Friday, January 24, 2014

Chinese Chicken Salad

Before I get to the post about Matthew's birthday (and the super-indulgent recipe that will accompany it), I thought I should share something healthy to prove that we do not eat cake and treats all day every day! (Just most days)

I was watching an episode of Cook's Country on PBS and they were talking about how Wolfgang Puck was the first chef to put a Chinese Chicken Salad on his restaurant menu. His version was delicious unique, and used all fresh ingredients. Since then, however, the Chinese Chicken Salad has become a ubiquitous restaurant offering often utilizing many canned ingredients such as pineapple tidbits, mandarin oranges, water chestnuts, or chow mein noodles. The helpful folks at America's Test Kitchen then proceeded to make this recipe as an homage to the original, healthier, and fresher version of the Chinese Chicken Salad. It looked so darn good. I was particularly intrigued by the method they used to cook the chicken - essentially poaching it in a small portion of the dressing and then letting it rest while reducing the liquid down to a glaze to be tossed with the chicken following shredding. This ensures that the delicious Asian flavors of the dressing permeate every bite. I had pretty much all the ingredients necessary in my fridge, so I took a few notes while watching and resolved to make it for dinner the next night.

Like most salads, it's a bit of a pain to make just because there is a lot of chopping involved. I normally like slicing and dicing, but not while the maniacal 4-year-old is running circles in the kitchen while singing songs from Mary Poppins and the 9-month-old is pulling dish after dish out of the cupboards. Utter chaos! Persevere through it all we did and before long were able to enjoy the delicious result.

This is what trouble looks like.

We all loved this salad. Juicy oranges, crunchy bell peppers, salted peanuts, cilantro, shredded lettuce, and chicken all tossed with a sesame-orange vinaigrette. Amazing stuff. Even Matthew could not get enough of the chicken.  Do not skip the chopped peanuts on top. They really do add something special.

Chinese Chicken Salad
from Cook's Country

Note: I did not use napa cabbage because the heads at our grocery store were huge. I just used more romaine. Paul doesn't like cabbage anyway.

2 large 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 (6-8 ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
2 romaine lettuce hearts, sliced thin
1/2 small head napa cabbage, cored and shredded (6 cups)
2 red bell peppers, cut into matchsticks
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 cup salted dry-roasted peanuts, chopped
6 scallions, sliced thin

Segment the oranges and transfer the segments to a small bowl. Set aside for garnishing the salad. Squeeze the juice from the orange membranes into a second bowl (juice should measure 1/4 cup). Or, if you're lazy like me, you can just measure out 1/4 cup of store-bought orange juice.

Combine the orange juice, vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, sugar, and chili-garlic sauce in a bowl. Transfer 1/2 cup of the orange juice mixture to a 12-inch skillet. Slowly whisk vegetable oil and sesame oil into the remaining orange juice mixture to make the vinaigrette. Set aside.

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

Meanwhile, boil the pan juices until reduced to 1/4 cup. This will only take about 1-3 minutes. Set aside. Shred the chicken into bite size pieces, transfer to a medium bowl, and toss with the reduced sauce, any accumulated juices, and 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Let sit for 10 minutes.

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


  1. thanks for posting the recipe! i watched that episode yesterday and my middle daughter, who was home sick, asked if we could have it tonight! maybe i will also skip the napa cabbage. ;)

  2. Is it 3 Tablespoons of fresh grated ginger or garlic? I thought I heard garlic while multi-tasking. Thanks

    1. It's definitely ginger. Three tablespoons of garlic would be a lot!

  3. Thanks for posting. I saw this episode of CC and afterwards went online to get the recipe but was disappointed to learn that CC required a trial subscription to their magazine if I wanted the recipe. I didn't want a trial subscription! I just wanted the recipe! So, again, thanks.


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  5. Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you! I wrote this recipe down last year, and can't find it anywhere!