Spring Equinox fell on March 20th this year, and I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited for winter to end (and I lived in Massachusetts for five years)! I gated up my deck, opened the slider and all the windows in the house, kicked off the winter gear, and bounded about in the backyard bare toed and beaming in the sunshine! My younger cats, Idgy, Sophie, and Mister, went flying through the tender grasses and up the unruly pines, as the sun glinted off their flashing fur. Dixon flipped and flopped on the warm deck boards shaking his toys about in slobbering grins, while I got my first bright pink sunburn of the season sitting at the picnic table watching the coals transform from dark and cold to dancing white hot embers much like the changing weather and dispositions around me. It was a glorious first day of spring, and this sweet, smoky Strawberry Balsamic Chicken Dinner Salad wrapped up the deliciously warm day perfectly.
4 chicken thighs of choice
1/2 cup strawberry balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1 head romaine lettuce, rough chopped, washed, a spun dry
1 cuke, trimmed and sliced into 1/4” thick coins
1 cup buttom mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, left whole
1 cup radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 cup croutons of choice
salad dressing of choice
several chunks of apple wood
Prepare an offset by adding charcoal to the firebox. Ignite the coals. Allow the charcoal to come up to temp, about 45 minutes until all the coals are white hot.
While waiting on the coals, place the chicken thighs on a clean work surface and salt and pepper on all sides. Transfer the chicken to a medium sized casserole dish skin side up in a single layer. Pour the strawberry balsamic over the thighs then slather the balsamic evenly over the thighs until well coated. Rest the thighs in the balsamic skin side up until the coals are ready.
Once the coals are white hot add the chunks of apple wood on top of the coals and close the firebox lid. Place the chicken thighs in the middle of the smoker barrel and smoke around 225 degrees for 3 – 4 hours until an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees is reached. Alternatively, smoke the thighs for two hours then transfer to a 225 degree oven and finish slow cooking until 165 degrees is reached.
Once the thighs are at temperature, rest for at least 5 minutes then cut into bite sized chunks. Divide the romaine, cucumber, mushrooms, radishes, and tomatoes into salad bowls. Toss with salad dressing until evenly coated. Top the dressed salad with the chopped chicken and croutons. Serve immediately.