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Tea-Smoked Chicken Salad with Coriander and Pickled Red Onions

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Serves four to six.

  • by Robert Danhi from Fine Cooking
    Issue 106

Be sure to give the onions enough time to soak in the pickling mixture; this brings out their color and gives them a sour bite that punctuates the smoky chicken and sweet red peppers in this salad.

Extra: To learn more, watch a video series where Robert Danhi demonstrates his tea-smoking technique.

For the pickled onions
  • 6 Tbs. rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced (about 1-1/2 cups)
For the tea-smoked chicken
  • 1/4 cup whole-leaf jasmine tea
  • 1/4 cup rice, preferably jasmine
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs. coriander seeds
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 2 lb. total)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the salad
  • 2 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
  • 1/2 cup matchstick-cut carrots
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
  • 2 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbs. Asian chili sauce, such as Sriracha
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Make the pickled onions

In a small bowl, combine 2 Tbs. warm water with the rice vinegar, sugar, and 1/4 tsp. salt; whisk until dissolved. Add the onions and let sit for at least 30 minutes.

Smoke the chicken

Put the tea, rice, sugar, and coriander seeds in the center of a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil. (If using thinner foil, use 2 or 3 layers.) Fold the foil loosely to form a flat packet.

Prepare a medium-high gas or charcoal grill fire. Clean and oil the grill grate; set aside. Set the tea-smoking packet directly on the hot coals or on top of a metal burner shield. Put the grate back on the grill and close the lid. On a charcoal grill, leave the vents partially open and wait for smoke to rise from the vents. On a gas grill, wait 10 minutes, then open the lid to check for smoke. If there is none, close the lid and check again in a few minutes.

Meanwhile, pound the chicken breasts between 2 sheets of plastic wrap to about 3/4 inch thick. Pat dry with paper towels and season generously with salt and pepper.

Arrange the chicken on the grill grate so that it’s not directly over the packet, and then close the lid. Smoke the chicken, flipping once, until cooked through and an uneven brown color develops from the smoking, 5 to 7 minutes per side. Cool to room temperature, pull the chicken into bite-size strips, and set aside.

Assemble the salad

In a large bowl, mix the cabbage, carrots, cilantro, bell pepper, oil, chili sauce, chicken, and the pickled onions with their liquid. Toss well. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 220; Fat (g): 8; Fat Calories (kcal): 70; Saturated Fat (g): 1.5; Protein (g): 31; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 3; Carbohydrates (g): 5; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 3; Sodium (mg): 560; Cholesterol (mg): 85; Fiber (g): 1;

Photo: Romulo Yanes

We really enjoyed this but found that the Sriracha sauce overpowered the smoky taste of the chicken. Having said that, I did use cut tea (no full leaf available), and that may have made the difference. I would do this again and buy the better tea. The flavor of the chicken was great though, so serving it on the side would work too.

Absolutely delicious!! What a blend of flavors! All my guests loved it, one of whom, nicknamed by many of us "the salad queen" was especially impressed :)

I made this recipe using my 25 year old stovetop smoker-using the smoking ingredients in the tray instead of smoking chips. Smoked for 4 minutes per side, the chicken had a beautiful caramel color to it. Wonderful combination of ingredients, I used a red and yellow pepper from the garden and added a few toasted slivered almonds for extra crunch.

Knock your socks off amazing! Perfect summer dinner, and beautiful on the plate.

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