Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Chinese Chicken Salad - redux!

In honor of "Buy stuff Cheap Week" I'm reposting the recipe for Chinese Chicken Salad. When I can get chicken for really cheap, this is a good way to stretch a couple of breasts to feed your whole family. This is my theory about meat: I very rarely serve meat as a "dish," I almost always serve it as an "ingredient." What I mean is, I stretch the chicken by adding it to cabbage to make a salad, I stretch the ham by adding it to rice to make fried rice, I add the sausage to bean and rice to make Red Beans and Rice. This way I can buy a lot less meat but still make my family feel satisfied. When I do serve it as a "dish" (such as the Italian Chicken I posted yesterday), I make sure I have lots of yummy side dishes like potatoes, steamed veggies, a rice pilaf, homemade bread or rolls or biscuits, or jars of home canned fruit. That way I can stretch my food dollar and no one cries, "Where's the beef?"

Another way we like to eat our really cheap chicken is in Chinese Chicken Salad. My kids eat this like crazy! I'm pretty sure everyone has had some version of this salad at a potluck at some time in their lives, but this is my version, and it is the best. No really, my version is the best version, ever. Really. And it is relatively healthy, too. (Just close your eyes and imagine that those ramen noodles are, um, thin sliced celery, ok? Besides, all that cabbage cancels out the ramen, right?)

Here is what you need to make Chinese Chicken Salad:
Some cooked, chopped chicken (about 2 cups or so, but this recipe is very forgiving)
One head of green cabbage
Some slivered almonds (about a half cup or more if you like them and can get them cheap)
2 packages of chicken flavored ramen noodles
Vegetable oil, lemon juice, seasoned rice wine vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar

First, chop the cabbage - please remember to remove the core, it is not tasty. I chop my cabbage by putting it through the slicing attachment of my food processor. You are looking for something between salad-green-size pieces and coleslaw-size pieces. Throw all the chopped cabbage into a big bowl. Throw in the chopped chicken (throw carefully, you don't want to take out someone's eye!)

Next, put the ramen packages on the counter and smash them. Just whack 'em good. You are breaking up the noodles into bite size pieces not dust! Now add the noodles to the cabbage/chicken (remove them from the package, duh.). Save the flavoring packets, you will be adding these to the dressing.

Next add the almonds. I always toast them slightly in my toaster oven, I think it brings out the flavor. You could toast them in a dry skillet on the stove also. Or you can just add them raw. I usually add some sesame seeds (2 Tbs or so) when I toast the almonds, but you don't have to.

Now make your dressing. Combine in a container:

1/2 c. oil (use a good quality vegetable oil or olive oil)
2 TBS lemon juice
2 TBS seasoned rice wine vinegar (you find this with all the other vinegars)
1 tsp sugar
2 seasoning packets from the ramen noodles
salt and pepper to taste

Shake, stir or otherwise combine the dressing ingredients until the sugar and ramen seasoning is dissolved. Pour this over the cabbage/chicken/almonds/ramen and mix everything together well. Serve soon, this doesn't taste quite as good after it has sat awhile, the noodles get mushy. We do however, finish off all leftovers (if there are any, which there very rarely are). You can serve this with soy sauce but we prefer it plain. Prepare to fight for your fair share - my fair share is at least half. Hey, I made it, it's only fair I get half, right?



momstheword said...

Great post. I do the same thing. I stretch my meat by making lots of casseroles, etc. That way I can use less meat.

When I do serve meat I do what you do and have lots of other things (vegies, potatoes, fruit) to fill up on. I serve a portion of meat and that is their portion. That way we can get two meals out of it.

We always have meatless meals too.

Nancy said...

I've got a favorite recipe that's very similar to this that I use a lot during the warm weather months. It is definitely a yummy one.