Ina Garten, aka the Barefoot Contessa, probably needs no introduction if you're reading this blog. However, if by chance you don't know who she is, one could say that she is the veritable guru of homestyle American cooking with 9 cookbooks, an Emmy award winning Food Network cooking show, 20 years of a very successful specialty food shop in East Hampton and a stint as a White House nuclear policy analyst (bet you didn't know that part!). Today we are going to pay tribute to a great self-taught cook who has helped revolutionize the food industry (and my family's palette) with Ina's recipe for this amazing Chinese Chicken Salad!
When I decided to make Fridays a day I celebrate great cooks, I knew that Ina would be among my earliest. I love her TV show and I have several of her books, so it was a no brainer, but picking which of her recipes to share took all of my limited brain power because there are just so many darned good recipes. Seriously, it took me days to decide!! And though I've made many of her recipes before, this time I chose to go with something new and fresh for me, which is quite in keeping with her philosophy of cooking. In all of her cooking, she stresses using fresh and if possible, local ingredients which we all know is the best...so is this chicken salad. And it's pretty healthy considering the chicken is roasted and it's filled with peppers, sesame seeds and asparagus and coated with a peanut butter based dressing. Ok, here goes:
While you're roasting the chicken breasts, you toast the sesame seeds. If you've never done this before, you do it over the flame in a heavy pan, not in the oven. It's easy but just keep an eye on them because you don't want those little guys to burn, just turn golden.
Then you cut up the peppers and blanch the asparagus--
And then you mix together the peanut dressing--don't be scared off by the long list of ingredients--it really comes together quickly and most are staples you probably already have at home.
Once the chicken is cooked and cool enough to handle, you shred it into pieces, toss it with all the rest of the ingredients and sprinkle it with sesame seeds and scallions. It's light, fresh and full of peanut flavor- seriously delicious!! Though this would be great for lunch, I served this for dinner with some crusty bread and my daughter claimed that this was her new favorite dish!
Except for cutting out the ginger (none of us are big fans), my only other change was to make half of the recipe. In fact my only gripe with Ina's recipes is that they often make so much and I just don't need that for my family, but of course, if you're making this for a party or you have 8 kids, go ahead and double it.
So thanks, Ina for this and all of your other wonderful recipes. I know I'll be making this and many of your others again and again!
Ina's Chinese Chicken Salad-Famous Fridays
Prep Time: About 1 hour for the chicken, 30 minutes to put salad together
For the chicken:
- 4 split chicken breasts (bone in, skin on)
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt and pepper
For the vegetables
- 1 bunch of asparagus, ends removed and cut into thirds on the diagonal
- 1 red bell pepper, cored and seeded
- 2 scallions (white and green parts), sliced thinly
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
For the dressing:
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil ( I used canola)
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 1/2-3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 tablespoon honey
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
- 4 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 350º F. Place chicken on a pan and rub skin with olive oil, then sprinkle well with salt and pepper. Roast for about 1 hour until cooked through. (Ina says to only do it for 35-40 minutes but mine wasn't well done enough at that point.) Set aside until cool enough to handle.
2. Discard skin and bones and shred the chicken into large, bite-sized pieces.
3. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and blanch asparagus for 3-5 minutes, until crisp tender. Remove asparagus with a slotted spoon and plunge into a bowl of ice water to prevent if from any further cooking. Drain and let them dry.
4. Cut the pepper into strips about same length as asparagus. In a large bowl, combine chicken, asparagus and peppers.
5. Whisk together all of the ingredients for the dressing and pour over the chicken and vegetables. Add the scallions and sesame seeds and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately or chill (we liked it both ways, but preferred it cold).
6. Store covered in refrigerator. Salad keeps 3-4 days.