Strawberry-Basil Chicken Salad with Fried Goat Cheese Balls

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Strawberry-Basil Chicken Salad with Fried Goat Cheese Balls is a fresh and flavor-packed dish – crunchy, creamy, sweet, and savory!

Strawberry-Basil Chicken Salad with Fried Goat Cheese Balls is a fresh and flavor-packed dish - crunchy, creamy, sweet, and savory! #glutenfree | iowagirleats.com

Happy Fry-day! (See what I did there?)

More like fry-YAY! You guys, I made double coated fried goat cheese balls this week and my first reaction after they emerged crisp and golden brown just 30 seconds after being submerged into the hot oil was, LOOK WHAT I HAVE CREATED! I HAVE MADE FRIED GOAT CHEESE BALLS! a la Tom Hanks in Castaway when he finally got his bonfire going. Minus the whole harrowing ordeal. Seriously though, has anyone looked at a packaged volleyball the same way again?

Anyway, I’ve never deep fried, well, anything because it’s kind of scary, right? Heating oil in a pot on my stovetop? Praying its reached the right temperature? Dropping something in said hot oil? Frankly it sounded like a grease fire waiting to happen.

Then I got bold. Inspired by the Strawberry-Basil Ginger Cocktail we made last weekend, I decided to recreate the flavors in a fresh and hearty summer salad. What goes better with strawberries and basil than crispy lettuce and creamy goat cheese, I thought? Crunchy, fried goat cheese, of course! Thus this epic Strawberry-Basil Chicken Salad with Fried Goat Cheese Balls was born. So good it hurts. It hurt so good. Come on baby- oh boy, I’ve been listening to too much classic rock.

Strawberry-Basil Chicken Salad with Fried Goat Cheese Balls is a fresh and flavor-packed dish - crunchy, creamy, sweet, and savory! #glutenfree | iowagirleats.com

First thing’s first, this post is sponsored by Fisher Nuts whom I’ve been developing recipes for over the past 2+ years. Their whole almonds processed into the coating of the fried goat cheese balls gives them an irresistible crunch. Seriously you will just be amazed that they came out of your kitchen!

More crunchy almonds join the aforementioned fried goat cheese balls plus sweet summer strawberries, torn garden-fresh basil, and sliced sauteed chicken in this decadent tasting yet healthy salad. I can’t even pinpoint what I like best about it because it’s just ALL OF THE THINGS.

I will say that as much as I adore the flavor combination (strawberries + basil? Come ooooon,) I was equally as smitten with the fact that I conquered a food fear by frying up these warm crispy bombs of cheesy joy. What’s one of your food fears? 

This salad is stunning and would be great to entertain with. Bread the goat cheese balls then impress your friends while you fry ’em up live in – get this – under 1 minute. That’s all it takes! If you’ve been intimidated to deep fry foods at home like me in the past than this is the dish to get started with. I’ll show you how it’s done!

Strawberry-Basil Chicken Salad with Fried Goat Cheese Balls is a fresh and flavor-packed dish - crunchy, creamy, sweet, and savory! #glutenfree | iowagirleats.com

As I mentioned this recipe is sponsored by Fisher Nuts – a great company with even better products. I especially love their whole almonds which are almost sweet tasting. They always hit the spot and are so versatile. Perfect for adding crunch to desserts, chicken fingers, and fried goat cheese balls, of course!

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Start the dish by assembling the coating station for the fried goat cheese balls. Add 1/4 cup whole Fisher Natural almonds to a food processor then process into crumbs – a little bit finer than the photo below, though this texture is ok too. You just don’t want them so fine that they turn into almond butter.

Add the almond crumbs to a large bowl then process 1-2 slices gluten-free bread (or regular bread if you don’t need the dish to be GF) to make 1 cup crumbs. I used regular GF bread that I had in the freezer, which I quickly thawed in the microwave before zipping through the food processor.

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Add the bread crumbs to the bowl with the almond crumbs then season with salt and pepper. Whisk together 2 eggs + 2 Tablespoons water in another bowl, and 1/4 cup gluten-free flour seasoned with salt and pepper in a third bowl. Breading station = done!

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Next consult your goat cheese. I used regular, unflavored goat cheese but you could use whatever flavor you like. Honey or herb would be divine! You’ll need 8oz goat cheese total. If you’ve never had goat cheese, it’s usually in the specialty cheese case but is definitely not intimidating. The taste is tangy, kind of like cream cheese, while the texture is creamy yet firm. I adore it.

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Divide the goat cheese into 10 slices then roll each slice into a ball. Roll said balls through the flour mixture, egg mixture, and finally the bread crumb mixture.

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THEN, roll the ball back through the egg and bread crumb mixtures to create a double coating. Three cheers for super crispy fried goat cheese balls!

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Place the balls onto a baking sheet lined with foil, for easy cleanup, then place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes to setup. If we were to fry the goat cheese right away all the coating would fall off and, well, we’d have greasy goat cheese soup. Just say no!

Time saving tip: roll the goat cheese balls the night before then store, covered, on a baking sheet in the fridge. Coat then fry the next day.

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It’s fry time!

There’s two ways you can go about heating the oil for frying the double-coated goat cheese balls. First add 2-3″ vegetable oil to a heavy bottomed pot then:

  1. Use an oil-safe thermometer to bring the oil to 350-360 degrees (recommended method.)
  2. Heat oil over medium-high heat for 10 minutes.

Test the temperature by adding a bit of the almond/bread crumb mixture to the oil. If it sinks to the bottom, the oil is too cold. If it floats in the middle with a few bubbles it’s still too cold. If it sits on the top and bubbles continuously, but not ferociously, it’s ready!

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Very carefully add 2-3 goat cheese balls into the hot oil at a time then fry until golden brown, 30 seconds to a minute, turning the heat up slightly if necessary to avoid dropping the temperature of the oil.

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Give the goat cheese balls a stir every now and again with a straining tool (what the heck are these things called?!) then pull them out when golden brown.

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Place onto a paper towel lined plate to drain then sprinkle with salt. Easy. As. That!!!! I honestly could not even believe my eyes after I fried the first one. Why have I been so scared to deep fry foods at home?!

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Once all the goat cheese balls have been fried, place them on top of a bed of greens paired with sweet sliced strawberries, more chopped almonds, torn basil, and a simply seasoned sauteed chicken breast for staying power. Timing instructions are in the recipe below.

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Drizzle on your favorite dressing – I recommend balsamic or raspberry vinaigrette – then devour!

Strawberry-Basil Chicken Salad with Fried Goat Cheese Balls is a fresh and flavor-packed dish - crunchy, creamy, sweet, and savory! #glutenfree | iowagirleats.com

Strawberry-Basil Chicken Salad with Fried Goat Cheese Balls

serves 4

Description

Strawberry-Basil Chicken Salad with Fried Goat Cheese Balls is a fresh and flavor-packed dish - crunchy, creamy, sweet, and savory!

Ingredients

  • 4 small chicken breasts, pounded to an even thickness
  • garlic salt and pepper
  • 1lb strawberries, trimmed then sliced
  • 12 fresh leaves basil, torn
  • 1/4 cup Fisher Whole Natural Almonds, roughly chopped
  • 9-10oz mixed greens
  • For the Fried Goat Cheese Balls:
    • 8oz Goat Cheese, plain or flavored
    • 2 eggs
    • 2 Tablespoons water
    • 2-3 slices gluten-free bread OR 1 cup gluten-free bread crumbs
    • 1/2 cup Fisher Whole Natural Almonds
    • 1/4 cup gluten-free flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill Sweet Rice Flour)
    • salt and pepper
    • vegetable oil

Directions

  1. For the Fried Goat Cheese Balls: Slice goat cheese log into 10 slices then roll each slice into a ball with your hands and place onto a baking sheet, and then place in refrigerator. Whisk eggs and water together in a wide bowl then set aside. Add flour, salt and pepper to another wide bowl then set aside. Process gluten-free bread slices in a food processor until processed into crumbs (if not using pre-made bread crumbs) then pour into a shallow dish and season with salt and pepper. Add almonds to food processor then process into crumbs, being careful not to process into almond butter, and then add to dish with bread crumbs. Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary.
  2. Roll each goat cheese ball into the flour, then into the egg mixture, and then into the bread crumb mixture. Roll balls back through the egg and bread crumb mixture to create a double coating then place back onto baking sheet. Repeat with remaining goat cheese balls then refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  3. Pour enough vegetable oil to come 2-3 inches up the side of a heavy-bottomed pot then heat on medium-high for 10 minutes, or until oil comes to 350-360 degrees.
  4. Meanwhile, spray a large skillet over medium-high heat with nonstick spray. Season chicken breasts with garlic salt and pepper on both sides then saute for 4-5 minute on each side, or until cooked through. Once cool enough to handle, slice or cut into chunks.
  5. Once oil has come to temperature, carefully add 2-3 goat cheese balls into the pot then fry until light golden brown, 30 seconds to 1 minute, carefully stirring a few times. Increase heat slightly if necessary to keep temperature from falling. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain then sprinkle with salt. Finish with remaining goat cheese balls.
  6. Divide lettuce between bowls then top with chicken, strawberries, chopped almonds, torn basil, and fried goat cheese balls and then serve with your favorite dressing - I recommend balsamic vinaigrette or raspberry vinaigrette.

Notes

  • The safest way to make sure your oil has come to the appropriate temperature is to use an oil-safe thermometer. I dropped a few pieces of the bread/almond coating into the hot oil. When it sunk and had very few bubbles, the oil was too cold. When it stayed in the middle but had a few bubbles, it was still too cold. When it stayed on the surface and bubbled consistently but not ferociously, the oil was hot enough.

This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats, http://iowagirleats.com.

Strawberry-Basil Chicken Salad with Fried Goat Cheese Balls is a fresh and flavor-packed dish - crunchy, creamy, sweet, and savory! #glutenfree | iowagirleats.com

You have to taste this salad to believe it for yourself. Crispy warm goat cheese paired with crunchy almonds, sweet strawberries and herby basil – it is a TREAT! Enjoy!

Strawberry-Basil Chicken Salad with Fried Goat Cheese Balls is a fresh and flavor-packed dish - crunchy, creamy, sweet, and savory! #glutenfree | iowagirleats.com


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