Saturday, February 25, 2012

Asian Sesame Chicken Salad

I love to have big salads for lunch or even dinner when we go out. For some reason they always taste so much better when they are mixed together with the dressing and all of the fun additional items than when I make them at home. Not anymore! This recipe is a copycat version of Panera's Asian Chicken Salad and is just as good if not better at home. I made the salad dressing earlier in the day since I was taking a class at the gym and wanted as little work to prepare this when I got home. Then pulled together the marinade and chicken before hitting the showers. This was the perfect amount of time to soak up the flavors before Jason got home to take over the grill. Be sure to let the chicken rest for 5 minutes so the juices don't run out the moment you go to cut it up. The dressing is sweet from the sugar but still a bit tangy from the vinegar, which I really liked. I didn't have any wontons so I used tortilla strips which lose the asian flavor but provide a crunch. Next time I might opt for the crunchy noodles you can find in the ethnic aisle. Overall this was an extremely flavorful and filling salad that is great for lunch or dinner.
Asian Sesame Chicken Salad
Serves 4

1 bag pre-washed romaine lettuce
1 bag pre-washed baby spinach
4 medium chicken breasts
For the chicken marinade:
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar (or agave nectar, or honey)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon garlic powder
For the dressing:
½ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup sugar
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 ½ teaspoons sesame oil, toasted in a dry skillet over medium heat until golden brown
½ teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
½ teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted
Salad toppings:
Chopped cilantro (optional)
11oz can mandarin oranges packed in water or 100% juice (rinse in water if packed in syrup)
¼ cup sliced almonds
Baked or fried wonton strips (I only had tortillay strips)
Sesame seeds

1. For the chicken: Whisk together chicken marinade ingredients and put in a gallon ziploc bag. Prick the chicken with a fork to allow the marinade to be absorbed. Add chicken to the bag and marinate for 15 minutes. Grill, or cook in a non-stick sprayed skillet until done, then let the chicken rest for 5 minutes. Cut into slices.

2. For the dressing: Bring vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan. Turn off the heat, then add in the sugar and stir until dissolved. Let cool. Combine with the rest of the dressing ingredients in a jar, and shake to combine.

3. Divide lettuce and spinach between four plates. Top with sliced chicken, salad dressing, and toppings.

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