Panzanella has become the new hot salad here at Al Dente HQ, making multiple appearances over the past couple of weeks. They are great fresh, perfect for a loaf of stale bread and bright red tomatoes. Personally, I like the second-day panzanella, with the bread soggy from an overnight soak in oil and vinegar. Wet bread isn’t the best texture, but when done right, it has a great flavor.
Asparagus panzanella, like signaling when changing lanes and being nice to my co-workers, is something that had not occurred to me before reading about it online. In the case of the salad, Daniel Gritzer’s version featured a spatchcooked whole chicken served with the salad. I opted for something a little narrower in focus, since I was just cooking for The Wife and I (panzanella does not really translate to a Celiac’s diet, not that she would try it if it were). I restricted myself to chicken thighs, since they roast quickly and with little fuss, and do not dry out easily.
WHAT WORKED: The asparagus vinaigrette was a highly nontraditional dressing that I would never have considered previously.
WHAT DIDN’T: I would have liked a little cheese here, but that’s just me.
WHAT DID THE WIFE SAY: Nothing. I’m not sure if she didn’t like it or if she was just caught up in the stories from her day at work.
WILL IT MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE: Yes. I would absolutely bring this as a salad this summer if someone was foolish enough to invite me over for dinner.
Roasted Chicken Thighs with Asparagus Panzanella
Adapted loosely from Daniel Gritzer’s original at Serious Eats
- 1 stale baguette, sliced into 1-inch rounds
- 1 lb. chicken thighs (NOTE: I used boneless and skinless because that was all the meat department at Wegmans had when I was shopping)
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
- 1/2 medium red onion, sliced very thin
- 1 lb. bunch of asparagus
- 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Toast baguette rounds on a baking sheet for 8 to 10 minutes for lightly toasted, or longer for your desired doneness. Remove from oven, set baguettes aside and leave oven on.
Drizzle olive oil over the bottom of a shallow baking dish and use a paper towel to coat the pan. Place chicken in the dish and season liberally with salt and pepper. Roast 20 minutes, or until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees when an instant-read thermometer is inserted. When done, remove from oven, transfer to a plate and let cool.
In the meantime, bring a large pot of water to boil over a burner set to high. Liberally salt the water and cook asparagus until crisp-tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain and immediately cover in ice and cold water to stop cooking.
When asparagus is cool enough to handle, cut stalks into half. Chop the tip and stem halves and put in separate piles. Add the stem half to a blender with 1/2 cup of olive oil and vinegar and blend until very smooth. Adjust flavor with salt and pepper, then blend again.
Add onions, asparagus stem halves, and bread to a large bowl. Toss with a large serving spoon. Top with half of the vinaigrette and toss again to coat. Use additional vinaigrette if necessary to further coat the salad. Top with chicken thigh pieces and serve immediately.