Bacon and Black Pepper Add Zip to this Main-Course Salad
We often think of salads as starters, but they can make great main-course dishes too. Chef’s Salad is a classic luncheon or light supper entrée. Ditto Salade Niçoise. And don't forget that great take on the bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich, the BLT Salad.
Looking for another entrée salad? Try this flavorful and filling Chicken, Lettuce, and Mayonnaise Salad. Brighten it up with some ripe tomatoes, and flavor it up with freshly ground black pepper and bacon garnish, and you’ve got a complete dinner. Well, almost — you might want to add a hunk of bread and maybe a glass of wine.
This dish is simple, convenient (you can even use supermarket rotisserie chicken), and quick to make. So it’s perfect for those evenings when you don’t have a lot of time to get dinner on the table, but want a home meal and not take-out.
Recipe: Chicken, Lettuce, and Mayonnaise Salad
This dish is particularly tasty when made with your own Homemade Mayonnaise and leftover Roast Chicken. But it’s almost as good with store-bought mayonnaise and supermarket rotisserie chicken. And do load it up with freshly ground black pepper — it’s wonderful in this dish.
The ingredients for this salad are similar to those used in a club sandwich — except we’re substituting chicken for the turkey, 86ing the bread, and going heavy on the lettuce. But add some croutons, and you could probably call this a Club Sandwich Salad!
I’ve seen variants of this salad for years. But I originally got the inspiration ages ago from a salad served at the now-defunct Lettuce Leaf restaurant in St. Louis (their version didn’t include bacon, but otherwise was virtually identical).
I’ve written this recipe to serve two, but you can easily scale it up to feed more. Assuming you’ve already washed, dried, and crisped your lettuce (it takes at least an hour to cool), this salad requires about 10 minutes to prepare.
- ~½ - ¾ pound of lettuce (or to taste; you can use leaf lettuce, romaine, Boston bibb, Little Gem, or a mix; see Notes)
- 2 - 4 slices of high-quality bacon (optional; see Notes for more about bacon)
- ~8 ounces of chicken (leftover roast, poached, or supermarket rotisserie chicken is ideal)
- 1 - 2 handfuls of cherry or grape tomatoes (or if regular tomatoes are in season, use 3 or so medium-sized vine-ripened tomatoes)
- 3 - 6 tablespoons of Homemade Mayonnaise (or substitute store-bought; or use another creamy dressing, such as bleu cheese)
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (use black pepper generously — its flavor stars in this dish)
- At least an hour (2 or more is better) before you want to serve the salad, wash and dry the lettuce, and tear it into bite-size pieces. Wrap the lettuce in a kitchen towel, and place in the refrigerator crisper to, well, crisp.
- When ready to make the salad, prepare the bacon. I usually microwave it: Just put paper towels on a plate, arrange the bacon in a single layer, add another paper towel or two on top, and microwave. (If you’re doubling this recipe, you’ll need to do the bacon in two batches.) Cooking time depends on your oven and the amount of bacon you’re heating, so experimentation is necessary, but it typically takes 4 to 5 minutes in my microwave. Alternatively, you can pan fry the bacon until crisp. When done, either leave the bacon slices whole, or cut into 1-inch pieces.
- While bacon is cooking, chunk up the chicken into bite-size pieces. Wash the tomatoes (if using whole tomatoes, stem and slice them, and cut into wedges).
- Place lettuce in a large bowl. Add mayonnaise — less than you think you’ll need. Toss lettuce thoroughly to coat leaves lightly with dressing. Taste, and add more dressing if necessary. (Particularly when using a high-flavor dressing like bleu cheese, you don’t want the taste of the dressing to overwhelm the salad).
- Add chicken and toss again, adding more dressing if necessary.
- Add salt and black pepper to taste (use lots of black pepper). Toss to incorporate, then place greens on 2 dinner-size plates.
- Arrange the bacon and tomatoes over the salad greens in a pattern that pleases you. I often add an extra dollop of mayonnaise on top of the salad, as a “dipping” sauce for the tomatoes. Grind a bit more black pepper over the salad, and serve.
- For years, romaine and leaf lettuce were my go-to greens for this salad. But many supermarkets are now carrying an improved alternative: Little Gem lettuce, a hybrid of romaine, sweet butter, and iceberg butter (it’s also called Sweet Gem.) Little Gems, which look a bit like miniature romaine lettuce heads, have wonderful flavor. In fact, I’m so bowled over by the taste and texture of this lettuce that I now use it all the time. It’s worth looking for.
- This salad is terrific with leftover roast chicken (white or dark meat, your choice). It might be even better if you happen to have leftover poached chicken (the meat will be juicier). In fact, I’ve been known to poach a chicken just so I’d have the meat to use in this salad!
- Bacon is an important ingredient for this salad, so make sure you use good quality. I always use a premium brand of bacon when making this salad because the flavor is so much better. Supermarkets tend to carry the usual national brands, but most also offer at least one higher-quality (and more expensive) choice. Experiment until you find one you like. If you can find a bacon made by a small, local producer, it’s likely to be excellent.
- Bacon with a pepper crust is excellent in this salad (and in just about anything else that calls for bacon).
- Fresh, ripe tomatoes add important flavor to this dish, so add as many as you like. If you don’t have access to ripe, in-season tomatoes, you can substitute grape or cherry tomatoes, which usually have decent flavor year-round. In fact, that’s what I generally use, because really good tomatoes are available for only a few weeks each summer.
- I’ve said it already, but I’m going to repeat myself because it’s important: Black pepper (freshly ground, please) adds a wonderful note to this salad. Make sure you use lots.
“Mmm,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs as she dug into her Chicken, Lettuce, and Mayonnaise salad, “I love all the black pepper.”
“It makes the dish,” I agreed as I took a sip of the white wine we were drinking with dinner. “I may have said that already.”
“I think maybe once or twice,” said Mrs K R.
She took another — sizable — bite. “Gosh we’ve done some nice salads this month! For a main course, I can’t decide whether I prefer this one or a big serving of Salade Frisée aux Lardons.
“Tough to choose,” I said as I pondered. “With Homemade Mayonnaise, this Chicken, Lettuce, and Mayo salad is hard to beat. It’s a close call, though. And it’s equally hard to choose among the starters. I’ll never turn down a Caesar Salad, but that Shaved Artichoke and Mushroom Salad is sensational.”
“It is!” enthused Mrs K R. “But I kinda fancy those Moroccan salads. That Moroccan Carrot Salad is wonderful. And the Moroccan Orange and Radish Salad is so unusual and seasonal. Plus you can serve both of them as starters or as side dishes.”
“Yeah, they really are versatile,” I observed. “Not to mention tasty. But we’ve had so many different ones in the last few weeks, I’m in a daze at the moment.”
Mrs K R raised her glass in a toast, “To our salad daze!”
I’ll drink to that.
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Moroccan Orange and Radish Salad
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Salade Frisée aux Lardons
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Spinach Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing
Hungarian Cucumber Salad
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Summer Pasta Salad
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