Years ago, when I first thought about becoming a full-time food writer, I attended the wonderful and much missed Symposium for Professional Food Writers at the Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. It was amazing and inspiring and really made me understand that food writing is real and vibrant field, and it set me on the path to doing something I truly love.
One of the first people I met was the astounding Nancie McDermott. Nancie is a food writer from North Carolina who has written amazing books about Chinese and Thai cooking that make those cuisines possible for American home cooks. She is also the author of two books that should absolutely be in every Southern cooks library, "Southern Cakes" and "Southern Pies." But more than her prolific talents in the kitchen, Nancie is a kind and generous person who has been a friend and mentor to me. Just when I start to hit some sort of wall, I always seem to get a surprise e-mail from Nancie just asking how I’m doing, and that always pushes me past the block.
A few years ago I was in a waiting room, flipping through one of the magazines they offered (I can’t remember which one), and I came across this recipe for Asian Chicken Salad. It looked so delicious, that I asked the receptionist if she would make a copy for me. She seemed a little surprised someone had asked and told me to just rip it out of the magazine, so I took the whole page home with me. After I had made the delicious salad a few times, I flipped the page over to see the other recipes. Then I noticed the article was written by none other than Nancie McDermott. It didn’t surprise me at all that a recipe I found so appealing was written by such an amazing friend.
Nancie’s most recent book is "Simply Vegetarian Thai," and it reminded me of this favorite Nancie recipe, and I knew I needed to share it. This salad is spectacularly fresh and light. The herbs really make it sing. I love to keep a bowl of this in the fridge to snack on or make a quick meal. It is great eaten on its own, but I have also scooped it up with rice crackers or served it in a lettuce cup. I have even used it to fill a rice paper roll served with one of Nancie’s delicious dipping sauces. Make a bowl of this refreshing salad, and I’m sure you’ll love Nancie too. And I can’t wait for her next book, "Southern Soups and Stews!"
Nancie's Asian Chicken Salad
Adapted from Nancie McDermott
For the dressing
3 tablespoons lime or lemon juice
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
Place all the ingredients in a jar, screw on the lid and shake until the sugar is completely dissolved.
For the Salad
1/2 cup very thinly sliced red onion
3/4 cup purchased julienned carrots
3 cups cooked shredded chicken (from 2 boneless, skinless breast halves)
2 cups thinly sliced cabbage
3/4 cup coarsely chopped loosely packed fresh mint
1/3 cup coarsely chopped loosely packed cilantro
1/4 cup coarsely chopped salted roasted peanuts
1. Place the sliced onions in a bowl and cover with water. Leave for 30 minutes. This takes some of the sting and burn from raw onion. Drain completely.
2. Toss carrots, chicken, cabbage, and the onion in a large bowl using your good clean hands. Add mint, cilantro, and peanuts and toss to combine. Give the dressing a good shake to combine, then pour over and toss to coat every strand. I like to use clean hands again, but you can use a fork if you prefer. Serve cold or at room temperature.
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