Saturday, September 28, 2013

Lisa's Crunchy Chicken Salad

My school recently did a cookbook, compiling favorite recipes from families.  Apparently, fried ramen noodle salads are all the rage, given all the ramen noodle-involved submissions in the cookbook.

I have never had this type of salad before, but I guess I have been living in the dark ages.

This salad is about contrasts: crispy noodles against tender shreds of chicken, the sweetness of sugar vs. the tartness of vinegar, the pungency of scallions a counterpoint to the neutrality of iceberg lettuce.  When looked at in this way, the salad has endless variations and substitutions.  You need only your imagination to jump from this starting point to a fresh salad that works year-round, from a light summer salad to a hearty winter offering.

Instead of lettuce or with lettuce: shredded napa cabbage, red cabbage, carrots, celery, kale, edamame.

Instead of ramen noodles: fried wonton strips, fried onions.

Instead of almonds: pecans, walnuts.

For sweetness: dried fruit, manadarin oranges, shredded mango.

For my salad, I added shredded carrots and dried cranberries for color and texture.

As for the salad dressing, you can start with a ratio of 1 part sugar to 2 parts vinegar, as is noted below. You can add a little sesame oil and/or soy sauce.  A little mayo if you want it creamier.  You can also add sriracha, a garlic-chili sauce to provide some heat.

Lisa's Crunchy Chicken Salad
Serves 6
from the SLS Taste of Home Cookbook

1 head iceberg lettuce, chopped and shredded
6 green onions, chopped
1 lb. chicken breasts, cooked and shredded

4 tbs. butter
1-2 three oz. packages Ramen noodles (discard seasoning packets)
2 tbs. sesame seeds
1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup (rice) vinegar
2 tbs. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Combine lettuce, green onions, and chicken in a bowl.  Set aside.  Break up ramen noodles, using 2 packages instead of 1 if you want more crunch. Preheat a skillet over medium heat. Melt butter in the skillet and add broken up noodles, sesame seeds and almonds.  Stir until gold brown, careful not to burn the noodle mixture.  Cool on paper towels. Please note that the noodle mixture can be made the day before and stored in an airtight container or Ziploc bag.

Whisk dressing together and toss with lettuce, chicken, and green onions.  Just before serving, add crunchy noodle mixture and toss.  Serve immediately.

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