May 21, 2009

Cuban Chicken Salad with Pan Con Timba

As the weather heats up, the bright, zesty flavors of a cool Cuban salad are just the thing. Mango, lime, orange, avocado and the crunch of cashews come together for some flavor mojo. You can roast a chicken breast yourself, or use store-bought or leftover roasted chicken. That makes it very fast to put together.

I like to pair this with pan con timba, basically, a Cuban grilled cheese. Some friends made this for me years ago as part of a Cuban feast. When I tell you what's in it, you'll have to take a moment to wrap your head around it. Sounds a little odd. I might not have made this just based on seeing the recipe. But I'm so glad they made it for me. From the first bite, I was hooked. It's made with buttered, French rolls toasted with guava paste on one side and Swiss cheese on the other. Sounds bizarre. But try it. The exotic, deep fruitiness of the guava paste is the perfect companion to melty, bubbly Swiss cheese. And it must be made with fresh French rolls that are flaky and crusty on the outside and soft and pillowy on the inside.

This recipe will make more dressing than you need for two salads, but I always stash the excess in the fridge and use it within a few days on another salad. It's a great fresh dressing on it's own.

Make the pan con timba first. It can be toasting while you put the salad together. You can find guava paste in most grocery stores. I usually find Goya brand in the Latin food section. It comes in a flat can. I've also seen a smaller boxed version at Fiesta in Austin. I'm not putting quantities on the pan con timba, because you'll probably want more than one, so make however many you like. They are a taste sensation. Grilled cheese and jelly!

And yes, since you asked, that is my new Heath salad bowl. Gush!

Pan Con Timba

guava paste
swiss cheese block (that you can slice yourself)
crusty French rolls
butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Split each roll and spread a little bit of softened butter on the inside of each half.

Cut thick slices of Swiss to fit one half of each roll.

Place the cheese on the bottom half of the roll.

Cut a slice out of the guava paste about the same size as the Swiss cheese. Place that on the top half of the buttered roll.

Place these on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until melted and bubbly.

Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Don't touch the guava at this point!! Think guava lava!! Let it cool enough to handle and eat. When you're ready, put the top and bottom halves together to form a sandwich and enjoy with your salad.

Cuban Chicken Salad

1/3 cup olive oil
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon freshly grated orangic orange zest
1 tablespoon honey or agave syrup
1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 small to medium mango
1 large grilled chicken breast, cut into strips or cubes
1 small to medium avocado, peeled, pitted and cubed
4 large handfuls of baby romaine or field greens
1/3 cup roasted, salted cashews
1 lime, cut into wedges

To make the dressing, whisk together all dressing ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Assemble salad. Put greens into a large bowl and drizzle half of the dressing over top. Toss together.

Arrange greens on two large plates. Place chicken cubes or slices down the center. Place mangos down one side and avocado cubes down the other side. Sprinkle cashews over top.

Serve with additional dressing and wedges of lime.

Serves 2.

Adapted from Bon Appetit, September 1997.

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