This refreshing cold platter with its zesty combination of chicken and mustard is part-Chinese, part-French, part-California, and pure delicious. It is a real appetite-arouser, a favorite among my Chinese friends. With its clean taste and good looks it makes a lovely centerpiece for a buffet, a colorful start for a sit-down dinner, or a light and portable one-dish lunch.
Rinse the breasts and put them in a heavy pot that will hold them snugly. Lightly smash the ginger and scallion to spread the fibers and bring the juices to the surface, then add them to the pot with enough cold water to come 3 inches above the chicken. Bring, to a rolling boil over high heat, reduce to maintain a steady simmer, and simmer the chicken uncovered for 25 minutes. About 3 minutes before the chicken is done, fill a large bowl with 2–3 trays of ice cubes and enough cold water to cover the chicken.
Once the chicken is done, remove it from the pot with a Chinese mesh spoon or tongs and plunge it immediately under the ice. Chill, submerged, for 15 minutes. Drain and pat dry.
If you like, the simmering liquid may be strained and reduced by two-thirds for use as a light stock. For a richer stock, add some chicken bones to the pot and simmer the mixture for an hour or so.
Discard the skin, then remove the meat from the bone in as much of one piece as possible. Remove the thin membranes encasing breast and fillet, and discard any tendons or fat. By hand, shred the meat with the grain into strips 2 inches long and pencil-width (see TECHNIQUE NOTES). If you need to work in advance, the shredded chicken may be sealed airtight and refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Slice the vegetables just before assembling the salad, so they are fresh and perky when served.
Cut larger tomatoes in half lengthwise, then core. Place cut side down, then cut across the width into slices a scant ¼ inch thick. If you are working with very large tomatoes, cut the slices in half lengthwise to make them manageable. Cut cherry tomatoes in half lengthwise to one side of the stem, then slice off the stem mark. If the cherry tomatoes have pretty stems, leave a few of the stems intact for color.
Cut the pepper in half lengthwise, and remove core, seeds, and ribs. Place cut side down, then cut across the width into thin slices ⅛ inch thick.
Trim the cucumbers and peel them if they are waxed. Seed, if necessary. Cut the cucumbers into strips, half circles, or seeded arcs.
Cut off the lower stems of the coriander, just above where they are tied. Wash the sprigs in cold water, pat or spin dry, then discard any imperfect leaves. Chop the leaves and upper stems coarsely into ¾-inch bits.
Toss the chicken with the sesame seeds, then divide the chicken into 2 mounds and arrange them at opposite ends of a large, round platter. Arrange the vegetables in separate wedge-like mounds around the platter, so that you have an alternation of red-green-white, looking like a very colorful pie. Fan the vegetables, fluff the coriander leaves, and put the prettiest specimens on top. Once assembled, the platter may be tightly sealed and refrigerated 2–3 hours prior to serving.
Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled, with a bowl of the mustard sauce. Invite each participant to choose, toss, and dress his or her own salad fixings.
Unsauced leftovers keep 2–3 days refrigerated. Bottled and refrigerated, the sauce keeps indefinitely.
© 1982 Barbara Tropp estate. All rights reserved.