Sometimes just the right amount of ingredients can come together to create a great-tasting dish. That’s true of this tequila lime chicken salad. “We were just looking for another salad to put on the menu,” says Dee Sulick, owner of Mulberry Street in Manchester, who created the recipe with her chef, Libby Sullivan. “This salad ran as a special first, but it was so popular we added it to the menu.”
While Mulberry Street leans American and Italian, Sulick infuses Asian and Mexican influences into the specials. “I’m a huge fan of black beans and corn, and in my opinion red onions should almost always be in a salad. You can add a protein to most salads, and for us the tequila lime chicken salad is the only one that comes with a protein. I love how it has different textures, too. While the nacho chips certainly add a little fun, they also add a salty crunch.”
Simple, yet bursting with unexpected flavor, sums up Sulick’s cooking philosophy. “I like trying something with a few ingredients, then tweaking it until the flavor deepens, using an ingredient that brings a richness or brightens your original dish,” she says, noting that lemon, balsamic and soy sauce are three additions to pastas and sauces that offer extraordinary results.
Sulick cultivated a love of food from her father and aunt. “Both were good, solid cooks who cooked wonderful dinners for big families,” she says. But Sulick had a dream of cooking for others on a larger scale. Cue Mulberry Street which began as a small pizza place that she opened with her husband, Bob, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, and that became a full-service restaurant. Her husband handles most of the baking and their son, Colin, runs the kitchen.
Another early influence for Sulick was her many years as a server at Cavey’s, a fine-dining establishment in Manchester. “Steve Cavagnaro, the owner, was a food genius. The guys and girls on the line taught me so much just by watching them.” Now she’s living her dream. “I love cooking for other people and having them enjoy whatever I make.”
Tequila lime chicken salad
Preparation time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
- 4 boneless chicken breasts
For the tequila lime marinade
- Zest and juice of 3 limes
- 3/4 cup tequila
- 1 cup canola oil
- 1/2 cup red onion, diced
For the citrus vinaigrette
- 1 lemon
- 1 lime
- 1 orange
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1½ tablespoons honey
- Dash kosher salt and pepper
- 2 cups canola oil
For the salad
- 5 bunches Romaine lettuce, chopped
- 3 cups spring mix
- 2 ears corn, grilled and cobbed, or frozen, thawed corn, about 3/4 cup
- 3/4 cup black beans (if canned, rinse and drain)
- 1 medium red onion, diced
- 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
- 3/4 cups tortilla chips, crumbled
Chef’s tip: Whenever possible use corn off the cob. “Sometimes we’re forced during the winter to use frozen corn, but corn grilled on the cob and then cut off is always preferred.”
For the tequila lime marinade and chicken
- In a bowl, stir together all marinade ingredients until well blended.
- Put the boneless chicken breasts in a dish and pour the tequila lime marinade over the chicken. Let marinate for at least 30–40 minutes.
- Preheat a grill to medium-high heat. Grill chicken on one side for about 5 minutes. Turn and grill for another 4-5 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 165 degrees. Remove from the heat and let it rest for 5 minutes, then cut into strips.
For the citrus vinaigrette
- Juice the lemon, lime and orange with a juicer; strain out the pulp.
- Put the squeezed juice in a bowl. Add vinegar, shallot, honey, salt and pepper. Using a small whisk, slowly add the oil in a steady stream until all ingredients are well incorporated.
For the salad
- Place all ingredients, except tortilla chips, in a large bowl. Add the citrus vinaigrette, starting with a half-cup. Toss together, adding more dressing until you have the coverage you want. Place in individual serving bowls and top with sliced chicken and tortilla chips.
- Note: Extra vinaigrette can be saved for up to five days. Extra marinade can be saved for three days as long as you don’t use it on raw chicken.
Chef’s tip: Sulick suggests pairing the salad with a craft beer or a nice glass of sauvignon blanc.