Here’s a no-cook recipe for hot summer days. Really. No cooking required. Happy words when the last thing you want to do is crank up the heat in your kitchen. So how to manage fixing a cool dinner for a hot night?
Supermarket rotisserie chicken to the rescue! All you have to do is remove the breast meat and break it up with your fingers into bite-size shreds. After prepping the vegetables and whisking up the dressing, this salad will be on the table before you know it. And you’ll have the hindquarters for another meal.
Remember to save all the bones and carcasses to make a brown chicken stock. See the note at the end of the recipe.
The beautiful things about this salad — aside from the fact that you don’t have to roast any chicken — are that it’s packed with all sorts of crisp and colorful vegetables and the Asian-flavored dressing is out of this world delicious.
For the vegetables, I put in Chinese cabbage — that’s the Napa variety — scallions, cucumber, Romaine hearts and colored bell peppers. You could also toss in fresh bean sprouts, slivered sugar snap peas, or snow peas for more variety. Just aim for a mix of colors and textures.
The smooth and creamy dressing contains the usual suspects of Chinese condiments — oyster and soy sauces, chili garlic sauce and toasted peanut and sesame oils — all available in any supermarket, and a big jolt of smooth peanut butter. It’s so good you’ll want to use it with all sorts of grilled meats and tofu.
For more crunch, I often top the salad with a sprinkling of fried rice stick noodles and crushed peanuts. Experiment and include anything you like. And remember to keep cool!
Keep your cool Asian chicken salad
Cup measures for vegetables are approximate and based on a loose measurement. Shredded here means cutting the vegetables crosswise into thin slices, about 1/4-inch-thick.
Chicken and vegetables
2 store-bought rotisserie chickens
4 cups shredded Chinese (Napa) cabbage
4 cups shredded Romaine hearts
1 large English cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
4 scallions, root ends trimmed, onions sliced thin
3 medium bell peppers: red, orange and yellow, if available, cored, seeded, and flesh cut into thin strips
Optional vegetables: fresh bean sprouts, slivered snow peas or sugar snap peas
Optional garnishes: fried rice stick noodles, crushed peanuts
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce
3 tablespoons Tamari or regular soy sauce
3 tablespoons dark (toasted) Asian sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey
½ cup fresh lime juice
½ cup toasted peanut oil
½ cup safflower, sunflower, corn, rice bran, or grapeseed oil
½ cup smooth peanut butter
1. Remove breasts from chickens and tear the flesh into bite-size shreds. Put the chicken into a medium bowl and refrigerate.
2. Put the Chinese cabbage, Romaine, cucumber, scallions, bell peppers and any optional vegetables into a large bowl and refrigerate. Keep any garnishes separate.
3. To make the dressing, either whisk all the ingredients together until very smooth in a medium bowl or combine all the ingredients in a blender until smooth. Transfer the dressing to a small bowl. You’ll have a generous 2 cups.
4. To assemble the salad, add about ½ cup dressing to the chicken and toss to combine well. Pour about 1 cup dressing onto the vegetables and toss to coat well. Add more dressing if necessary. Add the chicken and toss well. If garnishing the salad with the rice stick noodles and peanuts, either do this to the whole salad and bring to the table, or plate the salad out onto chilled salad plates and garnish each separately.
Makes 6 generous main dish servings.
NOTE: How to make chicken stock.
Put all the skin, bones and carcasses into a 4-quart saucepan and add 6 parsley sprigs, 1 cut-up medium onion and 1 cut-up large carrot. Pour in enough cold water to cover the ingredients by about 1 inch. Do not add salt or pepper. Bring the liquid to the simmer over medium heat. Don’t actually boil the stock or it may turn cloudy. Adjust the heat — medium-low usually works — so that the stock bubbles slowly. Partially cover the pot and cook 3 to 4 hours. Strain the stock through a fine mesh strainer into a heatproof bowl, cool to room temperature uncovered, and then cover and refrigerate. The next day you’ll have 3 to 4 cups of a beautiful stock you can use in any dish that calls for chicken stock. Scrape off any fat before using.