A colourful chicken salad that stores well and is a guaranteed crowdpleaser

Chicken and vegetable salad with Asian dressing.
Chicken and vegetable salad with Asian dressing. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

(THE WASHINGTON POST) - This salad of shredded chicken tossed with a colourful slaw of red bell pepper, green cabbage and carrot is designed to hold up well in the refrigerator, so it is an ideal make-ahead dinner, packed lunch or potluck party dish. The key is to store its aromatic and Asian-inspired dressing separately, then toss it with the salad within several hours, or right before serving, so all the components stay fresh-tasting.

For the chicken, I employ what I consider a foolproof "oven-poaching" method, which involves baking boneless, skinless breasts - pounded evenly thin - covered, on a baking sheet. It gives a similar result as poaching in liquid would, but with more control over the temperature so there is less risk of overcooking the meat. Alternatively, for this recipe you could skip the cooking and use shredded rotisserie chicken. The meat is chilled and then pulled apart, so it is shredded like the vegetables, and all the ingredients nestle nicely together. You can enjoy this salad over greens, on top of a warm rice bowl or in a wrap sandwich - or serve it as called for in this recipe, along with large leaves of Boston or Bibb lettuce to use as edible cups.

CHICKEN AND VEGETABLE SALAD WITH ASIAN DRESSING

4 servings

MAKE AHEAD: The undressed salad components can be refrigerated a day in advance. The dressing may be refrigerated up to three days in advance. Once dressed, the salad should be consumed within several hours for best quality.

INGREDIENTS

For the salad

570g skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

1 tsp olive oil

1/8 tsp salt

11/2 cups thinly sliced green cabbage

1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

1 medium carrot, scrubbed well, and then cut into ribbons with a vegetable peeler

1/4 cup packed cilantro leaves

16 large Bibb or Boston lettuce leaves, for serving

For the dressing

3 Tbs walnut oil or olive oil

3 Tbs unseasoned rice vinegar

2 tsps low-sodium soy sauce

2 tsps honey

1 1/2 tsps toasted sesame oil

1 tsp finely grated peeled fresh ginger root

1 small clove garlic, minced

1/4 tsp salt

Pinch crushed red pepper flakes

METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius.

2. Place the chicken breasts between pieces of plastic wrap, then pound them to an even1.2cm thickness.

3. Arrange them in a single layer in a baking dish; drizzle both sides with the olive oil and season with the salt. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake (middle rack) for 20 to 30 minutes, or just until the chicken has cooked through (start checking at 20 minutes). Uncover and let cool.

4. Refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 3 days.

5. When you are ready to assemble the salad, pull the chicken apart with your fingers into thin strips. (Alternatively, you could skip the cooking step and use three cups of meat pulled from a cooked rotisserie chicken.) Combine the chicken, cabbage, bell pepper, carrot and cilantro in a mixing bowl.

6. Whisk together the walnut or olive oil, vinegar, soy sauce, honey, toasted sesame oil, ginger, garlic, salt and crushed red pepper flakes in a medium bowl to form an emulsified dressing. Pour over the salad and toss to coat evenly.

Serve in or alongside lettuce leaves, to be eaten taco-style.

Nutrition | Per serving: 330 calories, 34 g protein, 9 g carbohydrates, 17 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 105 mg cholesterol, 400 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 6 g sugar