Crispy Chicken Salad with Black Pepper Strawberries & Creamy Golden Balsamic Dressing

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These macerated black pepper strawberries upgrade any summer salad & pair beautifully with fresh greens, chicken, avocado and a light balsamic dressing.

These black pepper strawberries are such a simple salad game changer.

You’ve probably seen or had a few variations on the typical spinach + strawberry salads before, but this easiest of tricks is the way to level up strawberries to their very best life.

This is especially true if your grocery strawberries are less than stellar to start with.

These macerated black pepper strawberries upgrade any summer salad & pair beautifully with fresh greens, chicken, avocado and a light balsamic dressing.

Macerate is just a posh way of saying that we’re gonna toss these strawbs in a mixture of balsamic vinegar, salt & pepper. The acid and salt help draw out the natural sweetness of the fruit, coaxing out their juices and concentrating all the flavors.

The trick to these black pepper strawberries is to let them sit for at least thirty minutes. In fact, you can leave them even longer and they’ll continue to do their happy, flavor-focusing good thing. In this recipe, that macerating time allows you to cook up your chicken & prep the rest of the salad, anyway.

These macerated black pepper strawberries upgrade any summer salad & pair beautifully with fresh greens, chicken, avocado and a light balsamic dressing.

If you’re worried about the balsamic vinegar being weird with the fruit, don’t be. I am hugely sensitive to vinegar but can report that after sitting in that vinegar bath, the end flavor doesn’t have the pungent whiff you might expect! Instead, the black pepper strawberries taste like fresh strawberries.. but better. Sweeter, a little softer and with a slight tingle of savoriness from the pepper.

They’re honestly my favorite summer treat, sweet or savory. Make them and drizzle ’em over yogurt or oatmeal bowls. Pair them with summer greens or creamy avocado. They’re equally at home on top of pancakes as they are roast chicken or grilled seafood. Try them and see for yourself!

These macerated black pepper strawberries upgrade any summer salad & pair beautifully with fresh greens, chicken, avocado and a light balsamic dressing.

Once the strawberries have macerated and the chicken rested, I use the juices from both to add extra flavor to the dressing. The combination of savory from the chicken and the slight sweetness from the seasoned juices the strawberries release helps lighten up the balsamic in the dressing. Here the tahini takes the place of the typical mustard emulsion, making it lusciously creamy and echoing the gentle nuttiness of the pine nuts in the salad.

Arugula and watercress create a peppery bed of greens to pile all the other deliciousness onto: crispy chicken, spiked black pepper strawberries, creamy avocado, toasty pine nuts and a golden balsamic dressing that wraps everything up in a tanginess that elevates rather than overwhelms. This is the salad we’ll have on repeat this summer.

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Crispy Chicken Salad with Black Pepper Strawberries & Creamy Golden Balsamic Dressing

These macerated black pepper strawberries upgrade any summer salad & pair beautifully with fresh greens, chicken, avocado and a light balsamic dressing.

These macerated black pepper strawberries upgrade any summer salad & pair beautifully with fresh greens, crispy chicken, creamy avocado and a light balsamic dressing that lets these ingredients shine.

  • Author: Rachael Bryant / Meatified
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4 1x
  • Category: salads, lunch
Scale

Ingredients

For the black pepper strawberries:

  • 2 cups / 260 g sliced hulled strawberries
  • 1 tbsp / 15 ml balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp fine sea salt

For the crispy chicken:

  • 4 skin-on, boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 tbsp / 15 ml avocado oil
  • salt & pepper, to taste

For the creamy golden balsamic dressing:

  • 1 tbsp / 15 ml creamy tahini
  • 1 tbsp /15 ml golden balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp / 30 ml reserved juices from marinated strawberries
  • 1 tbsp / 15 ml reserved juices from rested chicken, or sub water or extra vinegar, to taste
  • 2 tbsp / 30 ml avocado or olive oil
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt

For the salad:

  • 4 handfuls arugula
  • 1 handful fresh watercress leaves
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/4 cup / 40 g raw or toasted pine nuts
  • fresh basil, to garnish

Instructions

MACERATE: Add the chopped strawberries to a non reactive bowl, then drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Use a spoon to toss the strawberries gently to coat. Set them aside for at least 30 minutes, stirring every so often until the strawberries have released some of their juices and the inside of the strawberries are lightly pink instead of pure white. Set aside until it is time to assemble the salad.

CRISP: Preheat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Sprinkle the chicken skin with a little salt, to taste. Pour the oil into the preheated skillet and when hot, add the chicken thighs, skin side down, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until the skin is golden & crisp, about 7 – 10 minutes or so, rotating the pieces half way through, so that they brown evenly. When the skin has browned, flip the chicken over and continue to cook until the thighs are cooked through. Remove the chicken from the skillet & transfer to a plate to rest. Allow to cool enough to handle, then slice the crispy skinned chicken into pieces, reserving the resting juices to add to the dressing, if you like.

EMULSIFY: In a mixing bowl, whisk together the tahini, balsamic vinegar and reserved juices from the macerated black pepper strawberries. Next whisk in the reserved juices from the chicken, then slowly add the oil a little at a time, whisking as you go, until the dressing is glossy. (You can also throw this together in a mini food processor, just take care not to over process the dressing or the olive oil can become bitter). Season with the salt and pepper.

DRESS: Slice the avocado. Add the arugula and watercress to a large mixing bowl and add the dressing a little at a time, tossing gently until the greens are lightly coated to your taste. Reserve any leftover dressing to serve on the side, if you like.

LAYER: Divide the dressed greens between plates or pile onto a serving platter. Use a slotted spoon to layer the black pepper strawberries over the greens, leaving behind any extra juices in the marinating bowl so that the greens don’t get too wet. Top the greens with the sliced chicken and avocado, then scatter with the pine nuts and fresh basil leaves and serve immediately.

Notes

  • you can marinate the strawberries for up to 90 minutes ahead of time
  • if you can’t find boneless chicken thighs with the skin still attached, you can use kitchen shears to cut out and discard the bones. Save them in the freezer for making broth, if you like.
  • to toast pine nuts, add them to a dry skillet over low medium heat and cook, shaking occasionally, until they are fragrant and just beginning to brown. Don’t let them get too dark or they’ll end up bitter rather than nicely toasted.
These macerated black pepper strawberries upgrade any summer salad & pair beautifully with fresh greens, chicken, avocado and a light balsamic dressing.

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