T.G.I. Friday's®
Pecan-Crusted Chicken Salad

by Todd Wilbur

     With dried cranberries, mandarin orange wedges, bleu cheese, pecan crusted chicken breast, and a delicious sweet and sour balsamic vinaigrette, it's no wonder this salad is the top pick at one of America's first casual dining chains. And don't be intimidated by all the ingredients here. The dressing is a cinch to make since you just pour everything (except the garlic) into a blender. The pecan-crusted chicken is just a simple breading procedure, and the chicken cooks in a snap. Most of the time you'll be spending is on the chopping block as you hack pecans into little pieces and get the lettuce, garlic and celery ready. And with a nice glass of wine nearby, who's complaining! Because of the prep-work here I've made this recipe to serve four. But if there's only two of you, you can easily cut the recipe in half.        

Pecan-Crusted Chicken
4 chicken breast fillets
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/2 cup corn flake crumbs
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup canola oil

Balsamic Vinaigrette

1 cup canola oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
4 teaspoons Grey Poupon Dijon mustard
4 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)

1 cup dried cranberries
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
12 cups chopped romaine lettuce (2 heads)
1 cup sliced celery (2 stalks)
2 11-ounce cans mandarin orange segments, drained
1/2 cup crumbled bleu cheese

Easily, the best salad on the menu.

1. We'll make the pecan-crusted chicken first since it is served cold. Pound each chicken fillet to about 1/2-inch thick. You can do this easily by covering each chicken breast in plastic wrap, and pounding away with a kitchen mallet. Combine 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans, corn flake crumbs, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl combine milk with beaten eggs. Dump the flour into another shallow bowl. Bread each chicken breast by coating each with with flour. Dip the flour-dusted chicken into the egg mixture, and then coat the chicken with a thick coating of the pecans and corn flake crumbs. Pre-heat 1/2 cup of canola oil in a large skillet over medium/low heat. When the oil is hot, sauté the chicken fillets for 3 to 4 minutes per side or until golden brown. Cool chicken on a rack or paper towels. When you can handle the chicken, cover it and refrigerate for at least two hours.
2. As the chicken chills, you can make the balsamic vinaigrette by combining 1 cup canola oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, granulated sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a blender. Blend on low speed for just a few seconds, or until the dressing begins to thicken. Don't blend too long or your vinaigrette will get too thick, like mayo. Pour vinaigrette into a small bowl and mix in minced garlic. Chill this until you're ready to use it.
3. When you're ready to build your salads, toss lettuce and celery with about 3/4 cup of the balsamic vinaigrette.
4. Arrange the lettuce on four plates, then sprinkle the cranberries over the lettuce (about 1/4 cup per serving).
5. Combine the 3 tablespoons of brown sugar with 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of this mixture on each salad.
6. Sprinkle about 1/2 can of drained mandarin segments over each salad, followed by about 2 tablespoons of crumbled bleu cheese.
7. Sliced each chicken fillets into thin strips. Arrange one sliced chicken fillet on top of each salad and serve. (http://www.topsecretrecipes.com)

Makes 4 servings.