April 14th, 2014
I’ve become obsessed with Chinese Chicken Salad. I don’t know how it happened or when it even started. I just know that I can’t stop. Luckily, I don’t have to. Filling and delicious, this salad is also healthy and adaptable enough to keep it fresh day after day.
And I’m not kidding about that. I’ve really been eating this day after day.
The kids like this salad, too, especially when I throw in sesame sticks. Snack food! In salad?! It’s been a life changing combination here. The only adjustment I have to make for the little one is to dress his portion of salad with a milder version of the Chinese Mustard Vinaigrette. Okay, and we pick out the leaves, too. But lightly dressed cuke, avocado, red pepper, poached chicken, and sesame sticks is not a bad thing.
The Chinese Mustard Vinaigrette is the most important element of this salad. Once you have that made, you can get fancy, as I do on weekends, by combining chopped lettuce and cabbage and adding fried shallots (which are the best part in my opinion). Or you can keep it quick and simple with nothing more than lettuce, cucumber, and avocado.
The recipe for the Chinese Mustard Vinaigrette, from Wolfgang Puck, the Chinese Chicken Salad master, is below. To make the chicken, which I do in advance on the weekend to have on hand as needed, simply poach 2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. If that doesn’t sound simple, allow me to assure you that it is:
Place rinsed chicken breasts in a large pot, cover with water and, if you are inclined, add a bay leaf, some peppercorns or even that last sad carrot or stalk of celery that’s withering in your fridge. Allow to simmer gently until the chicken is cooked through.
Once it is, remove the chicken from the cooking water, but do not discard the water if you are not using the chicken right away. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and discard, and use your fingers or two forks to shred the meat. If you’re not using the meat right away, add the shredded chicken to a food storage container and add a few spoonfuls of cooking water. Toss to moisten the meat, seal the container, and keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. (So many salads!)
Now that you have chicken and dressing, it’s time to think about what else you want in your salad. Get creative and change it up.
And with that, you have all the tools you need to make this addictive salad, perfect for spring lunches on the go, a packed lunch for work, a quick dinner for the family, or a light elegant meal for date night or ladies who lunch.
Chinese Mustard Vinaigrette
Recipe from Wolfgang Puck
(Can be adapted for kids 10+ mos)*
Serves 4 (appetizer sized salads)
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup light sesame oil
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon English (Coleman’s) mustard*
2 teaspoons soy sauce
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup peanut oil
1. Place all of the ingredients except the peanut oil in a blender and blend until smooth. With the blender still running, add peanut oil slowly. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Serve or save in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 14 days.
*Note: You may want to reduce the amount of mustard for young children, by how much will depend on your child’s taste. Begin by following the instructions above, using the reduced amount of mustard. Pull out your child’s portion, then add remaining mustard and blend for another couple of seconds to make a spicier dressing for those who want. Even the mild version of this dressing might be a little much for children younger than 10-months-old, but by then a little drizzle on cucumbers or mashed avocado is a great way to stimulate your little eater’s palate.