Chicken

Oh look; more chicken. Had to buy a fairly large package, so there it was. Oh look; more asparagus. It’s early June; of course there’s asparagus. And lettuce. So it’s salad again, is what it is.

This basic little Japanese-inspired salad dressing really went over well. Like a lot of Japanese dishes, it relies on a simple ensemble of not-too-strong flavours that really worked well with the chicken and asparagus. I’ll be using it again on other salads quite often, I think. I actually used Kewpie (Japanese) mayonnaise for this, as it’s one of the few commercial mayonnaises out there that does not contain any sugar.

I regret to say that our stupid weather this year has been very hard on the lettuce. It all LOOKS absolutely perfect, but it’s starting to go bitter already, even though I’ve been watering it daily in fear of just this outcome. Phooey. 

4 servings
45 minutes prep time

Cook the Chicken & Asparagus
450 grams (1 pound) skinless, boneless chicken pieces
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
450 grams (1 pound) asparagus

Grill or sauté the chicken with salt and pepper to taste, in the oil, until cooked but not dry; about 4 to 6 minutes per side depending on thickness. I prefer chicken thighs for this, but then I always prefer chicken thighs. Set aside and cool completely once done.

Of course, you could use leftover cooked chicken, including from a purchased rotisserie chicken, if you like and have it.

Wash, trim, and cook the asparagus. Cut it into bite sized pieces, before or after you cook it; I don’t care much but tend to think cutting it first is more convenient. It too should be well drained and cooled completely. Both the chicken and asparagus can be prepared up to a day ahead and kept refrigerated until wanted.

Make the Dressing:
1 tablespoon very finely grated fresh ginger
1 to 2 tablespoons miso
2 tablespoons apple cider OR rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup mayonnaise

Peel the ginger and grate it to a pulp, and put it in a small mixing bowl. Add 1 tablespoon miso, the vinegar, and sesame oil and mix well. Taste and add a little more miso if you think it needs it – keeping in mind that this both an unfinished dressing and that the finished dressing must be fairly intensely flavoured to provide coverage to the other ingredients – and so it should be fairly strong. I did use 2 tablespoons and was completely happy about it, but in addition to the fluctuations in personal taste, miso can also vary quite a bit in strength so it’s worth being a little cautious. You can also add more after the mayonnaise is in; it will be easier to tell if needs it but harder to mix smoothly.

Mix in the mayonnaise until the dressing is smooth.

Make the Salad:
6 cups chopped lettuce OR mix of lettuce, spinach and other salad greens
8 to 12 small red radishes
1 cup peeled and grated celeriac OR chopped celery
1/2 cup whole hazelnuts

Wash, dry, and chop the salad greens. Wash, trim and slice or chop the radishes and celery or celeriac.

Toast the hazelnuts in a dry skillet until browned in spots. Transfer them to a cutting board or plate to cool. Chop them roughly; or I found that bashing them with the base of the vinegar bottle did a good job in breaking them up. A fair bit of the skins will come off and that’s all to  the good – discard them.

The chicken pieces should now be cut up into bite-sized strips. 

You can toss everything together in the dressing at this point; I spread out the greens and other raw salad ingredients (minus hazelnuts) in the serving dish, then mixed half the dressing into the chicken and asparagus which were then spread over the salad and sprinkled with hazelnuts. The remaining dressing got passed for more to be added if people wanted. I thought there was a fair bit of dressing but apparently people did want all of it, so this was a bit of a wasted effort, although it probably did look a little nicer than the just-mix-it option. 

Last year at this time I made Greek-Style Pork Loin Medallions.

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