going to be served raw in a salad. Unlike with chunks or slices of raw carrot, which are impossible to eat because they ricochet hopelessly off of your fork as you try to stab them, grated carrots are satisfyingly fork-friendly.
Grilled Chicken, Grated Carrot, Golden Raisin, and Goat Cheese Salad with Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette
For the Grilled Chicken:
- 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast
- vegetable oil
- kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- In the winter: heat a ridged grill pan over medium-high heat. In the summer: preheat a grill to medium-high heat.
- Pat the chicken dry and pound to an even thickness. You want it to be about 1/2″ thick so that it cooks evenly.
- Brush your grill pan or grill with vegetable oil. (If you use olive oil it will probably smoke on medium-high.)
- Generously sprinkle one side of the chicken with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Place the chicken salt-and-pepper-side down on your grill pan or grill, and let it cook for about 5-6 minutes.
- Before turning the chicken, sprinkle the unseasoned side with more salt and pepper, then flip and cook for another 5-6 minutes, until the chicken is done.
- Remove the chicken from heat, tent with foil, and let it rest while you make the rest of the salad.
For the Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette:
- 2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tsp. white wine vinegar
- 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 small clove of garlic, microplaned or finely minced
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste; I used about 1/8 tsp. of each
There are two ways you can make this vinaigrette. The traditional way: mix the lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, and garlic together. While whisking constantly, slowly add the olive oil in a small stream in order to emulsify the dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste. With such a small batch though, I prefer the easier, more fun way: Put everything in a small jar with a tightly-fitting top and shake vigorously for 10 seconds or so.
For the Rest of the Salad:
- about 4 cups of chopped crunchy lettuce, like romaine
- 1 large carrot
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 2 oz. goat cheese
- Peel the carrot if you want. I usually keep it on because I’m lazy / because that’s where all vitamins are (right? isn’t that what our moms all told us?), but be warned: it will make the grated carrot turn brown if you keep the peel on. Grate the carrot in the small holes of a box grater—not the holes for hard cheese, but the smallest ones besides those.
- Divide the lettuce over 2 plates or bowls. Cut up the grilled chicken and divide it over the two salads. Sprinkle on any accumulated juices from the chicken.
- Top each salad evenly with the carrots, raisins, goat cheese, and vinaigrette. Mix it up a little to distribute the dressing and so that the goat cheese starts to melt from the heat of the chicken.
- If you’re a pepper fan, finish with some freshly ground black pepper.