Thursday, April 9, 2009

Chinese Chicken Salad--Barefoot Bloggers

Note to self, change bowls! I just noticed that this is my third post in a row, using the same white bowl, which is my favorite for it's size and shape, but it is getting a bit old. I vow not to use it again for at least another few posts. Our first Barefoot Bloggers recipe for April, Chinese Chicken Salad was selected by McKenzie of Kenzie's Kitchen and it is, for Ina, a lighter, fairly healthy recipe, (although not exactly a low calorie / low fat / low sodium one with all the oil, peanut butter and salt in it). Chicken breast, asparagus and red pepper together in an Asian dressing, it just needed a few tweaks to make it a healthier choice. (My changes are in the Notes/Results section below). 

The recipe can be found in Barefoot Contessa Parties! (pg 98), as well as on the Food Network site here.

Chinese Chicken Salad
Barefoot Contessa Parties!, Ina Garten
(12 Servings)

4 split chicken breasts (bone-in, skin-on)
Good olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound asparagus, ends removed, and cut in thirds diagonally
1 red bell pepper, cored and seeded
2 scallions (white and green parts), sliced diagonally
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds, toasted

For the dressing:
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup good apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon honey
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon peeled, grated fresh ginger
1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan and rub with the skin with olive oil. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is just cooked. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove the meat from the bones, discard the skin, and shred the chicken in large bite-sized pieces.

Blanch the asparagus in a pot of boiling salted water for 3 to 5 minutes until crisp-tender. Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking. Drain. Cut the peppers in strips about the size of the asparagus pieces. Combine the cut chicken, asparagus, and peppers in a large bowl.

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. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Notes/Results: Light and delicious, a great little salad with good flavor. I reduced the amount to two servings worth, enough for a couple of lunches. Instead of a bone-in, skin-on chicken breast, I used an organic skinless, boneless breast, which worked fine and turned out nice and moist at about 30 minutes in the oven. I switched the vegetable oil to olive oil and cut down the amount by about 1/2. There seems to be a lot of salt in the dressing so I used a low-sodium soy salt and also reduced the amount of kosher salt to a tiny pinch. Finally I swapped out the peanut butter and replaced it with some (a bit less than the recipe called for), natural ground almond butter. In this case the switch was not really for any health reasons, almond butter is what I had on hand because I eat it more often than peanut butter. I think it is a great alternative though, as sometimes too much peanut butter can overwhelm a dressing and the almond butter gives a nice nuttiness without being overpowering. I felt like it made more of the sesame flavor come out. To make up for my swap outs, and still get a flavor punch, I added a bit more ginger, garlic and black pepper to my dressing mix. Although I cut the quantity of the dressing recipe down, it made more than I thought was needed so I didn't use all of it on the salad and it still had plenty of flavor. I tossed a bit of chopped fresh mint in at the end as I had a big bunch in the fridge and I like the complexity it adds. I would make this one again, lightened up of course.

Thanks McKenzie for a great pick and a welcome choice for spring! You can see what the other Barefoot Bloggers thought of this recipe by going to the BB site here.


  1. Looks wonderful! I love chicken salad - this one looks so light and healthy. You could always make a sammy out of the leftovers. :)

  2. I almost always cut down the recipes I try. This sounds healthy and delicious :)

  3. Yes! What a brilliant switch to put in the almond butter instead. I found the peanut butter to be too overpowering in this salad as well -- I'll have to try the almond butter next time.

    (and, haha about the white bowl -- I seem to be going through the same thing with my white bowl :))

  4. I love salads that don't have lettuce (I think my parents scarred me for life with that one). This looks great!

  5. That looks yummy and I love your modifications! :)

  6. Oh good, I was definitely counting on you to lighten this up, Deb! I knew that I couldn't make it as Ina wrote it very often, but I liked it enough to want to try it again with some healthier modifications. Loved what you did with this - it looks delicious!

  7. Gorgeous.

    Drat! I just realized I didn't put any ginger in it...ack!

  8. Personally, I don't think you can ever go wrong with a white bowl. It's a classic, so use it every post! :)

  9. Sounds wonderful!


  10. That looks really fabulous - so healthy and vibrant!

    I always eat on white plates; it never occurs to me not to !

  11. It looks delicious! I like your swap out for PB with almond butter. It's a little more delicate in flavor and I bet it was perfect in this.

  12. Your chicken salad looks so lucky am I that I have leftover chicken from dinner tonight? I may just have to give this recipe a try.

    Thanks for sharing...

  13. Ha--your white bowl comment made me laugh! I feel like I'm always taking food photos in the same spot. Unfortunately, there are only so many places I can get good light. Looks yummy!

  14. I thought about using Olive Oil, but I wasn't sure if the flavor would be to strong. I did cut back on the amount of oil used though and it was still delicious!

  15. I love how she even managed to make a salad unhealthy. ha it does look tasty though

  16. I haven't ever tried almond butter, I know you can make it at Fresh Market and get it at Whole Foods! I will try it next time I make it!

  17. I love your bowls! I am a big fan of white, so don't go changing to please me!

    Your salad looks great. I've never been comfortable using peanut butter in a salad...just can't do it. I'll try almond butter, sounds delicious!

    I missed the boat on getting this done. I should have done it last week before passover. Looking at everyone's posts has me definitely salivating...

    ;) amy

  18. That's so funny – sometimes I feel guilty for using the same bowls and plates over and over again, too.

    Nice changes to the recipe. I'll have to givealmond butter a try.

  19. That dish is so colorful and it looks delicious!

    You comment about using the same dish made me laugh. After I started blogging and photographing food, I noticed the same thing and scoured thift stores for a diversity of dishes.

    Recently, my Mom's best friend actually noticed my plate, rather than my "dish" because it is her most beloved china ever.

    I guess sometimes the dish does make the meal.

    I never cook soup without thinking of you. Unfortunately, my schedule has been too crazy lately to blog the way I want.

    So nice catching up with you...

  20. Your version sounds great! This recipe lends itself well to substitutions.

  21. I've posted in the same bowl several times in a row too! I keep explaining to my husband that I need a variety of dishes.

  22. I opted for less salt as well, but this was a delicious salad. I am sure it would be equally as delicious with your tweaks:D

  23. Your swap outs are amazing! I bet the almond butter made this a subtle, nutty sauce with the increased ginger. Well done!

  24. I love your modifications. I bet the almond butter was great and the mint sounds delicious.

  25. looks great. i really enjoyed this recipe and served it with a hot and sour coleslaw


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