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~ Pack a Picnic-Basket w/Boxed Turkey Chef Salads ~

IMG_2070I might not be an outdoor kinda gal, but, I do enjoy an occasional picnic, if it's a Hallmark Card kinda day.  That said, if I'm the one in charge of the food, I'm not one to traipse around the great outdoors carrying a basket full of food containers that are gonna cause me a whole lot of cleanup when I get back home.  When I pack a picnic, boxed lunches are my way of enjoying the day and the return trip.  There's more.  It's doesn't matter what I'm making and taking, everyone gets a bit of everything portioned into one container just for them -- boxed up, beautiful, and ready-to-eat.

I fell in love with the chef salad in September of 1974.  I had just moved to Happy Valley in August, and, my first friend, a gal I worked with, invited me to lunch, at the now defunct Autoport on South Atherton Street.  "Try their turkey chef salad", Sally said.  A short few minutes later, two big rimmed-bowls arrived, and, atop the requisite lettuce, they were full of goodies: strips of turkey breast and Swiss cheese, hard-cooked egg wedges, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, and, diced onions.  There's more.  Every salad came with a warm, mini-loaf of house-baked bread and a crock of honey butter.  For decades, every time I invited a friend to lunch, I took him or her there.

The chef salad = an artfully composed salad full of carefully-selected, impeccably-fresh, high-quality ingredients.

IMG_2073A restaurant that serves a great chef's salad for lunch is a restaurant I will frequent.  Like Seinfeld's Elaine, I like a big salad, light on the lettuce with a lot of perfectly-cooked good stuff in it, right down to more-than-a-few crunchy, buttery-rich croutons on top.  The chef's salad is a "composed salad", meaning, it is a pretty-to-look-at, arranged-on-a-plate, high-quality, meal unto itself -- a perfectly-balanced mixture of color, flavor and texture.  At the discretion of the chef, a combination of impeccably-fresh and perfectly-cooked ingredients (via poaching, simmering, boiling, marinating, roasting, broiling, baking, grilling, etc.) get carefully-selected and meticulously sliced, diced or minced, pulled, julienned or chiffonade.  Historically, the chef salad was the precursor to a 17th Century protein-packed meal called salmagundi.  It consisted of cooked meat, poultry or fish, various cheeses, fresh, blanched or marinated vegetables, cooked eggs and/or toasted nuts or seeds, served on a bed of greens with a vinaigrette.  Chef Louis Diat of The Ritz is credited for popularizing it in the 1940's.

The chef salad = a cold, refreshing meal unto itself.  Chef salads are perfect for boxing up to serve out of a picnic basket!

IMG_2184For each salad

2-3  ounces your favorite creamy salad dressing (Note:  I like to use Chick-Fil-A sauce, as it has a smoky flavor which pairs well with smoked turkey breast.

5  ounces torn iceberg lettuce leaves

1  ounce Spring mix greens

3  ounces peeled and thin-sliced  seedless cucumber, (about 16 slices)

2  small Campari tomatoes, each cut into 4 wedges (a total of 8 wedges)

1  extra-large egg, hard-cooked, peeled and sliced into 6 wedges

1 1/2-2   ounces very-thin-sliced red onion

4-5  ounces julienne of smoked turkey breast per salad -- scattered atop the red onion (Note:  I use Boar's Head PitCraft Slow-Smoked Turkey Breast.  It's smoked with real mesquite wood chips to give it a real pit-smoked flavor and seasoned with an authentic dry rub that consists of paprika, brown sugar and Mexican chilies, including Guajillo Peppers.)

2-3  ounces julienne of American cheese

12-16   croutons, store-bought or homemade (Note:  I like to use butter-and-garlic flavored croutons.)

IMG_2190 IMG_2190 IMG_2190~Step 1.  To assemble each chef's salad, in a main-dish sized food storage container (with a tight-fitting lid), in the following order, place a sealed condiment-cup containing 2 1/2-3 ounces creamy salad dressing. Place the torn iceberg lettuce and Spring mix in the container and briefly toss the two together. Arrange the cucumber slices around the entire perimeter of the container.  Slice the tomatoes into 4 wedges each and arrange them, spacing them, around the perimeter, then, slice the hard-cooked egg into 6 wedges and arrange the egg wedges in between the tomatoes. 

IMG_2204 IMG_2204 IMG_2204 IMG_2204~Step 2.  Slice the red onion as directed and scatter it atop the lettuce mixture.  Julienne the smoked turkey breast, scattering it atop the onion, then, julienne the American cheese and scatter it atop the smoked turkey.  Close the box and refrigerate for 2-4-6-8 hours.  Open the container and scatter  the croutons evenly over all.  Serve immediately.

Crispy, crunchy, cold & creamy main-dish salad perfection:

IMG_2086Pack a Picnic-Basket w/Boxed Turkey Chef Salads:  Recipe yields instructions to make as many hearty, boxed lunch, main-dish salads as you want to.

Special Equipment List: main-dish size food storage containers w/tight-fitting lids, 3-ounce size condiment cups w/tight-fitting lids; cutting board; chef's knife, vegetable peeler; serrated tomato knife;

6a0120a8551282970b026bde9d871b200cCook's Note: In my food world, if I could conjure up the ideal, somewhat-healthy, girly pub-grub menu item, it would be a chef's-type Buffalo-style-chicken salad.  It would be served to me while sitting in my favorite sportsbar, in front of a straight-out-of-the-tap frosty brew with a college football game on the flatscreen.  Nothing fancy, just a bowl full of crisp lettuce, diced carrots and sliced celery tossed with salty blue cheese crumbles and topped with strips of thin-sliced Boar's Head, Blazing Buffalo-style chicken, plus, crunchy, Buffalo-spiced croutons.  There's more.  When it comes to dressing my salad, it's got to be full of RedHot Buffalo wing-sauce flavor blended with the creamy-dreamy coolness that only Hidden Valley Ranch dressing can offer -- the best of both worlds.  Try my "girly pub grub" version of ~ Buffalo-Chicken Chef w/RedHot Ranch & Croutons ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2021)


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