I know it's not spelled right, but I thought it was a nice play on words - I have resisted writing this recipe down other than in very vague terms, but decided that part of responsible recipe sharing I needed a bit more specificity. (Haha, I love making up ginormous words) You will be SOOOOO happy with me when you take a bite and wonder where this has been all your life!
Once upon a time, I went to Fred Meyer hungry. As I promenaded past the deli case, something caught my eye - a beautifully creamy pasta salad with bits of chicken and GRAPES in it! My royal hunger roared (some fellow shoppers heard it and moved quickly away...), and I decided to throw convention to the wind and actually buy some pre-made supermarket salad. Upon tasting said offering, I was amazed AND perplexed - how was it possible that a grocery store could make something so delightful, or saints preserve us, dump it in a pretty bowl from a large cardboard carton?
With the taste fresh in my memory and the sketchy ingredient list from the ad copy in my head, I set about cracking the code and created a copy cat that has defied all expectation - it's a perennial favorite at family and work functions, and is even on the menu at my sister's cafe - DonnyMarlu's Deli Cafe in Scappoose Oregon! Check them out if you ever venture through a town known for a gigantic red candle (I find this hilarious) that sits across the highway from the cafe...their food is excellent!
Gorgonzola, Grape and Grilled Chicken Pasta Salad
1 lb. penne pasta
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts seasoned w/lemon pepper
2 cups red grapes
4 green onions, sliced thinly
1/3 cup coarsley chopped pecans
1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese (Winco in tubs, or you can buy chunks & crumble yourself)
1 cup mayo (don't be cheap, use Best Foods)
2-3 T. olive oil (I don't like the taste all that much, so I try not to let it take over)
2 T. seasoned rice vinegar (yes I use it a lot - what of it? Use cider vinegar if you aren't hip)
3-4 T. sugar (to taste - some like it sweeter than others)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
A few grinds of black pepper
OK, we've gone over this before....cook the pasta according to direction, NOT al dente. And when it's done, drain in a colander and run COLD water over until it's completely cold...stick your hand in the middle and feel it to make sure (AFTER you wash it, silly...). Dump in a large bowl.
I "grilled" my chicken in a panini type grill, but have also done it outside, and even resorted to cooking it in the microwave when I was in a real hurry. No one cares...I just like the grill marks and eating the crispy edges. Cool until you can handle and slice thinly, then cut slices in half so they aren't really long. Spread out and let cool until you have everything else ready.
Dump everything else in the bowl, nuts, grapes, onions, cheese and all the dressing stuff and mix well - give it a taste and adjust as needed, then throw in the cooled chicken and give it a stir. Voila! You now have a salad so fabulous that you should take a picture...which WILL last longer! Not everyone likes gorgonzola - it's like a milder version of blue cheese to me - but you can add less or more to your taste - that flavor will be more pronounced if you make it ahead, so be forewarned. And if you need to refresh it after keeping it in the fridge, you can do so with a tad more olive oil, warm water or even milk products...just enough to loosen it up if it's gotten clumpy.
Alrighty then, time to wipe the drool off the keyboard and get to it - time's a wastin' and you can't afford to go another day without a plateful!
ps, if you choose to season the chicken with italian seasoning, use vegetable oil instead of olive, use crappy mayo, walnuts, feta cheese and raisins instead of grapes, don't tell people you got the recipe from me, k? BECAUSE IT WILL TASTE LIKE CRAP! Just sayin.....