Inspired by Souvla restaurant in San Francisco, this San Fran Chicken Salad with Yoghurt Ranch Dressing is one of the best chicken salads I’ve ever had! Loaded with a tons of great veggies and textures: kale, lettuce, fennel, quick pickled onion, chicken, grapefruit or orange, then finished with parmesan and a beautiful dressing that does double duty as the chicken marinade.
Souvla restaurant in San Francisco has a cult following. Regularly hailed as one of the “best places to eat in San Francisco”, my friend Kelly from A Side of Sweet took me there when I was in San Fran just over a week ago.
Kelly is a San Fran based blogger who also happens to be an ER doctor. “How the heck do you manage to blog and work 20 hours shifts several times a week??!!!” I asked more than once.
And she shrugs, brushing it off as no big deal. “Hard work is all I’ve ever known”, she says. “Besides, I love blogging. And food. It’s what I do when I have time off. Eat. Cook. Blog. Sleep. Then go to the hospital and work all night.” (And save lives.)
I admire her greatly. 🙂 And you’ll be hearing more about her later because this San Fran Chicken Salad ain’t the only recipe I’ll be sharing from my time in San Francisco!
I kid you not when I say this is one of the best chicken salads I have ever had.
It started off as a copy cat of the very popular Chicken Salad at Souvla. I did my usual research before starting a new recipe, discovered it was made using spit roasted chicken (no spit in my yard), with a “Granch” dressing (Greek ranch dressing) that called for powdered buttermilk – which I can’t find here in Australia.
So basically, I threw out the rule book. Scrolled back through my iPhone photos. Recalled how it tasted. And made up my own version. Which means – much of it is made with pantry staples (fresh produce aside).
Yes, there are more components to this salad than my usual meal-salads. And I promise it is worth it. It starts off with a “double duty” ranch flavoured yoghurt mixture that is used as both the dressing and marinating the chicken. If you’ve tried my Greek Chicken Gyros or Butter Chicken, you know yoghurt is a fabulous marinade for both tenderising and infusing flavours.
This Yoghurt Ranch Dressing is terrific. I tried it with both fresh and dried herbs, and preferred dried because it provides a slightly earthier, smoother flavour which is my recollection of the salad at Souvla. You can use a mix of fresh and dried if you prefer.
One of the fabulous things about the Souvla salad were the fresh pops of orange. Here, I opted for grapefruit which I found works just as well, so go with your personal preference.
Yes, segmenting takes longer than just chopping it into slices. But if you’re going to make this salad, it’s worth making the effort and if you have a sharp knife, it’s no big deal. (Watch the video below the recipe).
Oh – also, I thin the yoghurt to make it a dressing consistency by using the juices left in the membrane – and there’s plenty!
The salad also has kale in it. Now, regular readers know that kale doesn’t make a regular appearance around here. Not because I dislike it, it is just that I refuse to pay premium prices for it just because it’s become so trendy. So I only buy it when it’s good value – which, thankfully, it was when I was making this salad.
NEAT TRICK FOR PREPPING KALE: Kale leaves are thick and tough, so unless you slice it finely, it isn’t very nice raw / plain. But for this salad, I wanted to keep the kale relatively fresh with it’s trademark soft “crunch”, so I decided to prep it by using what I call a quick marinade. Just drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt, then massage it into the leaves. Leave it for 30 minutes – 1 hour, and it will soften enough to eat raw, plus it’s now flavoured. YUM.
Plus shaved fennel + lettuce + simple pickled onion…..
……+ parmesan + snow pea sprouts (I warned you, there are a lot of components in this!) = San Fran Chicken Salad a.k.a one of the best salads I have ever made. It has a great mix of textures, the kale adds meatiness, the chicken is so juicy and fragrant from the yoghurt marinade (spit fire roasted chicken?? Who needs that!), the little pops of juicy grapefruit, the bits of sour from the onion, and that Yoghurt Ranch Dressing that I’m so addicted to now, I’ve been using it to dip veggies into all week…
This is one ripper of a Chicken Salad.
It doesn’t quality for my Dinner Tonight collection. 😉
But when you have the time, boy is this worth making. – Nagi xx
San Fran Chicken Salad with Yoghurt Ranch Dressing
Yoghurt Ranch Dressing:
- 1 cup Greek yoghurt, preferably full fat
- 1/2 – 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 tsp EACH dried dill, parsley, chives, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, black pepper (Note 1)
- 1/2 tsp white sugar
- Squeeze of lemon juice, to taste
Chicken & Marinade:
- 200 – 250 g / 7 – 8 oz chicken breast, halved horizontally
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 – 1 tbsp oil, for cooking
- 1/2 red onion, halved then finely sliced
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp white sugar
- 1/2 cup white wine vinegar, or cider vinegar
- 3 cups kale, torn into bite size pieces (Note 2)
- 1 – 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- Pinch of salt
- 1 grapefruit or orange
- 4 cups cos lettuce, romaine or other crispy lettuce, torn or cut into bite size pieces
- 1/2 fennel, shaved (0.5 mm / 1/5″ thickness) or finely sliced
- Handful snow pea sprouts, optional
- 1/4 cup shredded parmesan
Mix the Yoghurt Ranch Dressing ingredients in a bowl. Adjust olive oil + lemon juice to taste.
Chicken Marinade: Transfer 1/4 cup into a bowl with the chicken. Add lemon juice and garlic. Toss to coat, marinate for 1 hr – 24 hours.
Place Pickled Onion ingredients in a bowl, toss to coat. Set aside for 1 hour+ or until onion is softened (if in a rush, make sure the onion is finely sliced = faster pickle).
Place kale in a large bowl, drizzle with oil then sprinkle with salt. Use your fingers to massage the oil onto the leaves – you want to ensure every part of the kale is coated in oil. Set aside for 30 minutes or until kale is softened.
Segment the grapefruit or orange – watch the video. Do this over a bowl to catch juices. Squeeze all remaining juice out of the membrane after segmenting.
Pour juices into the Dressing. Mix – it should now be more of a Dressing consistency.
Cook Chicken: Heat oil in a skillet over high heat. Add chicken and cook for 2 minutes on each side, until nicely charred. Transfer onto plate, cover loosely with foil and rest for 3 minutes. Slice thinly.
Assemble Salad: Add lettuce, fennel and chicken into the kale bowl. Spoon over most of the dressing to coat everything lightly, then toss well. Transfer into a serving bowl.
Scatter over grapefruit, onion (not the liquid), top with a handful of snow pea sprouts, sprinkle over parmesan. Drizzle over remaining dressing to taste. Serve!
2. KALE: Tear the leaves off the thick stalk running down the middle of each leaf, then tear into bite size pieces. Measure the kale by lightly packing the torn pieces into measuring cups. This is a terrific easy way to prepare raw kale for salads.
3. This recipe serves 2 generously as a main, or 3 normal people (perhaps with a small roll). Nutrition assumes 2 servings, assuming full fat Greek yoghurt is used.
WATCH HOW TO MAKE IT
San Fran Chicken Salad recipe video!
LIFE OF DOZER
That dirty thing in front of the armchair is “his” mat.