Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Chinese Chicken Salad

Continuing with our Asian theme this week, I easily put together this brightly flavored Chinese Chicken Salad from a Fine Cooking special issue (2008) for a healthy and filling dinner.  The baked wonton wrappers are well worth the effort in my opinion!  They cooked up quickly and crispy in just a few minutes and when combined with the toasted almonds added a wonderful crunch to the salad.  (I quickly polished off the leftover crunchy strips while cleaning up the kitchen!).  Chopped peanuts would be a nice addition if you prefer those to the almonds.  Substituting or adding vegetables that you have on hand would work for this salad as well.  I can easily see some brightly colored peppers, sliced asparagus, snap peas or quartered cucumbers tossed in with the cabbage and lettuce. 

While the original recipe called for bone-in, skin-on, split chicken breasts, I substituted chopped grilled chicken tenders that I happened to have on hand.  Any left over chicken would work well here, but  I seasoned mine with a bit of salt and garlic. 

The star of this salad is really the dressing!  I did decrease the amount of oil from the original recipe to 2 Tbs, and I think next time I may reduce it even further to a tablespoon and a half or so.  I also used ground ginger in place of the requested freshly grated (again... just what I had on hand).  My husband is a spicy guy and added a few tablespoons of Siricha Asian hot chile sauce to spice up his salad, but the recommended 1 tsp worked well for my more tender palate.

This bright main dish salad will become a welcome addition to our summer gatherings by the pool as the size can be easily increased to feed a crowd and could also be made vegetarian by simply omitting the chicken.  Definitely a keeper!  

Chinese Chicken Salad
adapted from Fine Cooking, Fresh, pg. 33, 2008

8 chicken tenders (about 2 1/4 lbs)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
8 square wonton wrappers
vegetable oil cooking spray
2 oz. snow peas, trimmed and cut on the diagonal into thirds (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 small head Napa cabbage, trimmed sliced thinly
1/2 romaine heart, cut crosswise into 1/2 inch wide strips (about 3 cups) Sweet & Spicy Dressing (see below)
2 - 3 scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced on the diagonal
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
sprinkle of white sesame seeds

Spray chicken with cooking spray and season with salt and pepper or a little garlic powder.  Grill until done.

While the chicken is cooking, line baking sheet with foil and cut the wonton wrappers into thin strips.  Separate the strips, lay on baking sheet and mist lightly with cooking spray.  Sprinkle lightly with salt.  Scrunch each strip to give it a wavy shape if you would like.  Bake at 375º until golden, about 7 minutes.  Remove from oven to cool.

Bring a medium saucepan of water to boil.  Have bowl of ice water ready.  Boil the snow peas for about 20 seconds, until bright green but still crisp.  Drain and transfer to the ice water to stop the cooking.  Drain again.

In a large bowl, toss the cabbage, romaine and peas.  In another bowl, toss the chicken and scallions with 1/4 cup of dressing.  Add the chicken to the greens and toss with enough of the remaining dressing to coat the salad.  Garnish each serving with sliced almonds, a sprinkle of sesame seeds and the baked wonton strips.

Sweet & Spicy Dressing
1/4 cup rice vinegar
3 Tbs tamari or soy sauce
1 Tbs sweet Asian chile sauce
2 medium cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1/2 tsp koser salt
1 tsp hot Asian chile sauce
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 - 2 Tbs peanut oil
1 Tbs Asian sesame oil

In a medium bowl, combine the vinegar, tamari (soy), sweet chile sauce, garlic, ginger, salt, hot chile sauce, and pepper.  Gradually whisk in the peanut and sesame oils.

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