And cornbread croutons! And chunks of brie! And mores strawberries! And even avocado!
And somewhere under all that, I made some room for spinach.
Does it seem like I’m wayyy to excited to be talking about a salad? It’s because I am. There are so many delicious things in this salad I almost don’t know where to begin.
Raise your hand (behind your screen) if you’re a sucker for a chicken salad that isn’t actually that good for you, but you pretend it is, because it’s a salad, so it kinda has to be good for you?
Don’t get me wrong, I definitely love eating a nice clean salad with some grilled chicken, but sometimes that can be a little boring, and I am such a sucker for a slightly less healthy chicken salad.
Like a honey mustard pretzel chicken salad.
It came to me the other day that I haven’t had one of these salads in a really long time. I ignored it for bit, but after a few days I caved. I couldn’t say no. I believe that honey mustard and chicken go together like pb&j, – and a lot of times I have a chicken salad, I’ll use it as an excuse to enjoy a honey mustard dressing with it. But this time, I thought about incorporating it in a different way. Like soaking the chicken in some honey mustard before pressing on some crushed up pretzels. Alone, the chicken would be a pretty substantial meal. I mean, kinda. If chicken tenders is substantial enough for you… But I apparently couldn’t stop there.
I LOVE strawberries. I remember this one time when younger (guarantee everyone in my family will not remember/not believe this happened like most of my stories) I ate so many strawberries in one sitting that the outside of my mouth was STAINED red for a couple of days. I thought it was permanent, and even as a 4 or 5 or 6-year-old, whatever age I was – I was convinced it was a medical emergency. Luckily I didn’t have to give up my love for those delicious berries, as it turned out, I may have been a little messy when eating and somehow they stained my face. Class, class, class.
So I decided a sweet homemade strawberry vinaigrette would work really well with the chicken flavors. Plus, it’s strawberry season and I’m trying to take advantage of that and incorporate them into as many things as possible. Like a vinaigrette that is so good I could almost drink it. Also, apparently vinaigrettes and dressings have become my recent favorite thing to whip up since I’m doing it with almost everything I make. So many mason jars of dressing lining our fridge shelves. I ain’t mad.
You think I’d be satisfied after a sweet dressing to pair with the savory chicken? Apparently not. So in goes some brie! I was just going to toss in some crumbled feta since it’s my go-to salad cheese, but then I remembered this strawberry chicken salad I had at a restaurant in Chicago and remembered how much I LOVED the brie with the strawberries. So brie it is. A wonderful choice. And I was very okay with leaving the salad here — adding a little avocado and some sliced strawberries because I wanted the chicken to stand out. But as I started assembling it, I couldn’t help but think there was just something missing. Like one more thing. Because why stop there?
Thus, cornbread. More importantly: honey cornbread made in a skillet. An exciting, last-minute topping that I apparently just had.to.have. I could dedicate an entire post to skillet cornbread, and in the future I probably will – but as an impulsive addition to this salad, it all gets jumbled and thrown into one post.
The best part about this cornbread? LEFTOVERS. Depending on how many people you’re making the salad for, you’re pretty much bound to have leftovers. I mean hell, you don’t even technically need to chop up the cornbread and pretend to call them croutons (even though it tastes delish with some of that vinaigrette) you can just eat the cornbread on the side. All while making this part of the meal, I was sending pictures to my bffbetterhalves who love cornbread as much as me. The creativity in their guesses ranged from German pancakes to scones to souffles. Close gals, close.
Ok, well that was long winded.
But I’ve convinced you to make this salad haven’t I? Because you should. I know the directions list may look a little daunting, but I broke it up just because there are so many yummy elements and I thought it would be easier to see it step by step (started humming the tv show song while simultaneously singing the NKOTB song). This is one of zeeee best slightly less than healthy chicken salads ever. Ever. Ever. So glad I caved. Honey mustard pretzel chicken salads with brie and cornbread and strawberry vinaigrette for days and days.
- 1 large egg
- 1⅓ cups milk or 1¾ cups buttermilk
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 2 cups plain enriched white corn meal
- 1 tablespoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1½ cup fresh strawberries
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1½ tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- ½ tablespoon granulated sugar
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- ¼ cup honey
- ¼ cup dijon mustard
- 2 egg whites
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1-2 teaspoons paprika
- 2 large skinless, boneless breasts, cut into tenders (or 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken tenders)
- 1 cup pretzel twists, crushed
- 3-4 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 2-4 cups baby spinach (or greens of choice)
- 2-4 ounces brie cheese, cubed
- 1 large avocado, diced
- ½ cup strawberries, sliced
- Cornbread, cut into cubes*
- Honey mustard pretzel chicken tenders
- Strawberry vinaigrette dressing
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F, and lightly grease an 8-inch skillet (or 8x8-inch baking pan) with no-stick cooking spray. If using a skillet, place in the oven for 5-6 minutes to heat up. (Use the no-stick cooking spray again after it's heated.)
- Beat the egg in a a large mixing bowl, stir in the milk, vegetable oil, corn meal, baking powder, salt and honey until smooth. (Consistency of the batter should be creamy -- if it seems too thick, add 1-2 tablespoons of milk.) Pour into the prepared skillet or pan and bake 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. (Note: makes 8 servings.) Let cool before slicing.
- Add all the ingredients to a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste, adjust flavors to your taste preference. Pour into a jar with a sealed lid and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a baking sheet with no-stick cooking spray and set aside.
- Whisk honey, dijon mustard, egg whites and lemon juice in a large, shallow bowl or dish. Season with paprika and salt and pepper and submerge the chicken tenders into the honey mustard (make sure both sides are coated) and let sit for 5-10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, add your pretzel twists to a ziploc bag and crush (with a mallet or other kitchen utensil) until the texture is mostly crumbs. I left some pieces a little bigger. Combine crushed pretzel twists to a shallow dish with the panko breadcrumbs and season with a teaspoon or two of paprika.
- Using tongs, remove chicken tender (one at a time) from the honey mustard and place in the pretzel/panko mixture, bread both sides of the chicken, pressing the mixture into the chicken to make sure it sticks. Place on the prepared baking sheet and repeat the process with the remaining chicken tenders. Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through (after 7-8 minutes, flip the chicken over to ensure both sides are cooked.)
- To assemble, divide lettuce between plates. Add diced avocado, sliced strawberries, brie and chicken tenders (as many as you want!). Garnish with cornbread cubes and drizzle strawberry vinaigrette over top! Serve immediately. (I recommend not pouring the dressing on until you are ready to eat, so the chicken and cornbread don't get too soggy)