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Kicked Up BLT Chicken Salad With Blue Cheese
3 cups French bread cubes
7 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 large cloves garlic, minced, divided
Essence, recipe follows
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, about 6 ounces each
3/4 pound diced bacon
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
10 tablespoons buttermilk
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons freshly chopped chives
3 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 heads Bibb lettuce, washed, cored, patted dry, and thinly sliced
3/4 pound blue cheese, crumbled (recommended: Maytag)
2 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted, and diced
2 large beefsteak tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
3 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled and thinly sliced
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a mixing bowl, combine the bread cubes, 6 tablespoons of the olive oil, 1/3 of the garlic, and season lightly with Essence. Place the bread cubes on a baking sheet in an even layer and bake until golden brown and crisp, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Preheat the grill. Drizzle the chicken breasts with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, then season on both sides with Essence.
Grill the chicken until the juices run clear, about 4 minutes per side. Remove from the grill, cool and dice.
Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until just crispy, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the skillet and drain on paper towels.
In a non-reactive mixing bowl, combine the remaining garlic, mayonnaise, buttermilk, lemon juice, chives, pepper, salt, and cayenne.
Whisk to combine and refrigerate until ready to serve the salads. (Dressing may be made up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated in a non-reactive container until ready to serve the salads.)
To serve, divide the lettuce evenly among 6 entree plates. Divide the diced chicken evenly among the centers of the 6 plates, then place mounds of the croutons, bacon, blue cheese, avocados, diced tomatoes, and hard-boiled eggs around the chicken in a wheel-spoke fashion. Divide the dressing among the centers of the plates, or serve in small cruets for guests to drizzle over their salads, as desired. Serve immediately.
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