Happy Monday, friends. I hope that you all had a fabulous weekend! I sure did.  The grandparents and mother were in town and we did some more birthday celebrating! haha I know I know… it’s sort of been more like a birthWEEK, instead of a birthday, but I’m not complaining! And as it turns out, 25 isn’t so bad after all!!

After a weekend of eating out, I was really craving some vegetables! I thought I’d make a yummy salad for our dinner last night (not that this particular salad is the err… healthiest!). Oh well, I’ll go to the gym after work. maybe.

Anyhow, there is this salad that they make at the Cheescake Factory called the BBQ Chicken Salad. It is UH.MAZING. Lately, I’ve been into re-creating my restaraunt favs at home… and, well, I thought this one would be another great one to try!

The salad has got so many of my favorite things: crispy romaine lettuce that is topped with fresh corn, avacado, tomato, black beans, BBQ chicken, and my MOST favorite part of all… the crispy onion straws! Top that with a delicious BBQ Ranch dressing and a sprinkle of cilantro and CALL. IT. A. DAY.

Delicious.

It totally hit the spot! Now excuse me while I head off to the gym to run off the excess onion straws I consumed last night.

Hope ya’ll have a fabulous (and QUICK) work week!!

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BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad

Yield: 4 Dinner Salads

My at home re-creation of one my favorite salads from The Cheesecake Factory.

Ingredients:

BBQ Ranch Dressing:
3/4 cup mayonaisse
1/2 cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons BBQ of choice
1 tablespoon Hidden Valley Ranch powder
1 small garlic clove, grated
cracked black pepper, to taste

Crispy Onion Straws:
1 large red onion (about the size of a grapefruit)
1 1/2-2 cups buttermilk
1 2/3 cup flour
1 tablespoon salt
dash of cayenne
fresh cracked pepperCanola Oil (enough to fill bottom of pan about 1/2-3/4 inch)

Salad:
4 chicken breasts
1 cup BBQ sauce of choice, divided
salt and pepper, to taste
3-4 heads of Romaine lettuce, chopped
2 tomatoes, diced
2 ears corn, shucked rinsed and kernels cut from the cob
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 avocado, diced
Fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)

Directions:

For the Dressing:
Mix all ingredients together and set aside until ready to serve.

For the Crispy Onion Straws:
Cut both ends off of the red onion and peel off the papery skin. Slice into thin rounds (as thin as you can get them). Separate all the little rings and lay them into a shallow baking dish and cover with buttermilk (1 1/2 -2 cups). Allow to sit for 30-45 minutes. Mix together flour, salt, cayenne, and black pepper in a large bowl.

Heat oil in a deep skillet to 350°-375° (I love my cast iron). Using tongs, remove a small amount of the onions from the dish and allow excess buttermilk to drip off. Toss the onions in the flour mixture, shake off excess and then place into the hot oil. Shallow fry until crispy and golden (be sure to flip partway through). It takes about 2-3 minutes per side.

Remove from oil and place onto a place that has papertowels on it to allow it to drain. Repeat until all onions have been cooked. Set aside until ready to use.

For the Salad:
Season chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. Spray grill with non-stick spray and pre-heat to medium high heat. Cook the chicken for about 4-6 minutes per side (until cooked completely through). During last few minutes of cooking, baste the chicken breasts with 3/4 cups of the BBQ sauce (make sure to get both sides). Remove from grill and set aside to rest for 3 minutes. Cut into bite sized cubes.

Disperse lettuce evenly among four large salad plates or bowls. Next, add equal amounts of the tomato, corn, black beans, and avacado. Top each salad with a cubed up chicken breast followed by a handfull of the onion straws. Top with a drizzle of the BBQ Ranch Dressing and a drizzle of the remaining BBQ sauce. If desired add a sprinkle of cilatro on top. Serve.

Best. Salad. Ever.

Recipe inspired by: The Cheesecake FactoryOnion Straws adapted from: Pioneer Woman