Grilled Chicken Salad With Oregon Blue, Brindisi and Grilled Pineapple

3 to 4 grilled and cooled chicken breasts, cut in 1/2-inch chunks to measure 4 cups
1 cup halved or coarsely chopped, lightly roasted and skinned hazelnuts
1 cup shredded Farmstead Brindisi (see note)
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Oregon blue cheese
2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar (or rice vinegar)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 fresh pineapple (preferably a super-sweet "golden" variety)

In a medium bowl, combine the chopped chicken breasts, hazelnuts, shredded Brindisi cheese, celery and onion. Mix well.

In a blender or food processor, combine the mayonnaise, blue cheese, vinegar, mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Blend until smooth. Scrape mixture from blender jar or food processor onto chicken mixture. With a spatula or wooden spoon, gently stir until salad mixture is evenly distributed. Chill for at least 30 minutes for flavor to develop. May be prepared up to 24 hours ahead.

While salad is chilling (or several hours ahead), prepare the pineapple. Grasping pineapple by its tuft of leaves (be careful, leaves are sharp!), keep pineapple upright as you use a large, sharp knife to trim away its tough, outer skin with wide, downward strokes. Remove remaining "eyes."

Turn pineapple on its side and slice it into 1/2-inch-thick rings. You could carve out cores from each slice, but I prefer to leave it in for an interesting contrast of flavor and slightly chewy texture. Grill slices over medium-hot coals (or a gas grill), cooking on both sides until edges are golden-brown and slices are still juicy.

To serve, spoon salad mixture onto plates and arrange pineapple slices alongside. Makes 4 servings.

VARIATION: Instead of grilled pineapple slices, I've had great success with fresh pears. Just make sure they have been lovingly ripened and are very sweet and juicy. Core and wedge 3 of them and distribute between servings of salad.

NOTE: Farmstead Brindisi is an aged, Jersey-cow milk cheese made by Willamette Valley Cheese Co. If you can't locate it, an extra-aged Gouda (I like Rembrandt brand) or extra-aged, sharp cheddar would be dandy substitutes.


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