I am going to get right to the point. This is my favorite salad (and possibly, favorite meal) ever. This salad is on the menu at Jam's in Omaha, NE. I thought it was my little secret. My favorite salad ever. However, apparently, this salad has a cult following. People who will start riots if Jam's ever takes it off their otherwise seasonal menu. Dangit! My secret it is out!
But it is fine because I have now recreated this at home. And let me tell you, this recipe was everything I wanted and more. Perfect. Spot on. Exactly like the Jam's version.
What I love about this salad, is that it doesn't mess around. You know how salads always have one kind of luxury item? You know: the artichoke hearts, the avacado, the fried chicken, the croutons, the cheese, the creamy dressing...well, this one has it all! And you might be thinking...ew? Well, you are wrong! It is one of those things that doesn't seem like it should work, but oh, it works.
It is surprisingly not heavy. All the crazy ingredients work so well together. And the coconut chicken? To die for. The raspberry sauce? Don't leave it out. In fact, don't leave anything out. Usually I am all for substitutions. But, this salad is perfection. You don't want to mess with it. If you do, the Coconut Chicken Salad cult will find out, and probably shun you. And you don't want that.
Coconut Chicken Salad
idea stolen from Jam’s restaurant, Omaha, NE
2 cups bread (stale is fine), cut into 1/2-1 inch cubes
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp of chopped herbs (I used chives, dill, and parsley)
1 tbsp of Dijon mustard
splash of red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
For raspberry sauce:
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
splash of balsamic vinegar
2-4 cups of vegetable oil (or any light frying oil)
1 lb chicken breasts (or tenders)
1 cup flour
splash of milk
1 cup coconut flakes
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
salt and pepper
5 ounces of Spring lettuce mix
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1/4 cup of thinly sliced red onions
1 tomato, diced
1 can of quartered artichoke hearts (not marinated), drained
1 handful of shaved almonds
1 avocado, diced and tossed in lemon juice
For croutons: Preheat oven to 375° F. On a baking sheet, toss bread cubes with olive oil and salt. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden and crispy. Shake pan and toss croutons every five minutes while baking for even browning.
For dressing: Whisk all dressing ingredients together.
For raspberry sauce: In small sauce pan, cook down jam and vinegar until smooth. Cool slightly. Pour in zip-top bag.
For chicken: Using a medium sauce pan, pour in vegetable oil. You need about 3 inches of oil in the bottom of the pan. Heat oil to 340° F.
Prepare assembly line for coating the chicken. In one bowl, put flour. In another bowl, put eggs and a splash of milk. Whisk until smooth. On a plate or shallow dish, combine coconut flakes and Panko bread crumbs. Season all three stations with salt and pepper.
If you using chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch strips. Dredge in flour, dip in egg mixture and coat with coconut/bread crumb mixture. Set all of the coated chicken strips aside until ready to fry.
Fry in batches of 3 or 4. Continue to check the temperature of the oil and try to keep it at 340° F. They will take about 3-4 minutes. As soon as they are brown, they should be done. Let cool on a plate covered with paper towels.
Assemble salad: Toss lettuce, cheese, red onion, tomato, artichoke hearts, almonds, croutons, and dressing together. Add avocado and lightly toss. Place salad on a large salad plate (it is easiest to toss the salad one serving at a time…this recipe will make approximately four servings). Top with 3 chicken strips. Drizzle with raspberry sauce (either with a spoon or snip the corner off the zip-top bag) and a little more dressing.
(Servings: 4, Prep time: 45 min., Cook time: 25 min, Difficulty: Intermediate)