Chinese Chicken Salad

From Cook's Country | February/March 2012
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Why this recipe works:

This chain restaurant classic needed a serious makeover, and we started by nixing anything from a can. The salad bar pile-ons (chow mein noodles, sprouts, snow peas, fried wonton strips, and water chestnuts) also got the ax, and instead, we started with crisp romaine lettuce and Napa cabbage,… read more

This chain restaurant classic needed a serious makeover, and we started by nixing anything from a can. The salad bar pile-ons (chow mein noodles, sprouts, snow peas, fried wonton strips, and water chestnuts) also got the ax, and instead, we started with crisp romaine lettuce and Napa cabbage, bell peppers, fresh cilantro, and scallions. To keep the title ingredient from tasting like an afterthought, we eschewed rotisserie chicken, instead poaching boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a flavorful mixture of soy sauce, orange juice, rice vinegar, and ginger. We whisked more of the same mixture with sesame and vegetable oils to make a bold dressing for our salad and finished the whole thing off with orange segments—fresh, of course—and crunchy roasted peanuts.

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Chinese Chicken Salad

Does “tired, limp, and anemic” sound like something you want to eat? We set out to bring crunch, fresh taste, and boldness to this 1980s favorite.

Watch the Video

Serves 6

You can substitute one clove of minced garlic and ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper for the Asian chili-garlic sauce.

Ingredients

  • 2 oranges
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Asian chili-garlic sauce
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 4 (6- to 8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
  • 2 romaine lettuce hearts (12 ounces), sliced thin
  • 1/2 small head napa cabbage, cored and sliced thin (6 cups)
  • 2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 2-inch-long matchsticks
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 cup salted dry-roasted peanuts, chopped
  • 6 scallions, sliced thin

Instructions

  1. 1. Cut thin slice from top and bottom of oranges, then slice off rind and pith. Working over bowl, cut orange segments from thin membrane and transfer segments to second bowl; set aside. Squeeze juice from membrane into first bowl (juice should measure ¼ cup).

    2. Combine orange juice, vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, sugar, and chili-garlic sauce in bowl; transfer ½ cup orange juice mixture to 12-inch skillet. Slowly whisk vegetable oil and sesame oil into remaining orange juice mixture to make vinaigrette; set aside.

    3. Bring orange juice mixture in skillet to boil. Add chicken, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until meat registers 160 degrees, 10 to 15 minutes, flipping halfway through cooking. Transfer chicken to plate and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

    4. Meanwhile, boil pan juices until reduced to 1/4 cup, 1 to 3 minutes; set aside. Using 2 forks, shred chicken into bite-size pieces. Off heat, add chicken, any accumulated juices, and 2 tablespoons vinaigrette to skillet. Toss to coat and let sit for 10 minutes.

    5. Toss romaine, cabbage, bell peppers, cilantro, peanuts, and scallions with remaining vinaigrette in large bowl. Transfer to serving platter and top with chicken and oranges. Serve.

Segmenting Citrus

Cutting perfect, jewel-like segments from citrus is so much easier than you think—especially if you use a sharp paring knife or small serrated knife. Work over a bowl to catch the juices.

Cut the ends from the fruit. Following the natural curve of the fruit, trim the peel away, down just beyond the white pith, to expose the flesh of the fruit.

Insert the blade between the membrane and pulp of each segment and cut toward the center, separating the fruit from the membrane.

After releasing the segment, wiggle the blade away from you. The segment should pop right out.

Shopping for Asian Flavors

ASIAN CHILI-GARLIC SAUCE

If you like garlic and heat, you'll reach for this bottle often.

RICE VINEGAR

This Japanese vinegar is sweet and mild.

TOASTED SESAME SEED

This aromatic, high-impact oil is made from deeply roasted seeds. It doesn't holdup to cooking, so add it off heat.

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