Sunday, September 15, 2013

southwetern sriracha chicken salad (with mini cheese quesadillas!)

At the risk guarantee of sounding completely pretentious, I must admit that I am not a fan of chain restaurants.

As you may have surmised, this is, in grand part, because I generally find the food at chain restaurants to be a little lower quality than the version of it that I can make at home.  But, I am also one of those rich people who hate themselves (minus the "rich" part), who likes to support a local business whenever possible.

Of course, now that I've fully incriminated myself as "the worst" kind of food snob (it is just food, after all, you are thinking to yourself), you should know that I'm not completely "the worst:" this salad was, in fact, somewhat inspired by a chain restaurant meal itself.  Chili's Quesadilla Explosion Salad, if you must know!

When I was in college, my friends and I used to frequent Chili's because it was a) right by campus and b) had a deal with our dining program such that we could use pretend "meal money" there.  My BFF Jennifer introduced me to their quesadilla explosion salad, and I think I ordered it every time we went.  This particular salad, though not a copycat recipe, incorporates one of my favorite things from the Chili's salad:  those salty, cheesy quesadilla triangles.  I combined it with my other favorite salad elements, dressed it up, and here you have it.


for the chicken + marinade:
1 lb to 1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon minced garlic
to assemble the salad
4 to 5 cups spinach
1 avocado
1 ear sweet corn, charred & cut from the cob.
4 fajita sized tortillas
1/2 cup (approximately) shredded Colby Jack cheese
3 tablespoons Ranch Dressing (I used Hidden Valley)
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce (you can use more or less)


  1. Marinate the chicken for 3 to 4 hours or up to 24 hours.  To make the marinade, combine the soy sauce, honey, vegetable oil, lime juice, and minced garlic in a small bowl.  In an non-reactive bowl or a glass baking dish, combine the chicken thighs with the marinade.  Let the chicken marinate overnight or for at least 3 to 4 hours.
  2. When ready to assemble salad, grill chicken over medium heat until cooked through.  At this time, you can also char your ear of sweet corn.  Remove chicken from the grill and cube when cool enough to handle.
  3. Assemble the mini cheese quesadillas by dividing the cheese between two tortillas.  Top each tortilla with a second tortilla.  Heat a small amount of butter in a skillet, and cook each quesadilla, flipping once, until each side is brown and golden and the cheese has melted between the quesadillas.  Remove from the skillet and divide into fourths or eighths.
  4. Assemble the dressing by combining ranch dressing with Sriracha sauce in a small bowl.  Adjust the amount of Sriracha in the dressing to suit your taste.
  5. Assemble the salad by dividing the spinach evenly between two plates.  Top with avocado, sweet corn, cubed chicken, and quesadilla bites.  Drizzle with dressing and serve immediately.
Makes 2 salads.  Adapted from this key west grilled chicken.

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