Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Laotian Salad

This is such a fresh, yummy salad-- bursting with big, southeast Asian flavors. The dressing is very strong, so if you taste it straight, without salad greens, don’t be too surprised-- it is wonderful on the finished salad. Don’t be put off by the number of steps involved in this recipe, both the dressing and the chicken can be made a day or two ahead of time-- this is a great salad to serve guests as most of the work can be done in advance. Leave out the chicken if you would like to make this sort-of vegetarian (aside from the fish sauce...)

1 green onion (trimmed and roughly chopped)
1, 2 inch piece fresh ginger root, sliced into chunks (no need to peel)
1 piece lemon grass, smashed (to release oils) and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed, remaining loosely whole
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Put the first 4 ingredients into a medium size soup pot with a few cups of water. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for 15 minutes. Put in the chicken breasts and add more water if needed to just cover them. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes more, remove from the heat, cover and allow the chicken to steep in the broth for 30 minutes, then take them out of the broth and chill them in the refrigerator. Can be made up to 24 hours in advance. A by-product of this will be a fabulous, gingery chicken broth. Slurp it up or store it in the fridge until ready to enjoy it. It will keep for three days.

~If you have chicken left over from a previous meal and this step seems too overwhelming, you can skip it and use the left-over chicken~

¼ cup fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons sugar
½ of a large (2 inch long), fresh Thai chilli pepper, about ¼ teaspoon, chopped fine
1 inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and diced small
1 green onion, trimmed and sliced thin
1 teaspoon corn starch
¼ cup cold water
1 tablespoon sesame oil

Combine first 7 ingredients in a small soup pot and bring to a simmer. In a small jar, shake the corn starch with the water to create a slurry (thin paste)-- this will thicken the dressing. Pour it into the simmering dressing and whisk, bringing the dressing back to a simmer. When it begins to simmer, remove from the heat and stir in the sesame oil. Whisk again and store in the refrigerator until ready to use (it should be chilled). This can be made up to 3 days in advance.

Salad ingredients
1 cup fresh snow peas, trimmed and sliced lengthwise into thin strips
1 head frisse, or curly endive lettuce, roughly chopped
½ red bell pepper, diced
2 green onions, trimmed and sliced thinly
5 inches of English cucumber, diced or cut into strips
2 handfuls of mung beans
1 big handful fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
½ as much fresh peppermint (not spearmint), roughly chopped
1 handful dry roasted peanuts, chopped

The snow peas can be blanched in boiling water for just 30 seconds, if you don’t want them raw. Otherwise, continue on…
Toss all salad ingredients together, slice the chicken into strips and set aside. Just before serving, toss the salad with the dressing. Plate it up then scatter the chicken strips over top with another drizzle of dressing and finish with a sprinkling of peanuts.

Makes 4 entrée salads

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