Pollo Capriccioso…a gorgeous chicken salad, and a mayonnaise tutorial

I’ve been cooking with a ridiculous amount of vegetables lately. And, obviously that is a good thing. I guess I’m just impressed that I seem to be spacing my cheddar fries a little better these days. Here is an example. This recipe is adapted from the recipe for Pollo Capriccioso in the English Homes and Gardens, June 2010 issue. I had to have my iPad and Smart Chef app at my side to convert all the pesky metric measurements. It has celery, carrots, red bell peppers, yellow bell peppers, lemons, garlic, jalapenos, and more.

The fun, or nutty, part of this salad (depending on how you look at these things) is that you make your own mayonnaise to go on it. I’ll admit I wasn’t up for this task, initially (see Post Script). I whipped. I blended. I screwed it up. It tasted fine, but it separated and was wholly un-photogenic. Then I cheated. I had three baskets of laundry to contend with after dinner. I hope you are not too offended at my lack of ambition.

I headed to the fridge to cheat, er…improvise a solution for us. Their dressing appeared to merely be a mayonnaise with extra lemon and a little Dijon mustard. Bingo. It was the perfect accompaniment to the lemon infused chicken. It is a wonderful little salad.

I will list both methods in case you are feeling ambitious. This will make 2 giant salads or about 4 normal people salads…I like giant salads, myself. I would also recommend you take the time to procure good chicken for this salad. I went to Kuby’s (my local butcher shop and grocery to which I am devoted) and treated myself to some of their natural poultry, and as always, I was glad that I had.


Pollo Capriccioso...a gorgeous chicken salad, and a mayonnaise tutorial
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Recipe type: Salad
Author:
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
A perfect meal for a summer evening.
Ingredients
Salad Materials
  • 4 chicken breasts (2 whole chicken breasts)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 large container of spring greens or other good lettuce greens
  • Flat leaf parsley (a little handful), optional
  • 2 to 3 carrot sticks, julienned
  • 2 to 3 celery stalks, julienned
  • ¼ cup pine nuts (I didn’t toast them, but you can…in a low-ish oven for 2 to 3 minutes)
Marinade for chicken
  • ½ cup virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 2 to 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 fresh jalapeno pepper, trimmed and seeded, and chopped or sliced
Mayonnaise (for the cheaters like me)
  • 1 cup of Hellman’s mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice (or more to taste)
Mayonnaise (for the adventurers)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup sunflower oil (I used olive oil)
  • Juice of ½ of a lemon
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. For the pancakes, mix together the masa, potato starch and baking powder in a small bowl. In a separate small bowl combine the wet ingredients and the peppers and corn and stir well. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, adding a few more tablespoons of corn juice or milk if you find the batter too thick. Add a pinch or two of salt and mix. It needs the salt. Also, remember that these are not “stand alone” pancakes. If I were making corn fritters or something that I wanted to highlight, I would add some sugar and perhaps some sour cream to the batter, but I didn’t want this to detract from the salmon, so it is slightly boring on purpose, but rev it up if you want to.
  2. Drop heaping tablespoonfuls of corn batter into a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Slightly flatten the batter with the back side of a spoon (you want these little pancakes to be flat, not poufy). After about 2 minutes, check the underside of the pancakes to ensure that they are beginning to brown. When the bottoms are slightly browned, flip the pancakes and cook on the other side for another 2 minutes, or until slightly browned. Remove the pancakes to a wire rack to cool. Repeat the process for the remaining batter.
  3. Remove the seed from the avocado and slice it into ¼” slices and then cut the slices into small chunks. Squirt the avocado pieces with a little lime juice to keep them from browning.
  4. Finely chop one roma tomato, one half of a red onion, and seed and finely chop serrano pepper. Mix these together and squirt the remaining juice of one lime over them. Mix well and season with salt, to taste.
  5. Open the smoked salmon and separate the slices into small portions.
  6. Once the pancakes have come to room temperature, layer the toppings in the following order: pancake, dollop of sour cream, salmon, avocado chunks, pico.

Notes:

A word on pine nuts: Pine nuts tick me off. They cost a bloody fortune around here. The little jar in the spice aisle can be over ten dollars. My grocery store, however, also carries nuts and other store wrapped dried fruits over by the produce. By walking three aisles I found equally good pine nuts for $4.99, and the bag contained twice as much as the jar. The only other thing I love with pine nuts is pesto. So if you make this salad, perhaps you could consider making fresh pesto the following night to serve on grilled chicken or pasta. But do something with it or I will have nightmares about a $10 jar of pine nuts going rancid in your pantry. I’d love to know about any other pine nut recipes you use, so speak up if you have any.

A word (or 100) on the mayonnaise: When I first made this salad, my homemade mayo was a dreadful failure. Then I, ahem, invented the Hellman’s method. I thought I could live with the defeat and move on happy with my little work-around. However, as I began the process of posting this recipe, this little voice in the back of my head started taunting me saying, “Are you really going to tell these people that you were defeated…by a condiment…you passed the  bar exam and you couldn’t make a simple dressing…really, is this how you were raised…etc..” You get my point.  So off I went to my kitchen. I had the supplies, and no good excuse. I did some research, the best of which I found on this wonderful website called Cooking for Engineers.

There, no fewer than 100 comments chronicle successes and failures with homemade mayonnaise. People discussed the safety issues of eggs, different oils that were employed, ways to not use eggs at all, temperature issues and hardware issues. Heartened, I tried the recipe using my food processor and a full twenty minutes of time. The “emulsion” process is a fragile one.

I truly spent the first 5 (or more) minutes adding my oil one drop at a time. Those initial drops have to be fully incorporated into the mixture before adding further drops. And, I have to say, IT WORKED beautifully.  I did it. I made a thick, rich mayonnaise. It was actually lovely. And, I was proud of myself for not giving up.

But, I will admit with a pure heart…the next time I make this salad, I’m still going to use the Hellman’s method.

Comments

  1. Kara Locke says

    I had such fun making this salad for some friends for lunch. It made enough for us to enjoy as a family that night for dinner! Thank you for this wonderful recipe! Loved the pine nuts in it!

  2. Kelly says

    It never lasts long but it is always delightful to see a photo up in the top few. It feels like a cyber high five.

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