Spicy Thai Chicken Salad
Here, piquant chicken perfumed with lemongrass and garlic tops crisp romaine lettuce, resulting in a dish that is perfect for a light spring supper. Freeze the tasty braising liquid that is left over and use it to impart an Asian flavor to your favorite soup. Any leftover vinaigrette can be tossed with greens or other vegetables to add the zippy flavors of lime juice and ginger.
For the vinaigrette:
- 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbs. low-sodium soy sauce
- Juice of 1 lime
- 2 tsp. sherry vinegar
- 1 tsp. peeled and minced fresh ginger
- 1/8 tsp. sugar
- 2 or 3 drops Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce
- 1/8 tsp. salt
1 whole chicken, about 3 1/2 lb. (1.75 kg), cut into 10 pieces (2 thighs, 2 drumsticks, 2 wings, 4 breast portions)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 Tbs. peanut oil
- 1 stalk lemongrass
- 1/2 large yellow onion, finely chopped
- 5 garlic cloves, sliced
- 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) dry white wine
- 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) Asian fish sauce
- 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) chicken broth
- 1/2 small serrano or jalapeño chile, seeded and minced
- 4 green onions, thinly sliced
- 2 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 heart of romaine lettuce, chopped
- Lime wedges for serving
To make the vinaigrette, in a blender or mini food processor, combine the olive oil, soy sauce, lime juice, vinegar, ginger, sugar, Tabasco to taste and the salt and process for 15 seconds. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
Pat the chicken dry. Season generously all over with salt and pepper. In a large, heavy fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the oil. When the oil is hot, working in batches to avoid crowding, add the chicken and sear, turning as needed, until golden brown, about 8 minutes total. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
Trim the lemongrass stalk to the bulb portion, remove the tough outer leaves and cut into thick slices. Pour off most of the fat from the pan and return it to medium-high heat. Add the lemongrass and onion and sauté until the onion is golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Pour in the wine, fish sauce and broth and stir to dislodge any browned bits on the pan bottom. Stir in the chile, 1/4 tsp. salt and several grinds of pepper, and transfer the contents of the pan to a slow cooker. Stack the chicken on top. Cover and cook on the low setting for 5 hours. The chicken should be very tender.
Transfer the chicken pieces to a plate and let cool slightly. Pull off the skin, remove the meat from the bones and discard the bones and skin. Shred the chicken meat with 2 forks. (Strain the braising liquid and reserve for another use if desired.)
In a bowl, combine the shredded chicken, 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) of the vinaigrette, the green onions and 1 Tbs. of the cilantro and toss well. Arrange the lettuce on a platter and top with the chicken mixture. Garnish with the remaining 1 Tbs. cilantro and accompany with the lime wedges. Serve immediately. Serves 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma The New Slow Cooker: Fresh Recipes for the Modern Cook, by Brigit Binns (Weldon Owen, 2010)