Chicken salad seems to be part of the American way of life; it’s a luncheon standby and a picnic favorite. Here I’ve created my own version redolent of fresh ginger and accented with toasted macadamia nuts. I owe the presentation of the salad to Japanese culinary aesthetics, using shredded daikon radish and cucumber “mountains” as garnishes. But you could Americanize your presentation and mound the chicken on crisp lettuce leaves.
It’s best to poach and shred，then cover and refrigerate the chicken before toasting the nuts and making the vegetable garnishes and the ginger dressing. The cooked chicken should have a chance to chill for at least 30 minutes, but you can keep it refrigerated up to 3 days if that suits your schedule best.
Place the chicken breasts on your cutting board, skin side up. Press down firmly on the breastbone, cracking to flatten the meat somewhat. Combine the ingredients for the poaching liquid in a shallow pot just wide enough to accommodate both chicken breasts snugly. Add the peels from the ginger that will be grated and squeezed later for the dressing. Lay the chicken breasts in the liquid and cover. Over low heat, gradually bring the liquid to a simmer. Cook the chicken for 25 minutes, then remove the pot from the source of heat. Let the chicken cool until it’s comfortable to handle. Remove and discard the skin and bones. Strain and save the poaching liquid, if you like, for use in soups like Thick Rice Soup with Chicken, Chives, and Ginger or Shrimp Dumpling Soup with Snow Pea Pods. Shred the meat by hand, with the grain. These hand-shredded, rough-textured pieces present more surface area to absorb the delicious dressing and are preferable to knife-sliced strips. The hand-shredded pieces should be approximately
Cut each whole macadamia nut in half, then place them in a clean, dry skillet over medium-high heat. Shake the pan frequently to ensure even coloration, toasting the nuts for about 1 minute until they’re a golden-brown color.
Peel the radish and save the peels for use in the sauté, if you wish, or discard. Slice the vegetable into very thin pieces. Stack several of these at a time and cut across them to create thin, threadlike julienne strips. Place the strips of radish in a bowl and salt them. Let the radish sit for 5 minutes, then squeeze to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard this brine, rinse the now wilted radish under fresh cold water, and squeeze again to get rid of excess liquid. Cover and chill the shredded radish for at least 30 minutes and up to 4–5 hours, if you want to make this well in advance of serving time.
Wash the cucumbers well and slice off about
To make the ginger dressing, beat the egg yolk in a bowl with a whisk until creamy and smooth. Add the dry mustard and continue to beat to make a stiff paste. Beat in the salt and sugar (the mixture is probably clinging to your whisk by now, and you may be having trouble incorporating any new substances). Dribble the oil in, drop by drop, beating as you go to make a smooth, thick mayonnaise. Incorporate half the oil in this fashion before you begin to alternate drops of rice vinegar with the oil as you beat. Finally, dribble in the ginger juice and beat to mix well; the ginger will have a loosening effect on the dressing and thin the mayonnaise considerably.
Dress the shredded chicken with the ginger mayonnaise, then toss in the toasted macadamia nuts, too. Divide this mixture into four portions and coax each into a mountainlike shape, to be placed just to the right and slightly forward of the center of one of four flat dinner plates. Divide the radish into four portions and, again, shape each into a peak. Place this mound to the left of and just behind the chicken. Arrange two cucumber mountains just in front and slightly to the right of the chicken. Serve immediately.
© 1985 Elizabeth Andoh. All rights reserved.