A little over four weeks ago, I dropped off my first born child, Jack, to The University of Missouri. Man, oh man, was that ever tough. I told my husband that it was a good thing that he was there because I would've had to stay in a hotel in Columbia for a week just to compose myself before driving home. I think I lost 5 pounds in tears alone😭. But on the bright side, the move-in went well, he was happy and excited, and I was going to see him in three weeks!!
So last weekend, my husband and I drove back down to Columbia to see our first SEC football game, Missouri Tigers vs. South Carolina Gamecocks. Woohoo! Actually, it was just an excuse to hug him one more time😉. It was so much fun!! Friday we took him out for Shakespeare's Pizza with his roommate and a friend. Their Panda Pepper pizza is the bomb! Saturday we saw SEC Nation show live with Tim Tebow, then my husband and I headed over to Glenn's Café for some fried oysters and bloodies that were made with Absolut Peppar vodka. Yummy! Then we walked and walked and walked some more. Next, we met up with Jack again and my husband's cousin who was the former SID (sports information director) for the Gamecocks and then we might have had a few beers (Jack had a coke) while we were catching up on our lives. Later that day we walked down Stadium Blvd. and watched South Carolina beat Mizzou 31-13. Minus the score for the Mizzou fans, it was a beautiful day!
But before we headed back down to Columbia, I asked Jack if there was anything he would like me to bring from home. It was also his birthday weekend, so he most certainly asked for a batch of my cupcakes, but he also requested Italian beef and gravy from that quickly expanding American restaurant chain serving up Chicago-style foods, a.k.a Portillo's. You got it, babe! Since then, I have had Portillo's on my mind, but the weather has been unusually warm for me to sink my teeth into an Italian Beef. So I pulled out an old recipe for the Portillo's Chopped Salad to satisfy my craving.
This salad is a meal! Pasta✓ Chicken✓ Bacon✓ Veggies✓ Greens✓ Cheese✓ Seriously, what more could you want? Well, maybe a super yummy sweet Italian vinaigrette to bring it all together 😋. Like most salads, it is also very versatile. In my version, I marinate the chicken breast in some of the vinaigrette, then I grill the chicken for a nice charred flavor. However, you can simply sauté the chicken or you can leave it out all together and serve it as a side salad for a large crowd. I also use Radicchio instead of red cabbage because I like the bitter taste of it with the sweet dressing. You can also add as much or as little of the tomatoes and the pungent blue cheese to your liking. Whatever your variation turns out to be, I guarantee it will be good. This salad also keeps pretty well. It was easy to pack for school/work lunches and it was very nice to come home to on my lunch break this week.
Back to the weekend...on Sunday, we took Jack out one more time for breakfast at The Broadway Diner. I don't think it has ever taken me that long to eat breakfast. I just didn't want the weekend to end and leave my baby. He wanted to walk back to his dorm room, so we said good-bye in the parking lot and...yes, I cried again 😢. But it wasn't as bad as the first time. You see, I get to see him again in two and a half weeks!! Doin' my happy dance! This is one of the few times I am more than happy to travel more than 8 hours for soccer games in Kansas City because we will drive right through Columbia and have dinner with our boy!
Portillo's Chopped Salad
For the Vinaigrette
1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
4 small garlic cloves, finely grated on a microplane
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4-1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
For the Salad
3 (8-ounces each) chicken breasts
2 cups (8 ounces) Ditalini pasta, cooked and cooled
8-ounces bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 head of Romaine lettuce, chopped
1 head of Iceberg lettuce, chopped
1 medium head of Radicchio, chopped
4-6 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
2-4 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the Vinaigrette
Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Reserve 1/4 cup. Vinaigrette can be made, covered and refrigerated for up to 1 week.
For the Salad
In a small container, combine the chicken breasts and reserved vinaigrette. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.
Preheat a charcoal grill for direct medium-high heat; lightly oil the grates. Remove the chicken from the marinade and place the chicken breasts over the coals. Cook for 10-15 minutes per side or until the chicken is no longer pink in the middle. Transfer the chicken to a plate and loosely tent with foil. Allow to cool.
Meanwhile, in a large serving bowl, combine the lettuces, pasta, bacon and tomatoes. Transfer the cooled chicken to a cutting board and dice into bite-size pieces. Add the diced chicken to the bowl. Add enough vinaigrette to the salad to lightly coat the ingredients. Add the Gorgonzola cheese and green onions. Gently toss the salad again and season to taste with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper Serve with extra dressing on the side. Enjoy!
Source: Adapted from The Chicago Sun-Times