Fried Chicken Salad with Buttermilk-Bacon Dressing
For the dressing:
1 C. each mayonnaise and buttermilk
1/4 C. each finely chopped basil and chopped green onions, white plus 2 inches of green
2 t. chopped garlic
6 slices crisp-cooked bacon, chopped or crumbled
salt, pepper and paprika
For the salad:
1/2 lb. asparagus
1 large sweet onion
1 bunch watercress
vegetable oil, such as canola
1 1/2 C. Japanese bread crumbs (Panko) or very fine bread crumbs
1 lb. chicken tenders or boneless and skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/2 inch wide strips
To make dressing, combine mayonnaise, buttermilk, basil, green onions, garlic and bacon in a bowl. Season to taste with salt, pepper and paprika.
Bring water to a boil in a small pan. Break off tough part of asparagus stems. Add asparagus, blanch for 1 minute and transfer to a bowl partially filled with cold water and ice. Drain and pat dry. Cut each spear on a bias into three pieces.
Slice the onion into quarter-inch rounds. Brush both sides with olive oil, keeping each slice intact. Heat a frying pan (a ridged grill pan preferred) and cook onions until lightly charred on both sides. Remove from pan, separate into rings.
Cut and discard watercress stems. Wash and dry remainder and set aside.
Pour 2 inches of vegetable oil into a medium-size frying pan and heat to 350. While the oil heats, beat the eggs in a bowl. On a flat plate or soup plate, season the bread crumbs with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Slip each chicken strip into the beaten egg, coat thoroughly and roll in the bread crumbs. Fry in batches for 5 to 6 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
Spread 3 tablespoons buttermilk-bacon dressing on each plate to make a large pool. In a bowl, toss asparagus, watercress and onion rings with just enough dressing to barely coat them. Mound on the plates and top each portion with four fried chicken strips.