Cheap Recipe: Cracker Barrel-style Chicken Tenders Salad

28 Aug

For a printable version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.

This salad is a dead ringer for Cracker Barrel's version at a fraction of the price!

This salad is a dead ringer for Cracker Barrel's version at a fraction of the price!

This is another stolen recipe I picked up while waiting tables at Cracker Barrel in college. I crave this salad like mad on a semi-regular basis, and rejoice that I can whip them up for Hubby and me for about half the price of buying two of them at the restaurant!

This post will make (2) full size Chicken Tender Salads just like Cracker Barrel’s (or the “Crack Bar”, as the staff always called it for short).

And, actually, this is the way to make the old-school version of Cracker Barrel’s salad–now they hack the chicken up into little bites and toss it with really greasy shredded cheese before serving. I think the original presentation was MUCH nicer, so I continue to manufacture my knockoff salad the way they made them in the “good old days.”

These tenderloins marinate in no time!

These tenderloins marinate in no time!

Begin with (8) boneless, thawed chicken tenderloins. Place chicken in a bowl with 1 cup reduced-calorie Italian dressing dumped on top. Let marinate while you begin the other tasks.

Next, place 2 (or more if you want extras) eggs♥ in a pan of water over medium-high heat to boil. Make sure they stay on the heat for 20 minutes after reaching rapid boil.

Chef’s note: When boiling eggs, a good tip for making eggs that release well from their shells later is to use old eggs. If you know you’re going to be making something that calls for boiled eggs, buy them at least 1 week or more in advance. Newer eggs are going to stick in their shells and be messier when you crack them later.

After eggs get going on the stove, now is a good time to whip up a quick batch of knockoff Cracker Barrel signature

Remember these guys???

Remember these bad boys???

 chewy croutons. Click here for those speedy instructions. Or, if you don’t want the croutons (are you crazy?), you can skip ahead to the next step.

Place a skillet over medium heat and blast with nonstick cooking spray. Once skillet is hot, add the marinated chicken tenders to the skillet. Tongs work well for this task. Pour any remaining dressing from the bowl over the cooking chicken. Medium heat is key here, because any sugar or sweetener in the dressing will blacken if you use high heat. You want pretty little golden tenders that aren’t hard or dark on the outside! Be prepared to let tenderloin cook up to ten minutes if necessary.

Don't waste any of that yummy Italian dressing!

Don't waste any of that yummy Italian dressing!

While chicken is cooking (be sure to check meat and flip sides intermittently), shred 3 cups lettuce and divide onto 2 plates. Slice 1 tomato into about 8 large wedges and arrange on outside perimeter of lettuce. Cut four 1-oz. wedges of colby cheese and arrange 2 per plate on left- and right-hand sides of lettuce.

Transfer hard-boiled eggs to an ice water bath for a couple of minutes before peeling. This is a good time to check to see if the chicken is thoroughly cooked and remove from heat when done.

Peel eggs and slice each egg vertically into 2 pieces. Arrange egg halves next to colby wedges on both plates.

Lay 4 finished chicken tenderloins across top of each lettuce bed, and decorate the finished salads with those deliciously chewy croutons. Serve each plate with a

Cooked to absolute perfection!

Cooked to absolute perfection!

 large cup of ranch dressing on the side.

Now, take a bite and tell me this isn’t the EXACT salad you’re used to eating at Cracker Barrel!

You are getting hungry...very hungry...

You are getting hungry...very hungry...

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