Comfort meals and warm, decadent dishes are a boon for these chilly days and wintry evenings. And for someone who has lived only in California up to this point, it has been sinfully easy to fall into that track. Who would refuse the seduction of so many comforting treats: the cakes, hot chocolate, biryani, pastas, and all else. And yet, the healthnut in me screams for my West Coast lifestyle, the minimalization of carbohydrates, the salads, more natural sweets of fruits as opposed to cake, cake, and more cake!!
Not to mention I am on a mission to wean the husband off of his dependence on rice. As such, imagine my disappointment when I realized I just kept making rice-supplemented dishes, not to mention full-fledged biryani, without any regard for what I promised my husband or myself. And so I felt compelled to whip up a salad last week. Nothing fancy, mind you, but it warrants sharing the amazing proclamation G bestowed upon me: that this was the first time he ever truly relished eating a salad. Ever.
I’m sure there was a slight touch of hyperbole to that, but it warmed my heart more than a huge slice of French apple pie could do. So much so I could feel the calories melt off from the glow.
Mandarin Chicken Salad
- 1 lb thinly sliced chicken breast (not cut into thin strips, but sliced so that the breast piece is not so thick)
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 tsp crushed ginger
- Red pepper to your preference
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- Olive oil to coat
- ¼ cup olive oil
- < ¼ cup rice vinegar
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1-1 ½ tsp ginger
- 1 tbsp Honey
- Toasted sesame seeds
- Few drops of lemon juice
- Lettuce (hearts of romaine mix)
- Almond slices (honey roasted almonds)
- Mandarin oranges, drained and rinsed lightly
- More toasted sesame seeds
One perk from making this was that I had extra chicken left over that we sliced up for a meal the following night. I couldn’t begin to tell you why that brought me so much joy, but such is life. It’s time you discovered how odd Alya really is.
Anyway, the reason I wanted thinly sliced breast was so that it could cook really quickly and retain its moistness rather than drying out and just being a thick white piece of meat. So combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl and lightly toss the chicken breast in it so all is coated, setting it aside in the fridge for at least 20 minutes. I usually do these steps earlier in the day or a few hours prior at least, but just give it time to let the flavors make themselves at home.
When ready to cook, heat a large frying pan with some oil (I use extra light olive for this) and pull out your chicken from the fridge. It would be awesome to actually grill the chicken, so if you have a barbecue grill or even a grill pan, go for it. Alas, I do not, so simple light frying I must do.
Lay two to three pieces of chicken side by side and fry for 5-6 minutes on medium heat, just nudging the high levels but not quite. Flip and cook the other side, which should cook faster so just pay attention. The meat should be cooked thoroughly but remain super juicy when you cut it. Remove and add more to the pan, until you’ve cooked all your chicken. Then sprinkle some sesame seeds on top of them all and let them cool off on the side.
To make your dressing, add chopped garlic cloves and grated or chopped fresh ginger (or crushed ginger paste if you want) to a blender along with the olive oil to create a beautiful aromatic paste. Then simple add the remaining dressing ingredients and mix vigorously with a spoon. Place it in the microwave for about 15 seconds to melt the honey a little so you can mix and incorporate that more fully.
As for the toasted sesame seeds—you can buy them like that I believe, or just heat a pan on the stove and dry roast the seeds (no oil) until they start to brown and smell really really good. Mix them in and SlamBoomBang you have your dressing! And of course you can adjust to make it taste as you like—more soy, more ginger, more spice, more honey. Whatever floats your boat.
Going back to your chicken, now take some breast pieces and slice them lengthwise into juicy strips, saving any filets later for a sandwich or pasta or that which your heart dreams up!
All that remains now is assembly: In a large serving bowl, layer in your salad greens of choice, then top with the sliced chicken, sliced almonds, and mandarin oranges. I buy then canned so I have to drain them, and rinse off any syrup because ugh, none of that for my palette! They are delicate so just lightly rinse them, nothing vigorous. Pour on the dressing and then top it all with more toasted sesame seeds.
Husband of mine was a little apprehensive when he came home and saw what awaited him, but this was seriously the first time I saw him not only touch salad with more than frightful reluctance, but with true passion and pleasure in his eyes. That kinda sorta made my day. (Naturally he also had a side of noodles with this, but they were wheat! That should count for something…)