Chicken Salad with Avocado and Mint-Soy Vinaigrette

As the weather warms up, one of the lunchtime or dinner main courses you always hope to rely on is a good chicken salad -- cool, light, and satisfying.

I use that word "hope" for a good reason, one I have to admit here. I'm disappointed by too many of the chicken salads I've been served. Whether it's a classic American version or some type of Asian chicken salad -- Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese -- I find that most chicken salads are bland and uninteresting.

In the food I cook and eat, I like big, complex, interesting flavors. But the main impression I come away with time and time again when I sample chicken salads is one of either the mayonnaise or the soy sauce with which the salad was dressed. There are two reasons why.

First, the chicken usually isn't cooked properly for the salad. It should be well seasoned, so the end results are flavorful instead of bland. And you must take special care not to overcook the chicken, because poultry that cooks too long will turn out dry, even if you poach it in liquid. I do poach the chicken breasts for my salad, using water seasoned with onion, garlic, bay leaf, and salt, and I take care to cook it only until the moment that the meat's juices run clear when pierced. Then, if time allows, I cool the chicken in that liquid to help keep it extra moist. (You can even strain and save the cooking liquid, which becomes a light broth, and refrigerate it to use in another recipe.)

The other secret for this Chicken Salad with Avocado recipe is to create a dressing that combines a variety of delicious flavors, so that every bite intrigues, surprises, and delights you. My vinaigrette dressing for this salad combines influences from both popular styles of chicken salad, blending together a touch of mayonnaise for smoothness and richness with the satisfying saltiness of soy sauce, the mellow sweetness of honey, the bright spark of rice wine vinegar, and the cool and refreshing taste of mint. Just imagine all those delicious flavors together, combined with chunks of juicy and flavorful chicken, some crunchy celery and romaine lettuce, and cubes of ripe avocado.

You can enjoy this Chicken Salad with Avocado as my recipe suggests, served on top of lettuce leaves. But don't stop there. Instead of tossing half of the avocado cubes in the salad and using the rest sliced as a garnish, mound the salad on top of pitted avocado halves. It's also excellent as a sandwich on lightly toasted country-style bread, stuffed into warm pita bread pockets, or rolled up in Middle Eastern lavosh or large flour tortillas as a wrap.

Doesn't sound like your usual kind of chicken salad, does it?

[ Also: Chicken Salad Nicoise: A Colorful Main Dish Salad ]

Chicken Salad with Avocado & Mint-Soy Vinaigrette

    Prep Time: 30 minutes

    Cook time: 30 minutes

    Yield: Serves 4

Chicken Salad with Avocado & Mint-Soy Vinaigrette Recipe Ingredients


    2 whole bone-in organic chicken breasts, skins removed, 1-1/2 to 2 pounds total weight

    1 medium onion, quartered

    1 garlic clove, crushed

    1 bay leaf

    1/2 teaspoon salt

    1 heart organic romaine lettuce, dark outer leaves removed

    2 organic celery stalks, thinly sliced

    1 large or 2 small Hass avocados


    2 tablespoons mayonnaise

    1/4 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar

    2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves

    1 tablespoon soy sauce

    2 teaspoons honey

    1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

    1/4 teaspoon salt

    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

    1/2 cup peanut oil or canola oil

Chicken Salad with Avocado & Mint-Soy Vinaigrette Recipe Directions

    To prepare the Chicken salad, begin by poaching the chicken breasts.

    Put them in a large, heavy saucepan and add cold water to cover by about 1 inch. Add the onion, garlic, and bay leaf and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the salt and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Partially cover and cook until the juice runs clear when the chicken is pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, 20 to 25 minutes, adjusting the heat if necessary to maintain the gentle simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and, if time allows, leave at room temperature to let the chicken cool in the liquid.

    Remove the chicken from the pot. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, either tear the meat by hand into small bite-sized shreds or cut it into small dice, discarding the bones. Transfer the meat to a mixing bowl.

    Wash the lettuce leaves, breaking larger ones in half crosswise and using the top halves to line a serving platter or individual plates. Neatly stack the bottom halves and the smaller leaves and, with a sharp knife, cut them crosswise into strips 1/2 inch wide. Toss these lettuce strips with the chicken pieces. Add the celery and toss again.

    Halve and pit the avocado or avocados. With a tablespoon, carefully scoop out the flesh in one piece from each half. Cut half of the avocado flesh into dice and add to the chicken. Cut the remainder lengthwise into thin slices and set aside.

    For the Mint-Soy Vinaigrette dressing,

    Put the mayonnaise, vinegar, mint, soy sauce, honey, coriander, salt, and pepper in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Secure the lid and, with the machine running, slowly drizzle in the oil through the feed tube. Turn off the processor. Pour just enough of the dressing over the chicken mixture to coat it lightly and evenly. Toss well. Put any remaining dressing in a bowl or sauceboat to pass at the table.

    Mound the chicken salad mixture on top of the leaves on the plates or platter. Fan the avocado slices alongside as a garnish. Serve immediately.

[ Also: Chicken Salad Nicoise: A Colorful Main Dish Salad ]


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